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First Bombardment of Midway
Part of the Pacific War
World War II
Operation Z
Midway Atoll.jpg
Midway Atoll on November 24, 1941.
Date December 7, 1941
Location Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaiian Archipelago, Pacific Ocean
Result United Stated victory, Japanese forces retreated after sustaining damage.
United States United States  Empire of Japan
United States First Lieutenant George H. Cannon Empire of Japan Captain Ohishi Kaname
unknown marines,
unknown sailors,
unknown shore batteries
unknown aircraft
2 destroyers
Casualties and losses
4 killed,
unknown wounded,
1 aircraft destroyed,
Midway base moderately damaged
unknown human casualties,
1 destroyer damaged

The First Bombardment of Midway, or the First Bombardment of Sand Island, or Attack on Midway, was a small land and sea engagement of the Second World War. It occurred on the very first day of the Pacific War, December 7, 1941, not long after the major Battle of Pearl Harbor. Two Imperial Japanese destroyers bombarded Sand Island of Midway Atoll. The Japanese successfully damaged the United States Marine base before being engaged by American shore batteries and forced to flee. When the Japanese withdrew after taking fire, the Americans won their first victory of World War II.



Before the beginning of the Pacific War, American marines were stationed on Midway and had established a small base with the ability to service land, sea and air forces. The marines also constructed all of the bases' fortifications, civilian contractors constructed the buildings. They used five-inch guns, built in 1916, and three-inch guns of 1921 to defend the islands. Fortifications dating back to 1905 were also manned. At this time the United States had been focused on the war against the Nazis and once the war began, generally all of the new military equipment produced was sent to the African and Euopean theatres of operations. The newest military equipment sent to Europe and Africa ranged from warships to small arms, leaving only the relics for the U.S. Marines in the Pacific. Not only were Pearl Harbor, Wake Island and the Philippines attacked in the opening phase of the conflict, but Midway was shelled as well by two Japanese destroyers the Ushio and the Sazanami.

Ushio from the side.


The two destroyers were part of the Japanese fleet that had just attacked Pearl Harbor. Overall the unit was under the command of Captain Ohishi Kaname, though Lieutenant Commander Yoshitake Uesugi skippered Ushio and Lieutenant Commander Hiroshi Uwa skipperd the other destroyer. The engagement began at 9:31 am and lasted fifty-four minutes. The American command, communications and power plant building was damaged by a 5-inch shell, which deflected off an adjacent laundromat. Battery "H" commander First Lieutenant George H. Cannon was hit by shrapnel in the pelvis while inside the command building. By this time the communications were down from enemy fire so Lieutenant Cannon refused medical attention until he was assured that the communications were restored to post and until the wounded marines around him were evacuated.

By the time Cannon received aid from a medic, it was too late and he perished due to blood loss. For Cannon's "distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own condition", he received the first Medal of Honor issued to a United States Marine for actions in the Second World War. A street on Sand Island was named after Cannon and continues to be known by that name, a 1943 destroyer was also named after him. Six Japanese rounds struck and entered the main PBY Catalina hangar and destroyed a PBY inside, the civilians inside survived without injury. The hospital was hit also and burned. All of the damaged buildings were quickly rebuilt by the civilian contractors.

A shore gun on Sand Island.

Shell craters littered the ground all around the buildings of Sand island. The Marines did not use aircraft against the attacking Japanese, they did use their artillery batteries and managed to damage one of the destroyers. The other destroyer quickly layed a smokescreen and the two vessels retired. Four men died on Midway that morning, other marines had slight injuries. Several United States Navy sailors were on the island during the attack, two of them were killed, Ensign Donald J. Kraker and Ralph E. Tuttle. Two marines were killed, Lieutenant Cannon and Private First Class Elmer R. Morrell. Japanese casualties are unknown, Ushio fired 109 rounds and Sazanami fired 193.


Six months later, the great naval Battle of Midway was won at the atoll, which is regarded as the most important naval battle of the war and the turning point in the Pacific theatre of operations. The marines by that time had received reinforcements, both personnel and some newer and bigger guns. All of which were used by the marine garrison when they engaged attacking Japanese zeros in June of 1942. The marines also fought a deadly dog fight ending with heavy casualties for American forces and a loss of seven Japanese aircraft.

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