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Veterans remember Battle of Midway, one of Navy’s greatest victories, 80 years later

Eighty years ago this weekend, a military miracle unfolded in the Pacific Ocean 3,500 miles off San Diego.

The US Navy ambushed the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Midway and changed the course of World War II.

Saturday night, on it USS Midway Museum in San Diego – a retired aircraft carrier named after the battle – the Navy celebrated the anniversary with a ceremony only with an invitation that brought a ton of grief.

There are not many veterans still alive who were there then.

Only three were on the guest list: Erwin Wendy, Charles Monroe and Jack Holder, although Holder had to succumb at the last minute. All three men were attached to aircraft squadrons during the battle. Everyone is 100 years old or has passed.

Two people arrived at the event to hear Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the Navy Air Force, talk about the legacy of the battle and link it to another anniversary: ​​the centenary of the launch of the first American aircraft carrier, the Langley.

The Midway has long been celebrated as one of the sailors bigger wins, a combination of daring and fighting ability, many of them improvised. Retired Admiral John Richardson once told an San Diego audience that the full story of the battle “tends to be miraculous.”

The four-day commitment has been the subject of many books, films, museum exhibits and scientific conferences examining every aspect of the planning, execution and aftermath of the battle.

Navy sailors stand in line as Midway Battle veteran Erwin “Judge” Wend passes in front of them before the memorial service begins.

(Hayne Palmour IV / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Eighty years ago, the U.S. Navy entered what would have been a pivotal battle in the Pacific during World War II,” Whitesell said during the evening ceremony. “Not only did the US Navy win this battle at Midway Atoll, but it established its naval dominance. When we talk about the Midway or read about it in history books, we often use terms like battle supremacy, strategic excellence, but there is another concept we do not mention so much, which I think was just as compelling in the Midway. “And this is our people and the faith we had in our people at that time.”

Wendt, 106, likes to remind people that some of the things they were playing at the time could not be easily analyzed.

“It was also very good luck,” he told Midway Currents, a museum edition interview last summer.

The battle began on June 4, 1942, six months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor that pushed the United States into World War II.

Japan had pursued a series of conquests in the Pacific, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto prepared an invasion of Midway, a strategic atoll held by the United States about 1,300 miles northwest of Oahu.

What Yamamoto did not know was that American analysts had deciphered several of the Japanese communication codes to identify Midway as an impending target. Admiral Chester Nimetz set up an ambush.

Despite the element of surprise, Wendt was unsure of the US chances. “We were out in the air with their Zeros (fighter jets) against our TBDs (torpedo bombers),” he told Midway Currents. “We were more on ships and planes all the way.”

Wendt and Monroe, 99, were both attached to a squadron of bomber torpedoes, the VT-8. At the beginning of the battle, her planes were decimated in air battles. But these skirmishes shook the Japanese – where did the next wave come from? – and left them vulnerable to subsequent attacks.

Midway battle veteran Charles Monroe sits as a video shows pictures behind him

Midway Battle veteran Charles Monroe sits as a video shows images from the Battle of Midway on a screen behind him.

(Hayne Palmour IV / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“We caught the Japanese at the right time taking torpedoes off their planes in the cockpit and replacing them with bombs,” Monroe recalled in an interview with Midway Currents. “Although we lost our fate first, we later caught them flat-footed.”

By the time the fighting was over, Japan had lost more than 3,000 men, four aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser and 250 aircraft. The US also paid a price – 307 men, one plane, one destroyer, 150 planes – but the tide changed. US forces were able to launch an attack on the Pacific.

According to biographies provided by the Navy, all three Midway veterans saw additional fighting in places such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa and the Solomon Islands. Holder, 100, also served in European theater during the war.

Quickly today, Whitesell reminded his audience that the threats people face today are not so different from those of eight decades ago.

“Today we are in a completely similar environment to what we experienced 80 years ago, as our country supports the Ukrainian people against the unprovoked attack by Russia, while at the same time facing a very real possibility of a conflict in the Pacific,” he said.

“We still carry the fighting spirit of these heroes who fought in the Midway.”

Karl Zingheim, historian of the USS Midway Museum, said it was important to preserve the stories of those who took part in key battles, especially in the Midway.

“A key Midway lesson is that people matter,” he said in an interview Friday afternoon. “It’s one of the few examples in the history of mechanized, industrial warfare where whatever one does or fails to do can change the course of the battle. You see it again and again in the Midway. “It’s a legacy worth remembering.”

Staff writer Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.

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Veterans remember Battle of Midway, one of Navy’s greatest victories, 80 years later Source link Veterans remember Battle of Midway, one of Navy’s greatest victories, 80 years later

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