USA: NAS Pensacola Remembers Battle of Midway

NAS Pensacola Remembers Battle of Midway

Pensacola-area naval commands, and the local community remembered the Battle of Midway during a ceremony held at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, June 4.

The Battle of Midway, which is considered by many military historians to be the turning point of World War II in the Pacific theater, was fought in the vicinity of Midway Island from June 4 through 7, 1942.

Using intelligence of an impending Japanese invasion of Midway, gathered from coded Japanese messages intercepted and decoded by U.S. Naval cryptologic experts under the direction of Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort, Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the United State Pacific Fleet, deployed the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5), USS Enterprise (CV 6), and USS Hornet (CV 8) under the command of Rear Adm. Raymond Spruance, and Rear Adm. Frank Fletcher to intercept the Japanese invasion force.

Four Imperial Japanese Naval aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu were sunk, and 3,057 Japanese personnel were killed in the conflict, at the cost of the Yorktown and 307 American personnel. Much of the American victory at Midway was attributed to the code breaking efforts of Naval Intelligence, tactical acumen of Adm. Fletcher and Adm. Spruance, as well as the heroic actions of the Naval aviators, aircrews, and Sailors, Marines and Soldiers involved.

The ceremony, held at the museum and hosted by Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC), honored the service of those who fought in the battle. Rear Adm. Don Quinn, Commander, Naval Education and Training Command, was the guest speaker and focused on the Marine Corps’ participation in the battle from Midway Atoll. Quinn recounted a remembrance from Marine Private First Class John Miniclier, who was assigned to the 6th Defense Battalion, “G” Battery on Sand Island, a part of Midway.

“According to Miniclier, when they were told the size of the Japanese force, there was good reason to assume they were going to have a hard fight,” said Quinn. “Part of Miniclier’s duties included manning a searchlight in a wooden tower near the power plant. The young Marine said, ‘The control unit had powerful binoculars and we spotted incoming enemy aircraft and reported this information to our main command post. We could watch our planes take off from eastern island and later, when the few that returned were being gunned down by zeros. One of our pilots bailed out, but as he hung from the ‘chute, the enemy killed him with machine guns. The facts of war had arrived.'”

Quinn said his point in choosing a different slant for his remarks was to remind people that the spectacular victory at Midway was the product of fine work of many units from all our military services.

During the ceremony a wreath was placed to honor the memories of those who lost their lives. Midway veterans were honored guests at the event; including Master Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Newton E. Delchamps, Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Chuck Wheeler, Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Gordon Pierce, Chief Aviation Machinists Mate Carlyle “Fish” Herring and Aviation Ordnancemen First Class Wiley Bartlett were honored for their service.

Delchamps, who had been a gunner aboard torpedo bombers during the war, was “very impressed” with the ceremony and everyone who came out to remember the battle and honor those who had served.

For Pierce it was a bittersweet moment. For him the ceremony brought back memories of his comrades, many of whom had passed away in recent years. “When I think back to previous years ceremonies, it saddens me to think of how many of my fellow veterans are gone now and cannot be here,” he said.

Chief Aviation Ordnanceman David Long, one of the NATTC staff members who assisted with planning and organizing this year’s ceremony, was humbled to have the chance to honor the memory and service at Midway. “It is an extreme privilege to be able to honor the courageous service and sacrifice of the veterans of the Battle of Midway,” said Long. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in the world’s finest Navy and carry on the legacy of our countries hero’s.”

Since its commissioning in 1942, NATTC has been committed to delivering training and increasing readiness within the Naval Aviation Enterprise. NATTC graduates approximately 15,000 Navy and Marine students annually. The majority of the student population is made up of enlisted personnel attending “A” schools, where they learn the skills and knowledge required to perform as apprentice level technicians in the fleet. The center also provides airman apprenticeship training, personal financial management, and shipboard aircraft firefighting training. Advanced schools provide higher level technical knowledge for senior petty officers, and technical training for officers in aviation fuels, carrier air traffic control center operations, amphibious air traffic control center operations, aircraft launch and recovery equipment, and shipboard aircraft fire fighting.

Additionally, NATTC supports the fleet by providing team training to ships personnel during their pre-deployment work-ups, to ensure that shipboard personnel have the proficiency required to take their ship on deployment, after a prolonged period in port.

Press Release, June 5, 2013; Image: US Navy