Scenes of Lieutenant Colonel James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle's Tokyo raid at the beginning of the movie are from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). Robert Mitchum played the pilot Bob Gray in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and Admiral William Halsey in Midway.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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'
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.
To play Admiral Yamamoto, Universal cast prominent Japanese film actor Toshirô Mifune. When Mifune showed up for filming, one of his white gloves had a short finger. Admiral Yamamoto was missing one joint in one of his fingers. Admiral Chester Nimitz also had a finger missing one joint.
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."
Whether the Battle of Midway was really a turning point in the Pacific Campaign has been widely disputed. Japan did not have the resources or the industrial capacity to carry out a long war against the United States, China and the British Commonwealth and Empire.
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.