The term Midway has several meanings. “Halfway between two points, parts or places. Halfway through an event or an island group in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.” This commentary refers to the movie “Midway” released on Nov. 8. Beginning with a Japanese conversation in December 1937 between Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto and the U.S. Navy’s Lt. Cmdr. Edwin T. Layton in Tokyo, the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the April 18, 1942, Doolittle raid with 16 B-25s bombed several Japanese cities and the Battle of Midway from May 4 to 7, 1942. U.S. naval aviators flying SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers sank all four Japanese fleet aircraft carriers, destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft and at least 3,000 Japanese sailors during the battle. The U.S. Navy lost CV-5, the USS Yorktown.
Midway was the first naval battle where the opposing surface ships never made visual contact, being separated by 200-plus miles of Pacific Ocean. The entire battle was between America’s carrier aircraft and the IJN’s superior numbers of carrier aircraft.
U.S. Navy’s Station HYPO was located in a basement, “the dungeon” in Pearl Harbor. Lt. Cmdr. Joseph J. Rochefort led the codebreakers at Station HYPO. They deciphered Japan’s JN-25b code and the details of the IJN’s plans to attack Midway.
Layton was an intelligence analyst. Layton and Rochefort were Annapolis classmates fluent in Japanese. They served together as assistant Navy attaches in Tokyo. They were assigned to “the dungeon” in Pearl Harbor a year before the Dec. 7 attack.
Can you recall a movie you’ve seen or a book you’ve read about a big battle or military campaign that showed wives or girlfriends emotionally supporting each other while waiting for news about the battle?
The battle of Midway raged as the pilots’ wives gathered at the home of one of the wives. The children played outside while the wives were in the kitchen to verbally and emotionally support each other while waiting for news, any news, about their sailor. If you ever had to wait hours for news, you know the mental torture of waiting. The worst part is not knowing how much longer you have to wait.
In the early part of February 1942, several of our naval aviators with their wives or dates decided to attend a USO dance. The band was a USN swing band composed of enlisted musicians with a female “torch” singer played by Annie Trousseau.
Trousseau was attractively dressed in a 1940s-style red sweater and matching skirt. Her blonde hair style was from the 1940s. As she sang the first words to “All or Nothing at All,” immediately I noticed her hand mannerisms were different until I remembered they were from the 1940s, too.
I couldn’t help noticing the lyrics were not only about a woman who knows what she wants. She wants all of his love and attention, no distractions or sharing. If she can’t have all of his love, she’s not wasting her time with him. “There ain’t no in-between.”
Admiral Nimitz wanted to deliver a serious body-blow punch to the IJN that would set them back on their heels and take notice. The U.S. Navy aviators flew SBD-5 Dauntless “dive bombers.” Our dive bombers sunk all four IJN fleet carriers, sunk a couple of surface ships and destroyed hundreds of IJN aircraft and 3,000 Japanese sailors’ lives. (The Kaga, Soryu, Akagi and Hiryn were four of the six carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier.) Payback does leave a nice taste in your mouth.
If you’ve flown from Reno to the East Coast, maybe your connecting flight was in Chicago at either O’Hare Airport or Midway Airport. O’Hare Airport was named after Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a Navy fighter pilot killed in action in November 1943.
Midway Airport is named after the Battle of Midway. If you have time between flights or if your connecting flight is at another Concourse, when you’re at the intersection of Concourses A, B and C, look above you. There’s an SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber suspended from the ceiling above you. If you have time, read the displays and look at the pictures of our Navy’s sailors and aviators. “All gave some, some gave all.”
If the men of the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet and USS Yorktown had not won the Battle of Midway, the next Japanese invasion would have been Hawaii. Then the west coast cities of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego would have been invaded. You’d be reading and speaking Japanese today. Before you close your eyes tonight, thank God, our naval aviators and the men and all the “Rosie the Riveters” who built the SBD-5s.