By Mark O. Piggott, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Public Affairs
YORKTOWN, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown paused to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of 307 Sailors and Marines who died in defense of our nation at the Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942, during a commemoration ceremony.
Retired Rear Adm. Gerry Mauer, president of the Williamsburg/Yorktown Chapter of the Navy League, was the guest speaker.
Regarded as the turning point in the Pacific during World War II, the U.S. Navy defeated a superior force in the Imperial Japanese Navy, sinking four carriers, one heavy cruiser, destroying 248 air craft, and killing 3057 Japanese Sailors and air crew.
"The overall effect of the U.S. victory was resonated throughout the rest of the Pacific War and paved the way for the U.S. to push to Japan," said Mauer. "Military Historian John Keegan called it 'the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of Naval Warfare.'"
The United States Navy recognizes the great significance of the Battle of Midway as one of the greatest victories in its history and in that of our nation. Installations and ships across the nation took time to remember the hard fought efforts of the Sailors and Marines who fought through four days of battle, on the land, on the sea and in the air.
Mauer noted that one of key factors in the U.S. victory was the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5), a ship the Japanese considered out of commission after the Coral Sea campaign. This, combined with the wide dispersion of the Japanese fleet and the intelligence provided by American codebreakers, gave the U.S. Navy an advantage in battle.
"The result of all these factors, along with a good dose of luck and superb leadership from many within the U.S. ranks, was a pivotal defeat of a superior Japanese fleet," Mauer said. "The United States advantages in cryptology, intelligence, industrial might, logistics, Marine Corps Amphibious doctrine, unrestricted submarine warfare and dominance in air power-at sea and over Japan-were key advantages in winning the Battle of Midway and subsequent victory in the Pacific."
As part of the Midway commemoration, a wreath was laid in honor of the 307 Sailors and Marines who died during the battle and to honor the installation namesake, the USS Yorktown. The carrier was severely damaged and sank just days after the battle ended. The ship earned three battle stars for her service in World War II, two from the Coral Sea and Midway campaigns respectfully. The bell tolled eight times and taps was played as the ensemble Sailors and civilians had a moment of silence in their honor.
"The Japanese leadership misunderstood the abilities and strengths of the United States' population," Mauer concluded. "I like to think we still have that determination within us and remembering the sacrifices today of the brave Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen of an event that happened 73 years ago is a small gesture but an important one; to remind us of the American spirit and to pay tribute to the many that have given their efforts and lives for our freedom."