Thursday, May 19, 2011
On June 4, 1942, a vastly outnumbered and outgunned U.S. fleet defeated the finest of the Imperial Japanese navy in the waters off a small Pacific atoll named Midway. Retired Navy Capt. John W. Crawford, was onboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.
"We were at a disadvantage because they had more carriers than us but we had an advantage because we found them before they found us." Crawford recalled.
According to Crawford, an elite intelligence team cracked the Japanese code revealing details on the location of its carriers and plans to attack U.S. carriers. Instead, the U.S. Navy set up an ambush of its own by having its carriers prepared for the Japanese onslaught.
"We were attacked first by dive bombers around noon, then aircraft from the Japanese carrier Hiryu followed our planes and attacked us. We got three hits," he said.
The attack left the Yorktown immobilized with more than 2,000 Sailors onboard. Not everyone made it off the Yorktown.
"One of the bombs struck our anti-aircraft mounts and we had to evacuate. 20 to 30 men were down in the sickbay and they were killed. We were dead in the water, we weren't moving," he said.
Crawford told how the Sailors who could made their way to deck and began the evacuation process.
"The first thing you do is throw those heavy lines and drop the life rafts into the water and go down hand by hand into the raft and paddle your way away from the ship."
Destroyer USS Russell was standing by to pick up the Yorktown's evacuated crew.
"We knew by the time we were picked up that we had sunk most of the Japanese carriers," Crawford said.
USS Hamman arrived the next day to provide power and aid in the repair of USS Yorktown, but both ships came under heavy attack. "When the Hamman sunk, it exploded and a lot of people were injured and killed."
All told, a devastated Japan lost four of its six fleet aircraft carriers and numerous highly trained aircraft crews. The Battle of Midway effectively ended large-scale Japanese expansion in the Pacific.
According to Crawford, there are parallels that can be drawn between the recent military operation which resulted in the demise of Osama Bin Laden and the trumping of Japanese imperialist forces during the Battle of Midway.
"Superb intelligence, outstanding planning, preparation and courageous and selfless execution led to victory in the Battle of Midway," Crawford said. "Likewise those men who participated in the operation to find Osama Bin Laden possessed all of the same qualities, including bravery and willingness to die."
Every year the Battle of Midway is recognized by naval commands worldwide as the conflict that turned the tide in favor of the United States during WWII.
This year, in honor of the battle's 69th anniversary Naval District Washington is hosting a commemoration ceremony at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. on June 3.
The featured speaker at this year's event will be Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead. During the event the CNO will honor several veterans who survived the battle. Crawford credits Adm. Roughead with the increased recognition and attention that the Battle of Midway has received in recent years.
"The CNO understands the importance of Midway and has been working diligently to make sure it's celebrated in the Navy," said Crawford.
In addition to Naval District Washington, Navy commands worldwide will be commemorating the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Midway on June 3.
The United States Navy Memorial is located in downtown Washington, D.C. (701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, across the street from the National Archives). The Battle of Midway Commemoration event is free and open to the public.
More information about the Battle of Midway event is available online at www.NavyMemorial.org.