A Decisive Battle Too Many Have Forgotten
By Harold Hutchison
Seventy-two years ago today, in a span of five minutes, American dive bombers turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific Theater near Midway by fatally damaging three Japanese carriers. Yet, if you were to do a “man on the street” interview similar to those done on late-night talk shows, how many Americans would have heard of the Battle of Midway?
The sad answer is, not enough. The Battle of Midway’s anniversary is often overshadowed by that of D-Day, the Allied landings in France. During the four days of that battle, 307 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice, a figure that was more than three times higher than the total of Americans killed in the Second Battle of Fallujah in November and December, 2004.
Remembering the Battle of Midway doesn’t mean honoring just those who made the ultimate sacrifice, like Richard Fleming, the only recipient of the Medal of Honor from that battle who was killed in the attack on the Japanese cruiser Mikuma, with some reports claiming he crashed into the Japanese vessel. It’s more than just honoring the members of Torpedo Squadron 8, of whom only Ensign George Gay survived – World War II’s version of “Lone Survivor.”
Remembering the Battle of Midway is also about remembering and honoring some who never faced hostile fire but still made the victory possible – like Joe Rochefort, whose command, Station Hypo, was able to tap into Japanese communications, providing the United States with valuable intelligence to make the victory possible. Rochefort went over 40 years without receiving any recognition, largely due to internal Navy politics.
It’s also about remembering those who helped make the crucial decisions: Admiral Chester Nimitz, who trusted Rochefort’s intelligence enough to put two carrier task forces in position to strike the Japanese; Raymond Spruance, whose choices during the battle preserved the victory; and Wade McCluskey, whose persistence lead his dive-bombers to the Japanese carriers.
The Battle of Midway is one of the most pivotal battles in American history. Today, please take the time to remember that battle – and those who fell during it.