On 4 June 1942 in the waters near Midway Atoll, three Japanese carriers—the Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu—were in flames and destined for the bottom of the sea. In a matter of minutes, the tide of the Pacific War had turned, as American naval aviators had cascaded from the skies and rained high explosives onto the same flight decks that had just seven months before launched the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. But great victories often come at a high price, and Midway was no exception.
The Hiryu, a fourth Japanese carrier, also destined for the bottom but not yet under attack, launched her own strike that found its way to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). The Japanese planes swarmed over the American carrier with great ferocity.
Leading Seaman George Weise’s battle station was a .50-caliber machine gun near the Yorktown’s stack. As Japanese aircraft swooped low over his ship, Weise swiveled his weapon about as quickly as he could, firing bursts at the attackers, his shoulders shaking violently as the large-caliber rounds exploded from the barrels in search of the fast-moving targets.