Midway Atoll

Aerial photograph, looking just south of west across the southern side of the atoll. Eastern Island, then the site of Midway's airfield, is in the foreground. Sand Island, location of most other base facilities, is across the entrance channel. First visited in 1859, Midway formally became a United States' possession in 1867. A trans-pacific cable station was established there in 1903. In 1935, Pan American Airways built a way station on Sand Island to support its new seaplane route between the U.S. and Asia. Midway was recommended as a patrol plane and submarine base in a 1938-39 study of national defense needs, and construction of a US Navy base began soon thereafter. This included a seaplane hangar and other facilities on Sand Island and an airfield on the smaller Eastern Island. The new base was bombarded by two Japanese Destroyers on December 7, 1941, causing damage to some buildings and destroying one patrol plane. With the fall of Wake later in the month, Midway became the westernmost U.S. outpost in the Central Pacific. Land-based bombers and fighters were stationed on Eastern Island. U.S. Marines provided defensive artillery and infantry. Operating from Sand Island and the atoll's lagoon, PBY "Catalina" seaplanes actively patrolled toward the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and Wake, checking on enemy activities and guarding against further enemy attacks on Hawaii. There were occasional clashes when planes from Midway and those from the Japanese islands met over the Pacific. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz inspected Midway in early May 1942, conferring with the local commanders, US Navy Captain Cyril T. Simard and USMC Colonel Harold D. Shannon. As the Japanese threat to Midway became known during that month, Nimitz increased its ground and air forces. Air units included Marine Air Group 22, with VMF-221 (21 Brewster F2A-3 and 7 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats); US Navy's VT-8 with six new Grumman TBF Avengers; four US Army Air Force Martin B-26B Marauders from the 22nd and 38th Bomb Groups; and fourteen PBY-5's, sixteen PBY-5A's and seventeen B-17s,
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
United States Naval Historical C
Date Photographed: 
Monday, November 24, 1941
Aerial of Eastern and Sand Islan