Monday, June 04, 2007

Battle of Midway Tribute

Readers Note: With the exception of a few updates, the post which follows is a copy of a tribute I posted on June 4, 2006.

The tribute is not just for those who fought at Midway. It's also for all those Americans and our allies who've served with us in our battles in the Pacific for freedom and a better world.

In June 1942, Japanese and American forces fought an epic battle at Midway, the name of a pair of mid-Pacific islands whose combined size totaled two square miles. But one of the islands was just large enough for an airfield and a small harbor, where submarines could rearm and refuel. Thus, possession of Midway was critically important to both sides.

The battle at Midway was one of World War II’s most decisive battles. America's victory there halted the Japanese offensive that began at Pearl Harbor, and enabled the Allies to begin their advance toward Japan.

Beginning on June 4, the battle lasted for three-days. Its decisive action occurred that first day so we mark June 4 as the battle's anniversary.

Today is the 65th anniversary of the Battle at Midway. Here is how one historian began his account of it:

By any ordinary standard, they were hopelessly outclassed.

They had no battleships, the enemy eleven. They had eight cruisers, the enemy twenty-three. They had three carriers (one of them crippled); the enemy had eight. Their shore defenses included guns from the turn of the century.

They knew little of war. None of the Navy pilots on one of their carriers had ever been in combat. Nor had any of the Army fliers. Of the Marines, 17 of 21 new pilots were just out of flight school – some with less than four hours’ flying time since then. Their enemy was brilliant, experienced and all-conquering.

Further on, he wrote:

They had no right to win. Yet they did, and in doing so they changed the course of a war. More than that, they added a new name – Midway – to that small list that inspires men by shining example. Like Marathon, the Armada, the Marne, a few others, Midway showed that every once in a while “what must be” need not be at all. Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith and valor – that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.

You may recognize historian Walter Lord's words from the foreward of his authoritative and inspiring book, Incredible Victory.

Lord's words are a fitting tribute. They speak in grateful remembrance for all of us.

You may want to visit these Midway websites:

Battle of Midway - Department of the Navy-Naval Historical Center staff prepared this excellent print and photo narrative.

The Battle of Midway, 1942 - A brief outline of the battle and the eyewitness account of Japanese pilot, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who was lead pilot at Pearl Harbor. - This is an extraordinary site. With narrative, photos, and video, it tells how the Navy, National Geographic, and undersea explorer Robert Ballard, who led the scientific team which located RMS Titanic, searched for and finally found on the Pacific's bottom the carrier, USS Yorktown, which was sunk by torpedo fire on June 6 after suffering severe damage earlier in the battle


kenb said...

Another great post! But what else should one expect from a fellow Churchillian:-)

One small typo: "foreword" not "forward"

SoCal Pir8 said...

World War II history has enthralled me for well over 40 years. My Dad being an Army medic in Europe from Normandy to Germany I’m sure helped me. One of my major research papers in high school was on the War in the Pacific. Being in the Navy this only added to my interest and my heritage. I have been to Midway 3-4 times. Although the main base at the time of the battle was on Eastern Island, not Sand Island as it was when I briefly visited, I could only imagine how the battle transpired oh those many years ago.

This past Saturday night I was fortunate enough to attend, along with my 10 year old Grandson, A Victory at Midway Commemoration aboard the USS Midway (CV-41), now a Naval Aircraft Museum in San Diego. For two hours I was able to talk with Tyler about one my favorite subjects, Naval Aviation. I was able show him planes his Mother worked on, planes his Uncle and I flew in, and in keeping with the night’s festivities, planes that fought in and won the Battle of Midway.

Sandwiched in between was the program was remarks by VAdm. Zortman, Commander, Naval Air Forces and recognition of the nearly 30 Battle of Midway Veterans and their families who honored us that night with their presence. It was indeed an honor to be among such men, now well into their 80’s imagining how young they were as they met the unknown rigors of war for the first time, not knowing if they would see the next hour let alone another sunrise. Yet to a man, their main concern was to avert attention from themselves and on to their shipmates who were no longer with us, those who died 65 years ago and those who passed away only a week or so ago. I was and remain in ah of their courage and dedication to their shipmates and their country.

I add a couple of excellent websites concerning the Battle of Midway to John’s list .

Anonymous said...

I re read War and Remembrance(Wouk} last fall.I certainlyfelt more of a ang as a mature;i.e.middl aaged male who never was in the service than as a teen reading something my father recommended.One of the more memorable passages was Wouk's description of the miscues of logistics that striped the Japanese carriers of their air cover-leaving them unprotected to the "Hell Divers".This is from memory,so bear with me:
"It was a perfect opportunity.It was based on a series of errors and chance.What was not chance however ,but the heart and soul of the United States of America in action was the willingness of the young men in the torpedo plans to hurl themselves at the Japanese carriers and nearly certain death to clear the skies of the Zero defenders.
Wouk then records the dead and the few survivors of the torpedo squadrons in his book-as a memorial to their courage.
As I age,I feel more and more that what counts as a person is honesty,keeing ones word,doing your best ..and courage.Every one of those men were far better than I and all I can do to honor them is to say,"Thank you."
Thanks for the use of your site.

AMac said...

At his site, Former Spook offers a great synopsis of the contributions of Joe Rochefort and the USN team that read enough of the Imperial Navy's messages to figure out that Midway was the offensive's target.

Well worth reading (H/T Lead and Gold).