Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turning Point: Midway

The National Museum of the Pacific War has a great exhibit on the Battle of Midway, a decisive American victory over the Japanese that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. On display, there are artifacts from Lieutenant Commander Thomas H. Dyer’s desk, one of the men responsible for breaking the Japanese code, JN-25. There is also video footage of the battle accompanied by commentaries from Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway and Rear Admiral Donald “Mac” Showers, an intelligence officer on Fleet Admiral Nimitz’ staff.

The battle lasted from June 4 to June 7, 1942. Through the successful code breaking efforts of Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and his staff, Japanese plans of seizing Midway Island were crumbled. The text panel in the exhibit reads, “Lieutenant Commander Joseph J. Rochefort’s code breaking team at Pearl Harbor had to be certain of the target of the Central Pacific Operation, identified as “AF.”

A simple rule was devised. Midway was instructed to send an uncoded message that fresh water was running low. When the Japanese Navy passed the information on, in its JN-25 code, Rochefort and Layton were certain that “AF” meant Midway.”

To find out more about this significant moment of strategic surprise, spend some time in the Midway gallery listening to the accounts of some of the men involved as well as one of the top historians on the topic.