MIDWAY ATOLL — Workers for the company maintaining Midway’s airstrip are expected to be withdrawn from the island Jan. 3 because of a lack of funding.
The airstrip — originally called Midway Naval Station — is not expected to be funded for operations until at least Jan. 20 when Congress considers the U.S. Department of Transportation funding bill, the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper reported Tuesday.
The airport now is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also operates Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
Fish and Wildlife has a contract with Alaskan firm Chugach McKinley to maintain and operate the airstrip, the newspaper reported. The service issued the company a stop-work order; a charter flight is expected to remove workers Jan. 3.
Closing the airport could cause problems for trans-Pacific travelers, because Midway is the designated landing strip for those flights, the newspaper reported. The Federal Aviation Administration requires an emergency airstrip for over-ocean flights arriving or departing the United States.
Midway Naval Station, created in 1940 when tensions between Japan and America were high, helped the United States turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific during the “Battle of Midway” from June 4 to June 7, 1942, according to a Navy Web site.
Japanese forces planned to invade Midway on June 4, 1942, but American military intelligence broke Japanese radio codes and deciphered the plan, the Web site says.
The Navy ordered more forces — including the carriers Enterprise and Yorktown — into the area, setting an ambush resulting in the destruction of four Japanese carriers and more than 300 aircraft, the Web site says. The United States lost one carrier and one destroyer.