June 4, 2007, - 9:29 am
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE ****
While everyone else is focusing on what Paris Hilton wore to prison today, I mark the anniversary of something far more important: Today is the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important World War II battles.
On June 4th, 1942, the Battle of Midway–in which the U.S. (wounded and limping from the Pearl Harbor attack 6 months earlier) confronted Japanese ships advancing on the Pacific toll of Midway–began. Midway is 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu.
It was a pivotal win, without which we might have lost to the Japanese. We Americans were the underdogs, but like the Maccabees, our American soldiers cleaned the clocks of the Japanese. During the three-day battle–which changed the course of World War II–American lost one aircraft carrier, 145 planes, and 307 men. But Japan lost 4 aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, three destroyers, 291 planes, and 4,800 men. Yes, David beat Goliath by the battle’s end.
Not only was it shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, but the battle also followed a number of U.S. and British defeats and setbacks in the Pacific. Japanese ousted the U.S. from Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines and Britain from Singapore. The U.S. used Midway as a patrol plane base, and Japan used the battle in an attempt to destroy our Pacific Fleet.
Fortunately, they were defeated, by our resourceful troops, who enlisted codebreaking, smart moves, and sheer grit and determination. We intercepted Japanese coded messages, decoded them, and took advantage in the battle.
Some of our victory cannot be anything other than miraculous (it is sometimes referred to as “The Miracle at Midway”). Aside from our luck in intercepting Japanese messages, the U.S.S. Yorktown was hit by three Japanese bombs 65 years ago, today. It was severely damaged just a few weeks before in the Battle of the Coral Sea, and had a hasty patch-up job. But we won the battle, despite that.
And it was a turning point. After that victory, the Japanese never recovered, the U.S. denied the Japanese access to Guadalcanal, and we retook Guam.
Sadly, most of the survivors of the Battle of Midway have passed away. But a few–in their ’80s and ’90s–are still alive and will visit the islands of Midway (which include Sand Island), today. One of those survivors is George Chockley, 87, who was a petty officer on the USS Enterprise.
AP quotes Chockley:
I was just a young kid. I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid.
And thank Heaven for that. We owe Chockley and his fellow Battle of Midway veterans a huge debt of gratitude.
Paris Hilton isn’t good enough to wash their feet.
More info on the Battle of Midway here and here.
**** UPDATE: Reader Ted K. writes:
I had forgotten about the anniversary of the battle. This past weekend, I went to the WWII weekend in Reading, PA where we met true American WWII heroes such as the paratroopers from the 506th PIR, flying aces such as the Tuskegee Airmen, and many others.
It is also a re-enactors weekend where they get together showing us how these men trained and lived while fighting the war that saved us from the tyranny of the Axis powers.
It simply amazes me that God put on earth men and women who helped us win some many battles and the war. It’s so interesting that a simple un-coded message “AF is having problem with their water condensers (paraphrased)” enabled the men of the Pacific fleet to know the Japanese were coming.
I don’t know whether we knew it at the time, but the destruction of the 4 carriers + loss of experienced Japanese pilots was the turning point. This is because the way the Japanese trained their pilots led to their ultimate loss. Our training program put pilots in the air in less than 6 months, whereas the Japanese method took nearly 2 years. So, when they lost all of those pilots, we gained the advantage.
This coupled with our manufacturing capabilities to produce a nearly endless supply of superior aircraft (bullet proof cockpits & self sealing gas tanks, for example) were also key contributors.
I could go on and on (I’m a history buff) of how this country worked during the darkest days, is a tribute to all the men and women of that era.
I recently found out that that my great uncle was a navy man who participated in the invasion of Normandy as a radio operator for an LCI.
I wish we had more of this today. I wish people could understand that we need to fight this war in the far flung areas of the world. I don’t want to have to worry I’m going be vaporized when I’m shopping in the mall.
Keep up the great work,
Tags: aircraft carrier, An Important Anniversary, Britain, Coral Sea, Debbie Schlussel, George Chockley, Guam, Honolulu, Japan, Midway, Paris Hilton, Pearl Harbor, petty officer, Reading, Sand Island, self sealing gas tanks, Singapore, the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Midway, the anniversary of the battle, the Philippines, United States, Wake Island