US SUFFERS MAJOR DEFEAT IN PACIFIC
Key Island Falls To Japan
June 14, 1942
(Honolulu) — In a series of stunning moves, the Japanese have scored two bold victories against the United States — and inflicted grave damage on the already-battered American fleet.
Anonymous sources within the Navy have confirmed reports that the Japanese have invaded and occupied two islands off the coast of Alaska and the strategically-critical atoll of Midway, about 1300 miles northwest of Honolulu.
The Japanese struck with complete surprise, the Japanese attacked US bases in the Aleutian Islands on June 3. They followed up by invading and occupying two of the islands, Attu and Kiska.
Then, on June 4, the main blow fell.
Planes from at least three and as many as five aircraft carriers attacked the two islands that make up Midway Atoll, savaging the base’s defenders, who were equipped with obsolete fighters and ill-suited medium bombers. The defenders fought valiantly, but like the Marines abandoned by the government on Wake Island last December, were unable to fight off the Japanese. By June 7, the atoll was firmly in Japanese hands.
The Navy dispatched its two battleworthy aircraft carriers, the Enterprise and the Hornet (fresh from launching the Doolittle raid on Japan last April), to fight the Japanese, but they sailed into an ambush. A submarine attack sank the Hornet, while the hopelessly outnumbered Enterprise was badly mauled and barely made it back to Pearl Harbor. She now sits in a drydock awaiting lengthy repairs, alongside her sister, the Yorktown.
(The Saratoga was badly damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea slightly over a month ago, when the Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier, the Lexington, was lost.)
The navy has not released official casualty figures, but sources tell the Times that at least 1600 sailors were killed, and they have no information on the several hundred Americans stationed on Midway about how many were killed and how many were taken captive.
Navy officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say that the attack came as a surprise due to a failure of American intelligence — of the magnitude of that which allowed the Japanese to strike so devastatingly at Pearl Harbor last December, when eight American battleships were heavily damaged or destroyed.
As we reported last May, Naval Intelligence had made great strides in cracking the Japanese codes. But a sudden change in those codes shortly after the Battle of the Coral Sea (in which the Navy traded one of our largest aircraft carriers for one of the Japanese’s smallest) left the Navy woefully unprepared for the attack at Midway.
The battle also casts doubt on the navy’s claims to be making progress in the war against Japan. After the devastating defeats at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and the Philippines, naval officials stated that “the tide had begun to turn” at the Coral Sea. They said that although American losses were greater than the Japanese, the fact that we had kept them from invading and occupying Port Moresby on the island of Papua/New Guinea was actually a victory.
But the loss of the Aleutians, Midway, and the blow to our carrier forces represent the single greatest blow to the navy since Pearl Harbor. And with Lexington and Hornet sunk, Enterprise and Yorktown in drydock for at least a month, and Ranger and Wasp assigned to the Atlantic, the only carrier we have left is the battle-scarred Saratoga to stand against an estimated six large and six smaller Japanese aircraft carriers.
Officials say they have no firm plans on retaking Midway or the Aleutians, but preliminary plans are to bombard Midway with long-range Army bombers from Hawaii, then eventually to follow up with raids by aircraft carriers, and finally an amphibious assault. They say that the Japanese will be hard-pressed to support their forces on Midway, which lies 2,200 miles east of Japan. There are currently no plans to contest the Japanese conquest of the Aleutian islands, which represent the closest the Japanese have come to occupying part of North America.
But to date, the Japanese have not been driven from any place they have captured. Meanwhile, at least 10,000 Americans have been killed in the six months since the war began.