NNS — The U.S. Pacific Fleet staff recently commemorated the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway with a ceremony at its Pearl Harbor headquarters.
The Battle of Midway was fought June 4-7, 1942, and was the decisive defeat that effectively halted the Imperial Japanese Navy’s advance across the Pacific.
Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift spoke of the battle’s significance as the turning point of World War II in the Pacific and the actions of then Fleet Commander Adm. Chester Nimitz that contributed to victory.
“Adm. Nimitz is someone I have studied for a long time,” Swift said during his opening remarks. “He was a very strategic thinker. In those three days that [USS] Yorktown was being repaired in the dry dock he donned waders and walked through the ship to encourage those who were working on the ship that the mandate he had set to repair the ship in three days could be achieved.
“He understood what was being asked of those shipyard workers and that is telling today,” Swift said.
He went on to note to the more than 150 guests in attendance that this is not simply history; it is, in fact, heritage.
“Numbers are important, but what’s most compelling here is the commitment of the force, the belief in what you’re fighting for,” Swift said. “Today isn’t just about the history of Midway, but it’s also about our naval heritage there.”
The ceremony included remarks from guest speaker and historian David Rosenberg, who stressed how the United States was outnumbered and outgunned during this battle.
“Through an extraordinary combination of the skill and courage of American pilots, splendid intelligence, prudent risk taking by our commanders, that and sheer luck,” Rosenberg said. “The apparently inferior American forces were victorious.”
Naval intelligence played a crucial role in the victory. In May 1942, intelligence experts at the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor known as Station Hypo intercepted 500 to 1,000 Japanese radio messages a day, deciphering and translating roughly 25 percent. They provided Nimitz with the vital information that the Imperial Japanese Navy intended to attack Midway Atoll.
“Imperial Japan seemed to be triumphant and unstoppable,” Rosenberg said. “Information dominance core of intelligence, cryptology, communications and meteorology professionals gave Adm. Nimitz advance notice the knowledge of Japanese objectives, virtually the enemy entire order of battle.”
Rosenberg noted that it was a combination of intelligence, tactics, courage and sacrifice that forever changed the course of the war and world history. The interception and decryption of Japanese plans by naval intelligence specialists in Hawaii allowed Nimitz to have his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese at Midway.
Additionally, Swift spoke of the importance of the Pacific region to America during the battle and its importance today.
“All this folds into who we are today and the challenges we face, especially in this theater of great uncertainty,” Swift added. “What is most compelling is the commitment to the force, the belief in what you are fighting for.”
Although the attack occurred 73 years ago the lessons from this famous battle are still being told.
“The event honored the legacy of the Battle of Midway and incredible sacrifices that were made,” said Cryptologic Technician (Collections) 3rd Class Devin Bates, who attended the ceremony. “It makes sure that the memory of the Battle of Midway, our heritage and what it stands for, is not lost to younger generations of Sailors.”