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Authors: Smith, Cody
Advisors: Pravilova, Ekaterina
Department: History
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: The Battle of Midway was a pivotal moment in the struggle between the United States and Japan in World War II. Prior to the battle, Japan seemed like an unstoppable force, taking land in Southeast Asia at will. No allied force seemed to be able to contest or slow the Japanese advance in the beginning of the war. The British, Dutch, and the Australians were completely outclassed by their Japanese counterparts in the Pacific, and the Americans were clinging to the two Pacific bases that they still had access to: the Philippines and Midway. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, which was a plan conceived by Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese leader of the Combined Fleet, slowed the initial American response to Japanese expansion. However, a crucial failure of the bombing was its inability to locate and destroy the American aircraft carriers. This missed opportunity would prove disastrous for the Japanese in the upcoming battles. The impact of this missed opportunity would become apparent to the Japanese during the stalemate that was the Battle of the Coral Sea and, later, the decisive loss at the Battle of Midway. The success experienced in the beginning of the war by the Japanese led to a growing sense a confidence that would eventually go too far. Mitsuo Fuchida, who was a high-ranking officer in the Japanese Imperial Navy that participated in both Pearl Harbor and Midway, referred to the detrimental effect that overconfidence could have as “Victory Disease”. The overconfidence felt by the Japanese due to their early success would negatively impact the Japanese discipline and decision-making. This overconfidence would cause poor decisions to be made in the planning phase leading up to the Battle of Midway, as well as shortcuts and complacency to arise in the preparation and training periods before the battle. These problems would lead to the Japanese being undermanned, as Yamamoto decided to split up their forces between multiple objectives, and unprepared, as Admiral Nagumo, the leader of the Carrier Strike Force at the Battle of Midway, would have no contingency plan for an earlier than expected arrival of the American Pacific Fleet during the Midway Invasions. These decisions, caused by the Japanese overconfidence due to earlier success, and a belief that they had an insurmountable advantage over the American Fleet, directly led to their loss at the Battle of Midway and began the chain of events that would eventually lead to the Japanese loss of the War in the Pacific.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History, 1926-2021

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