We know the outcome of Midway and its significance to the War in the Pacific. It’s worth noting that it came a mere six months after Pearl Harbor – the blink of an eye, really -- at a time when Japan’s power was at its zenith. It would be another three years for the Allies to gain final victory, but remember Japan had a decade-plus head start on waging war, and America and its allies had to cover imposing distances to uproot Japan from the territory it had taken.
It’s also worth pondering what the war – and our world today – would be like had Japan taken Midway and secured the Aleutian islands they invaded in concert. As someone who thoroughly enjoys “speculative history” (and has read this book several times) and Midway is a fertile topic.
Winning Midway would have given Japan a forward base about 1300 miles from Pearl Harbor, and had the US Navy suffered significant losses during the battle it would have been too weak to mount a serious challenge. Holding the Aleutians would have put Japan in a position to threaten Alaska and its abundant natural resources.
Had the US lost Midway but emerged with its fleet of aircraft carriers intact, perhaps the Navy would have been able to wage a defensive, harassing campaign to keep Japan at bay and give America’s overwhelming industrial might enough time to win the war -- although the victory would not have come as soon as 1945.
And even had America been able to recover from a loss at Midway, the ripple effects could have tipped the entire war to the Axis’ favor. In the summer of 1942, the Wehrmacht was still steamrolling through the Soviet Union and Japan was running rampant in southeast Asia. A reeling America would not have been able to buttress its allies in Europe, and….
The possible outcomes are far too horrific.
But, thankfully, America went on to achieve what is perhaps its greatest accomplishment – defeating Imperial Japan AND Nazi Germany less than four years after being dragged into a war it didn’t want and didn’t start. Without victory at Midway, that doesn't happen.