What the Battle of Midway Can Teach Us About Perseverance

And how it isn’t always the right choice.

Omar Sharaki
6 min readMay 9, 2020


US dive bombers over burning Japanese cruiser Mikuma on June 6th, 1942 — Wikimedia Commons

DDuring the Battle of Midway in WWII, US dive bombers in search of the Japanese fleet’s aircraft carrier force found themselves facing an enemy they did not expect — the featureless vastness of the pacific ocean. Lacking modern navigation and communication technology, their quarry nowhere in sight, and with just about enough fuel to get them back safely to their own aircraft carriers, the pilots faced a terrible choice: keep up the search with nothing to go on but hundreds of miles of ocean in every direction and risking being stranded at sea, or head back, forcing the already struggling US fleet to continue fighting against the might of an undiminished Japanese navy.

A shimmer of hope

When a lone Japanese destroyer is spotted in the distance, the squadron leader decides to push on and turns his plane north in pursuit, with the rest of the dive bomber squadron following suit. All in the desperate hope that the destroyer would lead them to the enemy carriers.

Sure enough, the straggler was making its way to rejoin the main fleet and, before long, the pilots’ gamble is rewarded with the entirety of the Japanese fleet coming into view.

In the ensuing skirmish, three of the Japanese fleet’s four aircraft carriers are taken down — with the fourth, the Hiryū, being hunted down not long after.

In one stroke, not only were the scales of the battle tipped in favor of the Americans, but the very course of history was changed.

In retrospect, it’s easy to justify the pilot’s decision to take the bait and follow the destroyer’s trail, given the enormous payoff. It’s hard to appreciate the tremendous pressure he would have been under at that moment and how difficult it must have been for him to follow his instincts in a situation where being wrong would have meant not only his own demise, but that of the men under his command as well.

Results can’t be denied, however. By not straying from their objective to seek out…



Omar Sharaki

Software developer, sporadic Medium writer, and guy you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane.