For the United States and Japan, the waters around Midway Atoll are an important place in our shared history. It was in these waters where the two nations met in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Nearly 3,400 sailors and airmen lost their lives during the battle between the United States and Japan, which also resulted in the loss of seven large ships and hundreds of aircraft. Much of the battle occurred at sea, where these ships and many of the aircraft remain to this day and serve as testaments to the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.
From September 1 to 28, Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) and partners are conducting an expedition on OET's Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus to explore the largely unexplored northwestern corner of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration through the NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute , the main focus of the Ala ʻAumoana Kai Uli expedition is the geological and biological exploration of never-before-seen seamounts, but the operating area includes several historically significant shipwrecks associated with the Battle of Midway.
During World War II, Midway Atoll, at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago and "midway" between San Francisco and Tokyo, was of strategic importance to both the Americans and the Japanese. When U.S. Navy intelligence analysts alerted the United States of Japan's plans to capture Midway, U.S. forces, with the element of surprise, mobilized to intercept the Japanese fleet. The ensuing battle, fought over four days (June 4-7), devastated Japan's carrier fleet and forced its retreat.
The Battle of Midway is considered one of the war's most significant battles, as it marked the shift of military power and initiative between Japan and the United States. The Battle of Midway National Memorial was erected at Midway Atoll in 2015 "so that heroic courage and sacrifice of those who fought against overwhelming odds to win an incredible victory will never be forgotten."
Much of the Battle of Midway was fought within the modern boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the final resting place of the Battle of Midway wrecks. The monument contains a rich and diverse maritime heritage that spans from early Polynesian voyagers who first ventured to this remote region over 1,000 years ago through the modern era. Its land and waters are sacred to Native Hawaiians, and it’s the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag, one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site for its cultural and natural significance.
To learn more about the history of the Battle of Midway, read the expedition's blog story "The Battle of Midway: A Pivotal WWII Engagement Within Papahānaumokuākea. "
During the Ala 'Aumoana Kai Uli expedition, live video will be streamed to shore 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on OET's Nautilus Live website . Follow Nautilus on social media (X , formerly Twitter, and Instagram ) for dive alerts.
Published September 6, 2023