Unveiling of High-Resolution Footage Sheds New Light on WWII Carriers Lost During the Crucial Battle of Midway

by Chloe Baker
Battle of Midway Aircraft Carriers

Recent underwater footage from the depths of the Pacific Ocean has provided an unprecedented glimpse into three aircraft carriers that were sunk during the seminal Battle of Midway. These carriers played a key role in the conflict that significantly altered the balance of power in the Pacific theater, transitioning it from Japanese to U.S. dominance.

Specialized underwater vehicles, operating at depths of three miles (4.8 kilometers) below the sea surface, carried out comprehensive archaeological explorations in September. These surveys focused on the Akagi and Kaga, two of the four Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers that were destroyed in the battle that took place in June 1942, as well as the U.S.S. Yorktown.

The exceptional quality of the video not only confirmed the identity of the Akagi but also offered new insights into the carriers’ final hours.

The footage detailed the extent to which the island—the elevated structure on the Yorktown’s wooden deck—suffered intense heat damage, and depicted the extraordinary measures taken by the crew to prevent the U.S. carrier from sinking.

Julian Hodges, among the few remaining veterans who served on the Yorktown and endured a six-hour swim to a rescue vessel with a dislocated shoulder, was visibly moved as he watched the footage. “She endured substantial damage,” said Hodges, who is nearing his 101st birthday. “It was difficult to see my ship in such a state.”

The locations of all three carriers had been previously established, with the Yorktown being discovered in 1998 and the Japanese ships identified four years prior. However, only preliminary identification of the Akagi was available, and limited imagery existed for the other two carriers.

The expedition was spearheaded by Bob Ballard, who previously led teams that discovered the Yorktown and the Titanic. Over the course of a month, his team conducted meticulous video surveys in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument located approximately 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu.

“Over essentially three entire days, we were able to scrutinize these sites rigorously, devoting two full days solely to documenting the underwater wrecks,” stated Daniel Wagner, the chief scientist for Ocean Exploration Trust, in a video conference with The Big Big News.

The exploration was livestreamed, allowing a global community of over 100 experts, ranging from scientists to historians, to contribute to a live forum. This included roughly two dozen scientists onboard the exploration vessel Nautilus.

The Battle of Midway occurred half a year after the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Japanese navy’s objective was to seize control of the U.S. patrol plane base at Midway Atoll, a minor cluster of islands almost equidistant between the U.S. mainland and Asia. They also sought to decimate the remnants of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

However, U.S. forces had intercepted Japanese communications and were prepared for the attack. The conflict spanned five days and took place approximately 200 miles (322 kilometers) off the island group. In addition to sinking the Akagi and the Kaga, U.S. forces destroyed two other Japanese aircraft carriers and downed over 250 Japanese airplanes. Japanese casualties exceeded 3,000, while U.S. losses amounted to more than 300 servicemen, approximately 150 aircraft, and the Yorktown, which was later sunk by a Japanese submarine.

Michael Leggins, president of the U.S.S. Yorktown CV-5 Club, stated that of the approximately 4,600 men who served on the Yorktown between 1937 and 1942, it is believed that only two are still alive.

The newly released footage also revealed previously unknown efforts by the Yorktown’s crew to save their ship. “The dedication of the crew to save their ship during its final moments became even more apparent from the new footage,” said Hans Van Tilburg, the maritime archaeologist and historian for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The carriers will remain in their current location within U.S. protected waters, safeguarding them from looting or becoming tourist attractions. According to Wagner, the only artifacts to be extracted will be the images and videos being shared.

Hodges voiced his approval, saying that he hopes the footage will prompt a new generation to reflect upon the devastating impact of conflict. “Anything that can put an end to war is worth pursuing,” he said.

In a lighter vein, the remaining Yorktown veteran, Robert Taylor, joked about wishing to raise the ship to recover the $28 he left in his locker—a sum that would be equivalent to around $530 today. However, he was somber when speaking about the Yorktown, saying, “I had a strong emotional connection to that ship; its destruction was heartbreaking.”

The report was filed from Anchorage, Alaska, by Thiessen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Battle of Midway Aircraft Carriers

What is the primary focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the recent underwater footage that provides an unprecedented look at three aircraft carriers sunk during the Battle of Midway in World War II. The carriers in question are the Akagi and Kaga from the Imperial Japanese Navy, and the U.S.S. Yorktown from the U.S. Navy.

Who conducted the underwater exploration?

The underwater exploration was spearheaded by Bob Ballard, who previously led the teams that discovered the Yorktown and the Titanic. The expedition was executed by the Ocean Exploration Trust.

What new insights does the footage offer?

The high-resolution footage not only definitively identified the Akagi but also offered new information on the extent of damage to the ships, including the U.S.S. Yorktown. The video provides details on how the crews of these ships attempted to save them before they sank.

Where did the exploration take place?

The exploration occurred in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, located approximately 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu.

Were there any surviving veterans involved in the article?

Yes, Julian Hodges, one of the last living veterans who served on the U.S.S. Yorktown, was interviewed. He watched the footage and expressed his emotional response to seeing his former ship in its sunken state.

What were the outcomes of the Battle of Midway?

The Battle of Midway was a pivotal conflict in World War II that shifted the balance of power in the Pacific Theater from Japanese to U.S. forces. The U.S. succeeded in sinking the Akagi, the Kaga, and two other Japanese aircraft carriers, while also downing over 250 Japanese airplanes.

What will happen to the sunken carriers now?

The sunken aircraft carriers will remain in their current location within U.S. protected waters to prevent them from being looted or turning into tourist attractions.

How was the underwater exploration documented?

The exploration was meticulously documented through high-quality video footage. This was streamed online, allowing experts from around the world to participate in a live forum alongside the exploration team.

What are the future implications of this exploration?

The footage serves not only as a historical record but also as a tool for further research and study. It has the potential to offer more insights into the events surrounding the Battle of Midway, as well as naval architecture and strategies of the time.

Who is the intended audience for this article?

The article is intended for those with an interest in World War II history, naval warfare, underwater exploration, and archaeological surveys. It appeals to a range of readers including historians, scientists, veterans, and the general public interested in these topics.

More about Battle of Midway Aircraft Carriers

  • Battle of Midway: Historical Overview
  • Ocean Exploration Trust: About Us
  • The Discovery of the U.S.S. Yorktown
  • The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument: Information and History
  • Imperial Japanese Navy: Aircraft Carriers
  • Bob Ballard: Contributions to Underwater Exploration
  • U.S.S. Yorktown CV-5 Club: Home Page
  • The Impact of the Battle of Midway on WWII
  • Interview with Julian Hodges: Last Living Veterans of the Yorktown
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: Projects and Research

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Tom L October 3, 2023 - 2:41 pm

i know this is about history and all, but I can’t help but think of the environmental impact. Those ships have been down there for decades. Wonder how they’re affecting marine life.

Mike J. October 3, 2023 - 7:28 pm

Wow, this is ground-breaking. Can’t believe they got footage that clear from so deep underwater. And to think those ships have been down there since WWII…

Emily S October 3, 2023 - 7:47 pm

it’s mind-blowing that the tech nowadays can provide such an extensive and high-quality survey of something that happened so long ago. We’re literally rewriting history books here!

Henry C October 3, 2023 - 11:11 pm

the last line about wars being put out of business, couldn’t agree more. This should serve as a cautionary tale for future generations.

Alex W October 4, 2023 - 1:14 am

Curious if this will reopen discussions about the battle and its tactics. There’s a lot to learn from those sunken relics.

Rachel F. October 4, 2023 - 2:13 am

So much respect for Bob Ballard and his team. First the Titanic and now this, what’s next? Can’t wait to find out.

Sarah T October 4, 2023 - 2:18 am

This is such a treasure for historians! not just about the battle itself but the life of the crew and how hard they tried to save the ship. really puts the sacrifice of our veterans into perspective.

Nancy P October 4, 2023 - 4:30 am

Gives me chills to think those carriers have been resting there for over 80 years. What a respectful way to let them lie in peace while still learning from them.

David K October 4, 2023 - 6:56 am

Anyone else amazed that the guy swam 3 miles with a dislocated shoulder? Hats off to Mr. Hodges and all the vets.


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