Re­mem­ber­ing Mid­way: Marine mon­u­ments pro­tect the ocean and honor sac­ri­fices of war

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - INSIGHT - Nor­man Mineta, co-chair­man of the Joint Ocean Com­mis­sion Ini­tia­tive, is from Cal­i­for­nia and a former mem­ber of the U.S. House and co-founder of the Con­gres­sional Asian Pa­cific Amer­i­can Cau­cus. He served in the Cabi­nets of Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Ge­org

When Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Aus­tralia Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull met re­cently, they com­mem­o­rated the Bat­tle of the Coral Sea’s 75th an­niver­sary. Soon, in early June, we will re­mem­ber the Bat­tle of Mid­way, an­other piv­otal point in World War II. The war is not the only link these bat­tles share. They are also con­nected by con­ser­va­tion — his­tor­i­cal con­ser­va­tion of past sac­ri­fices, and eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion of vi­tal ocean ecosys­tems.

In May 1942, Amer­i­can and Ja­panese naval forces en­gaged in the world’s first all-car­rier bat­tle on the Coral Sea. De­spite los­ing the USS Lex­ing­ton, it was a vic­tory as Ja­pan was pre­vented from es­tab­lish­ing an air­base in Pa­pua New Guinea. This out­come would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the USS York­town, which sus­tained dam­ages sig­nif­i­cant enough for Ja­pan to pre­sume it was un­avail­able to de­fend Mid­way.

That as­sump­tion was wrong and Adm. Ch­ester Nimitz re­called the York­town in prepa­ra­tion for an at­tack. Af­ter limp­ing to Pearl Har­bor and 72 hours of re­pairs, the car­rier was de­ployed to help in­ter­cept the im­pend­ing at­tack. The Bat­tle of Mid­way is con­sid­ered the turn­ing point for the Pa­cific Theater in WWII but the price for the York­town was steep as it sunk on June 7, 1942.

The Lex­ing­ton, York­town and many of the brave sailors and air­men who served aboard now rest on the Pa­cific Ocean seafloor. While the Coral Sea and wa­ters around the North­west­ern Hawai­ian Is­lands are thou­sands of miles apart, they share this im­por­tant his­tory. They are also presently con­nected as both in­clude marine re­serves cre­ated by pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments and at risk un­der re­views by cur­rent lead­er­ship. Soon the In­te­rior and Com­merce De­part­ments will de­cide the fate of many land and sea mon­u­ments. Our Pa­cific marine mon­u­ments re­mind us that pre­serv­ing ecosys­tems also memo­ri­al­izes the sac­ri­fices of war.

As a Cabi­net mem­ber to a demo­cratic and re­pub­li­can pres­i­dent, I am fa­mil­iar with ad­vis­ing our com­man­der-in-chief on im­por­tant de­ci­sions that will shape our fu­ture. In 2000, while I served as com­merce sec­re­tary, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton cre­ated the North­west­ern Hawai­ian Is­lands Coral Reef Ecosys­tem Re­serve. Six years later, while I was trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush used ex­ec­u­tive author­ity to de­clare the same area Pa­pa­hanaumokuakea Marine Na­tional Mon­u­ment. With the re­cent ex­pan­sion by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, this mon­u­ment now in­cludes the York­town and other sa­cred re­mains from the Bat­tle of Mid­way. Be­gin­ning with Teddy Roo­sevelt, seven pres­i­dents have pro­tected this mag­nif­i­cent is­land chain and sur­round­ing wa­ters that are rich in bi­ol­ogy and his­tory. Each ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sions ad­dressed con­cerns of the day and built upon pre­vi­ous pro­tec­tions, re­sult­ing in Earth’s largest marine re­serve and mil­i­tary memo­rial and a bi­par­ti­san legacy to be passed down to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. A week be­fore the York­town sank, my fam­ily — like many Ja­panese-Amer­i­cans — was forced from our home in Cal­i­for­nia and in­terned at Heart Moun­tain, Wyo. This con­fine­ment camp was sim­i­lar to Honouli­uli, which it­self was pre­served as a mon­u­ment by the same pres­i­den­tial author­ity as those now un­der re­view.

The An­tiq­ui­ties Act has been used for over a cen­tury to pro­tect some of Amer­ica’s most im­por­tant places, in­clud­ing those that evoke painful mem­o­ries. Such des­ig­na­tions can help en­sure we avoid re­peat­ing past mis­takes.

As a former pres­i­den­tial ad­viser, I urge In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke and Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross to con­clude their re­views by rec­om­mend­ing no changes to the An­tiq­ui­ties Act or any na­tional mon­u­ment. Do­ing so will pre­serve uniquely Amer­i­can bi­o­log­i­cal, cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal re­sources, as well as the in­tegrity of pres­i­den­tial author­ity.

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