NEWS | June 7, 2011

Remembering the Battle of Midway

By Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Brannon Deugan, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs Office

Joint Base Charleston hosted a commemoration June 3 to recognize the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, widely considered one of the most significant naval victories in United States history. Similar ceremonies were held throughout the Navy. Charleston's ceremony was conducted onboard the former USS Yorktown (CV 10) at Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum, where Joint Base Charleston's Deputy Commander, Capt. Ralph Ward, gave keynote remarks that were followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.

"It was an honor to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony," said Fireman John Dyer, from Naval Support Activity, one of the wreath presenters during the commemoration ceremony. "It was a great chance to honor everyone who served at the Battle of Midway because they contributed tremendously to the success of the battle and ultimately to the United States winning the war in the Pacific."

Six months prior to Midway, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed or crippled much of the Navy's Pacific Fleet. Fortunately the U.S. aircraft carriers were unscathed because they were at sea during the attack. The Japanese planned the Midway campaign to draw what remained of the U.S. fleet into a final engagement that would force it to sue for peace and allow Japan to solidify its gains in the Pacific.

The U. S. fleet was significantly outnumbered by the Japanese, but had several advantages. First, code breakers had been able to determine much of the Japanese attack plan and the element of surprise was now on the U.S. side. In addition, the Japanese had dispersed its huge naval force and only sent four of 10 aircraft carriers to Midway, perhaps overconfident of victory. Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, recognized these advantages and decided to take the gamble to engage the Japanese, calculating that the known advantages tipped the scales enough to justify the substantial risks.

Victory was still a long shot, and had our Navy not prevailed at Midway, the war's outcome could have been much different. Admiral's Nimitz's plan succeeded however, and all four Japanese carriers were sunk, though the U.S. carrier Yorktown was lost. This victory is considered by many to be the turning point in the Pacific war, after which the Japanese were on the defensive.

Captain Ward emphasized in his remarks that the victory was due to not only the U.S. ability to de-code Japanese communications but more to the pride and professionalism seen in every ship, squadron and Sailor. The character of our service members was the real key to the U.S. victory. He stated our strong morale and unwavering attacks were particularly impressive in view of the crushing blow at Pearl Harbor less than six months earlier and that superb leadership and adherence to the same core values we live by today were crucial.

A heartfelt invocation and benediction were led during the commemoration ceremony by Rev. Harold Syfrett, who proudly served aboard USS Yorktown (CV 10) from April 1943 to June 1946.

"This ceremony meant a great deal to me," he said. "When the Yorktown was sunk at Midway they renamed this ship  in its honor."