The Battle of Midway Island. Japanese and American naval forces had a fierce 3-day battle around this Pacific island northwest of Hawaii. The Americans won a resounding victory, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing one (the USS Yorktown). The battle was the first in which the opposing fleets never sighted one another -- all combat was by bombers and torpedo planes launched from carriers. The Japanese had hoped to finish off the American Pacific fleet after their successful attack at Pearl Harbor. Instead, they suffered a disastrous loss that put them on the defensive for the rest of the war. The battle is probably the most important naval victory in American history.
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