Navy commemorates 74th anniversary of Battle of Midway
June 1, 2016
PEARL HARBOR VISITORS CENTER, Hawaii — Navy officials on Tuesday commemorated the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the sea clash that came to define modern U.S. naval power and turned the tide of the Pacific theater during World War II.
“It’s the fighting spirit we’re here to celebrate,” Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said during a ceremony at the popular tourist site. “It’s the risk that they took that turned the tide of the war.
During the battle, which lasted from June 3-7, 1942, Japan lost nearly 300 planes, a cruiser and four aircraft carriers, which had been among the six used in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor a half-year earlier. Japan was never able to replace those lost vessels, while the industrialized United States moved into high gear building every manner of warship possible.
“It was truly the undisputed turning point in the war in the Pacific,” Capt. Stanley Keeve, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said during the ceremony.
Fuller described the Navy as “on the ropes” 74 years ago.
“Imperial Japan was emboldened and confident after the destruction their fleet had inflicted on the Pacific battleships,” he said. “The tide appeared to be rolling in their favor.”
But Oahu-based code-breakers had learned from intercepted messages that the Japanese navy’s next operation would be at Midway Island, about 1,000 miles northwest of Honolulu.
Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Chester Nimitz and Adm. Raymond Spruance, who would lead the Navy’s forces in the pivotal battle, assembled a battle plan, but “the future was unclear,” Fuller said. “There were many unknowns and many assumptions.”
The Japanese fleet was caught by surprise, and the U.S. suffered significantly fewer losses than the enemy. The U.S. lost the carrier Yorktown, a destroyer, 145 planes and 300 men. Japan lost roughly 2,500 men.
“It’s important that we remember today that despite all of the technological advances, all the great things you see in modern aviation, cyberwarfare, that the Battle of Midway demonstrated one thing. At its core, it demonstrated the Navy’s flexibility and our innovative character,” Fuller said. “The battle will always be a source of great joy, pride and consequence for our Navy and our nation.”