National Geographic: The Battle for Midway


A lonely outpost of coral and sand.

A thousand miles from anywhere.

Yet here,

on a blue morning in June, 1942,

America and Japan fought for control

of the Pacific

and changed the history of the world.

It was one of

the greatest Naval battles of all time,

a turning point in

the Second World War in the Pacific


Here in a few bloody hours,

thousands of young men

sacrificed their lives.

Now to the shadowy waters off Midway

comes Robert Ballard,

the man who discovered the Titanic.

Ballard's quest is

to find the American

and Japanese aircraft carriers

that were sunk in the battle,

including the U.S.S. Yorktown.

But the ships are lost more

than three miles down

unseen, untouched on the ocean floor

the final resting place

of many young men.

A story of martyrs and heroes,

admirals and airmen...

of secret codes and lucky hunches

of lost chances and

the painful cost of victory

all in one monumental day.

Tragedy and Triumph.

The battle for Midway.


It is hard to ignore the archeology

of war in this place.

Nearly a lifetime after the clash

at Midway,

four former soldiers walk

the island's white coral sands.

Two Americans, Bill Surgi

and Harry Ferrier,

and two Japanese, Haruo Yoshino

and Yuji Akamatsu

all veterans of the battle.

The last time the veterans were here,

they came as enemies.

Now, as respectful comrades, they will

explore the meaning of their ordeal.

I met the two Japanese gentlemen,

aviators, and, so I've made my peace.

And I have no animosity toward them.

They were warriors, like we were,

just doing their job.

Welcome aboard.

All in their 70s now,

the survivors have traveled thousands

of miles

to join undersea explorer

Robert Ballard

in the search for the five aircraft

carriers lost at Midway.

Ballard's quest,

sponsored by National Geographic,

is to find Bill Surgi's ship,

the Yorktown,

and Yuji and Haruo's carrier, the Kaga

It will be the voyage of a lifetime

for the vets.

May, 1942.

The United States and Japan are at war

It is five months

since the devastating sneak attack

on the Pacific fleet

at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Now Japan is poised for total

domination of East Asia and the Pacific.

Pearl Harbor.

In a dingy basement

beneath command headquarters,

Navy code breakers have pulled off

the greatest intelligence coup

of the Pacific War.

Out of coded enemy radio transmissions

they have teased out the secret plans

for the next major Japanese attack.

A huge Japanese task force

is preparing

to strike a crippling blow against

the already weakened U.S. Navy.

It will happen at Midway, as early as

June 3rd-less than a month away.

Yet now the U.S. knows what's coming.

And the Americans will lie in wait,

hoping to ambush the Japanese fleet.

Day one of the Ballard expedition.

To begin their exploration of the past

the veterans travel with

Ballard 180 miles from Midway

to the place where

Ballard thinks the Yorktown went down.

There is no X to mark this spot,

just blue water and

the occasional gooney bird.

But below the waves, Ballard believes

he will discover history.

For here, young men came to fight

and to die.

I mean, to be at the very spot,

you know,

this is where the battle took place.

This is like going to Gettysburg,

this is like going to Bull Run,

this is like going to Normandy.

This is where a great chapter

in human history,

tragic in many ways,

was played out on the stage,

and we're on the stage right now.

While Ballard studies the terrain,

the veterans explore their own

landscape of memory and loss.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: The Battle for Midway" STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 8 Feb. 2023. <>.

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