Midway is about a famous battle during World War II between the Americans and the Japanese. The movie starts with the admirals of the two fleets discussing strategy. Pearl Harbor has just happened, and the Japanese look to Midway Island as an important strategic location to completely dominate the entire Pacific Rim militarily.
The Japanese admiral is worried about the location of the American aircraft carriers. The American admiral has to guess where and when the Japanese fleet plans its next attack.
Scout planes are sent out to find the Japanese fleet. With much nervous tension, Strawberry 9 is the scout plane that finally finds the Japanese fleet and its four aircraft carriers.
The movie highlights the importance of aircraft carriers to sea battles. There is much talk of refueling, arming bombs, and getting planes on and off the flight decks of the various carriers.
The Americans are the first to attack with a squadron of torpedo planes. The Japanese fighter cover quickly destroys these planes without much damage to any of their ships. One pilot, however, survives his crash and floats in the sea. This is the real-life pilot that wrote the book about the battle upon which the movie is based. He becomes a cheerleader for the Americans throughout the battle, waving his flotation device in the air every time an American bomb strikes a Japanese carrier.
The battle continues with Japanese and American raids trading jabs with each other. One of the American carriers is sorely damaged during the fighting. The Japanese general wants to sink it. This is a fateful decision because an American dive bomber squadron hits the Japanese while they are arming bombs for their bombers on their flight decks.
The Americans catch the Japanese flat-footed and destroy all their carriers. This battle marked the end of Japanese expansion in the Pacific and was the turning point in the war.