Crushing Victory Likely
WASHINGTON June 6 - The capital received tonight
official word that United States forces were scoring a crushing victory over Japanese naval units
in the greatest air-sea battle fought thus far in World War II.
The latest information about the battle, in which formidable American and
Japanese naval and air fleets met in a great struggle, was contained in a communique issued at
Pearl Harbor by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific
This report was received shortly after Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in
Chief of the United States Fleet, had sent the following wireless message to Admiral Nimitz:
"The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard join in admiration for the American
Naval, Marine and Army forces who have so gallantly and effectively repelled the enemy advance
on Midway, and are confident that their comrades in arms will continue to make the enemy realize
that war is hell."
Admiral King's message indicated that the decision in the big fight might already
have been reached. Admiral Nimitz had indicated earlier that the enemy was being pursued, and
a jubilant Washington, now even more confident than before, was wondering tonight whether the
surviving Japanese vessels would be able to reach their bases, hundreds of miles away in the
Marshall and Caroline Islands.
It was believed probable that Army bombers, based only four hours' flying
distance from Midway, were taking part in the struggle, which is capable of shifting the
balance of power in the Pacific, where Japan has had numerical superiority in heavy warship
categories since her treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7.
Admiral Nimitz's earlier communique said that the damage inflicted on the enemy
fleet was "far out of proportion to that we have received." The bulletin also said: "While it
is too early to claim a major Japanese disaster, it may be conservatively stated that United
States control remains firm in the Midway area."
Washington was inclined tonight to believe that the losses now announced
indicated that a disaster had indeed occurred.
If the enemy anticipated catching our forces off guard at Midway, as he had at
Pearl Harbor, he erred. Planes of the Navy, Marine Corps and the Army rose in force to meet the
Japanese air attack on Midway on Thursday, and they inflicted severe damage on the invader.
In the first communique concerning the battle Admiral Nimitz reported that
direct hits had been scored on at least one battleship, a carrier and possibly on other warships,
and that many enemy planes had been shot down. In his second communique Admiral Nimitz said
that the enemy had not followed up his first air attack on Midway Island, "except for a few
ineffectual shots from a submarine."
As additional reports concerning the damage inflicted on the Japanese invasion
armada arrived at Admiral Nimitz's headquarters, it became clear that the damage had been much
more severe than first believed. The second communique stated that several enemy ships in each
of the carrier, battleship, cruiser and transport classes had been damaged. One of the enemy
carriers, damaged previously by air attack, was hit by three torpedoes fired by an American
Then came the reports received tonight.
The Japanese radio still has made no mention of the battle in the Midway Island
area or of last Wednesday's Japanese raid on Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. The Associated Press
reported early today on the basis of Japanese broadcasts heard in New York.
Instead, the Tokyo radio continued to pour forth glowing accounts of what
Japanese submarines had done to Sydney Harbor and to the Diego Suarez naval base on Madagascar.
A Momentous Victory
The battle is barely over. The full extent of losses on both sides has not yet
been determined, much less told. Yet it is certain that the great sea battle for Midway Island
has been a stunning defeat for Japanese sea power. Just six months after the disaster of Pearl
Harbor we have been given just cause, as Admiral Nimitz says, to rejoice over a momentous
victory. Admiral King yesterday outlined the background of the action and revealed that another
battle was in progress in the vicinity of Alaska.
The extent of the Midway victory will be measured only partly in terms of actual
losses. These are certainly impressive. Two, possibly three, Japanese aircraft carriers with all
their planes have been destroyed. One or two more have been damaged and a large part of their
planes destroyed. Three battleships, four cruisers, and three transports have been damaged and a
destroyer sunk. On our own side we do not yet know the full extent of our losses. The reports
thus far state only that one of our carriers was hit, a destroyer sunk and some planes were lost.
Quantitatively, the facts as we know them reveal a disproportionately severe loss for Japan.
But that is only part of the story. The full extent of Japan's defeat must be measured against
her probable objective and the outcome of her failure to approach it. The extent of our victory
must be measured against the capacity shown by our forces to meet a sudden large-scale attack,
foil it and exploit the advantage.
Plainly, this was no mere raid. A very large force was involved, including
carriers, battleships and transports. The objective must have been to capture Midway Island,
possibly Hawaii itself. This being so, the Battle of the Coral Sea a month ago may have been
intended to draw off to the Southwest Pacific a part of our Pacific Fleet. The bombing raids
on Dutch Harbor which preceded the Midway attempt may have been part of an effort to create
another diversion. But if the Japanese hoped to duplicate the surprise success of their
treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor six months ago, they have been rudely disappointed. It was
the attackers who were surprised. Apart from the initial assault by carrier-based planes early
Thursday morning and a few futile shells dropped by a Japanese submarine, none of the attacking
forces reached Midway. Our forces appear to have been fully prepared. The attacking fleet was
met and turned back by overwhelming forces of carrier and land-based aircraft, supplemented by
submarines. So far as the reports disclose, these were the only elements in our forces employed
to break the attack. They have succeeded in crippling major elements of the Japanese fleet,
compelling it to undertake the long, hazardous journey back to its distant bases at reduced
speed. On the way the wounded Japanese battleships may find themselves intercepted or overtaken
by the guns of our Pacific Fleet, which thus far have not apparently spoken. That may have
been the explanation of Admiral Nimitz's forecast that the momentous victory was still "in the
Thus the outcome of the Battle of Midway leaves Japan repulsed with heavy losses
in a daring and massive attempt to destroy the heart of our strength in the Pacific. It finds a
great Japanese fleet, exposed and vulnerable, far from its bases, in perilous flight. It has
disclosed our own defenses in the critical Hawaiian area to be alert, strengthened by splendid
intelligence work and capable by air power alone of breaking up a heavy attack of combined air
and sea forces. This is an amazing reversal of Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft alone
succeeded in doing severe damage to American warships trapped in the harbor.
There remains the question why Japan should have attempted this distant naval
attack upon our Pacific strongholds, in view of her continued land successes in the Far East.
The answer must be that Japan realizes that all her conquests can mean nothing so long as the
United States holds the bases from which attacks will ultimately be launched to bring toppling
down the whole structure of Japanese conquest. Merely to defend what she has seized in China,
Burma and the Dutch East Indies, Japan must seek to cripple our sea power in the Pacific. That
she has failed and instead received a crippling blow to her own sea power brings closer the
inevitable day of reckoning when Japan must give up what she has taken because she is powerless
to hold on to it.