In 1942, the U.S. Navy boasted just three aircraft carriers along the West Coast. Underfunded after the conclusion of the first World War, and not expecting to become involved in other worldwide conflicts, the U.S. military relied on torpedo bombers and other obsolete weaponry.
But, as the world remained focused on Europe, Japan began to focus on expanding its borders with a series of island-taking efforts.
“It was easy for Japan. China was no threat. Russia was no threat," said Rear Adm. Tim Heely during a Moffett Bldg. ceremony June 4 which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the decisive battle and the lasting legacy of the Battle of Midway. "They knew we had a hollow force, as if there was no defense whatsoever."
Just months after the Pearl Harbor attack and weeks after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the U.S. learned that Japan hoped to lure American aircraft carriers somewhere and destroy the fleet, enabling Japan to establish an air base on Midway.
U.S. codebreakers following Japanese communications traffic detected indications that Midway Atoll was Japan's main target and pinpointed the expected time of the attack. Under the command of Adm. Chester W.
Nimitz, the three aircraft carriers stationed on the West Coast, including the hastily repaired USS Yorktown, arrived at Midway before Japanese forces, and engaged in four days of battle which were crucial to the outcome of the war.
"The significance of the Battle of Midway can be summed up in three words: honor, courage and commitment the words we all know," said Heely. "Cooler heads knew Japan would never attack the United States, but we could not stand for Japan's aggression elsewhere. The commitment, you see throughout the battle, and even in the workers in the shipyards who got the Yorktown ready in less than 48 hours, I see that commitment here at NAVAIR, to something that defends the honor of the U.S. and our way of life. It's a legacy few would share and most would envy."
NAS Patuxent River concludes its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway at 2 p.m. today, with the dedication of The Midway, the new Tiki Bar at West Basin Marina.