Story by Max Lonzanida on 06/10/2019Midway Atoll comprises some 2.4 square miles located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Today, it comprises the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As with most National Wildlife Refuges; the atoll is home to several critically endangered species such as the Laysan Albatross, Green Sea Turtles, Hawaiian Monk Seals, and a handful of staff members, mainly biologists and contractors from the agency that monitor them.
Seventy-Seven Years ago, Midway Atoll was the site of one of fiercest naval engagements in our nation's history. The Battle of Midway took place on June 3-7, 1942; just six months after the crippling Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, and one month after the Battle of Coral Sea. Historians today note that on June 4, 1942 the Japanese were winning the war in the Pacific; by sunset on June 7, 1942, with four Japanese carriers at the bottom of the Pacific, they were clearly losing. Historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."
NAVADMIN 67/19 directed commands throughout the US Navy to commemorate the naval victory. It further directed the Naval History and Heritage Command to support the commemorations; and during the first week of June 2019, staff members from the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk did just that, in what their staff calls "Midway Week".
Over the course of the week, staff members were welcomed at over 20 area commands in the Hampton Roads Area. Commands included the USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), USS San Antonio (LPD-17), VR-56, USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and numerous others in a whirlwind week. Staff members visited commands located at Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Newport News Shipbuilding, Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, and even attended a rare dining out event hosted at the Decker Half Moone Cruise Terminal for the Officer's Mess of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).
During the week, staff members delivered presentations focused on the Battle's sacrifices, personal experiences, naval aviators' experiences, and of course the Battle's heroes over the course of hour-long presentations that drew the attention of many.
Often, staff members travelled to as many as three commands in one day; stretching the staff of one of the smaller museums within the Naval History and Heritage Command, with a staff of just 15.
June 4, 2019 also brought the return of flying the Union Jack from the jackstaff of US Navy ships while in port or while anchored, per NAVADMIN 039/19; and it's no coincidence that the return to flying the Union Jack comes during Midway Week.
As for the staff of the Naval Museum, the whirlwind week's record number of presentations reached over 3,000 sailors throughout the area in support of NAVADMIN 67/19. It allowed sailors to pause in their busy workday to connect with this week in naval history and to reflect on the sacrifices of the over 300 servicemembers who paid for Midway with their lives.