Almost all the on-board scenes were filmed on the U.S.S. Lexington. Lexington was an Essex-class "fast carrier" commissioned in February, 1943. Even some of the "Japanese carriers" shown in birds-eye views were actually Lexington (with the film reversed to put the island superstructure on the port side whereas all U.S. carriers had them on the starboard side) Lexington, decommissioned in 1991, was the longest serving carrier in history. Lexington is now a museum ship at Corpus Christi, Texas.
Henry Fonda played Admiral Chester Nimitz twice, in this film and in In Harm's Way (1965). He is usually only referenced by his title "CINCPACFLT" - Commander-In-Chief, Pacific Fleet. It is an old Naval tradition that a captain, and by extension any commanding officer, is not just himself, he is his command and, on certain occasions, such as when arriving or departing a naval warship, is always identified as the command, never by name. However, the term "CINC" is now only used to reference the President of the United States, as he is the only official "Commander-in-Chief" of the Armed Forces.
This movie's closing epilogue is a quote from Winston Churchill. It states: "The annals of war at sea present no more intense, heart-shaking shock than this battle, in which the qualities of the United States Navy and Air Force and the American race shone forth in splendour. The bravery and self-devotion of the American airmen and sailors and the nerve and skill of their leaders was the foundation of all." 'Winston Churchill'
When Matt Garth was making his landing approach after the battle, the number 34 can be clearly seen on the carrier's stern. This is the U.S.S. Oriskany (Big O). The Oriskany was sunk off Pensacola, Florida in May 2006 to become an artificial reef and dive site. The cost was twenty million dollars, and is expected to generate revenues, as a tourist/dive site, of over nine million dollars per year.
According to "The Big E: The Story of the U.S.S. Enterprise," by Edward P. Stafford, the real cause of the loss of almost all of the torpedo planes was caused by problems with radio frequencies. The torpedo planes lost contact with the fighters and dive bombers. As they attacked the Japanese carriers first, the Zeros came down to attack them. All attention was focused on the torpedo bombers. When the U.S. dive bombers arrived over the carriers, there was no air cover. Had the attack been synchronized, as planned, it is possible that the end results would have been quite different.
Several aerial combat scenes seem to be taken from Battle of Britain (1969). There are some shots where the distinctive silhouettes of Spitfires are visible, and scenes with a Messerschmitt Bf-109 plummeting into the sea, and an exploding Ju-87 Stuka and a He-111 are also to be found.
This was the second film to be presented in "Sensurround", a special low-frequency bass speaker setup consisting of four huge speakers loaned by distributors to select theatres showing the film. This system was employed only during certain sequences of the film, and was so powerful that it actually cracked plaster at some movie theaters. "Sensurround" was employed in only three other films released by Universal: Earthquake (1974), Rollercoaster (1977), and the theatrical release of Battlestar Galactica (1978).
Many Japanese political and military leaders later admitted they had always known they would lose the war, but felt they had no choice after the U.S. imposed an economic embargo in August 1941 in concert with the European colonial powers. The U.S. had also sent military forces to China early in 1941, without declaring war on Japan.
It could be argued the battle was a turning point in the sense that the Japanese had been largely successful until then. However, the U.S. industrial and economic advantage, as well as its greater access to natural resources, ensured Japan was always going to lose the war.
Two of Midway's stars also appeared in movies from which it borrowed footage: Robert Mitchum, who played Admiral Halsey, played bomber pilot Bob Gray in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and Toshiro Mifune, who played Admiral Yamamoto, also played Yamamoto in Rengô kantai shirei chÃ'kan: Yamamoto Isoroku.
Many historians have argued the Battle of Midway was not a turning point in the Pacific War, as Japan did not have the industrial capacity to simultaneously fight against the United States, the British Commonwealth and Empire, and China. The main reason the Pacific campaign lasted for so long was because the Soviet Union did not declare war on Japan until August 9, 1945, and the Anglo-American forces concentrated on defeating Germany and Italy first. The non-military Japanese leaders realized defeat was inevitable within months of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, and they began to pressure the government into surrendering in 1943. Despite knowing the campaign was economically unsustainable, the Japanese military leaders would not allow surrender negotiations until 1945. Some historians have suggested the Guadalcanal Campaign was the real turning point in the Pacific War, rather than the Battle of Midway.
The voice of Admiral Yamamoto was Paul Frees, an American actor, voice actor, impressionist, comedian and screenwriter known for his work on MGM, Walter Lantz, and Walt Disney theatrical cartoons during the Golden Age of Animation and for providing the voice of Boris Badenov in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
This movie's opening prologue states: "This is the way it was - - The story of the battle that was the turning point of the war in the Pacific, told whenever possible with actual film shot during combat. It exemplifies the combination of planning, courage, error and pure chance by which great events are often decided."
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The clip showing "Tom Garth's" plane crashing and breaking in two is one of the most used crash sequences from World War II. In the actual crash, the pilot was hardly even shaken up and immediately climbed out on his own.