The Bat­tle of Mid­way

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - NEWS - Gene Linzey

This week (June 3-7) marks the 75th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Mid­way which was the sec­ond naval bat­tle in his­tory where op­pos­ing ships were not in sight of each other. (The Bat­tle of the Coral Sea sev­eral months ear­lier was the first.) Some have called the Bat­tle of Mid­way “the turn­ing point in the war of the Pa­cific.” Oth­ers have said, “What Get­tys­burg was to the Amer­i­can Civil War, Mid­way was to World War II in the Pa­cific.”

Many of you have seen the movie “Mid­way” star­ring Charl­ton He­ston and Henry Fonda. But what you may not know is Ja­pan be­lieved that their gods man­dated that Ja­pan should rule the world. Be­fore at­tack­ing China in 1932, Ja­pan with­drew from the League of Na­tions. They at­tacked China again in 1937 and planned the Pearl Har­bor at­tack in the early spring of 1941. The seeds for their plan may have ac­tu­ally sprouted in 1938.

On May 4-8, 1942, the USS York­town was in the Bat­tle of the Coral Sea just north­east of Aus­tralia. In that bat­tle, an ar­mor-pierc­ing bomb plunged through the flight deck and ex­ploded five decks be­low — ad­ja­cent to my fa­ther’s ra­dio room. The blast killed more than 35 men in­stantly but the buck­led steel wall shielded dad from death. Al­though we lost the air­craft car­rier USS Lex­ing­ton, the Bat­tle of the Coral Sea was the first naval en­gage­ment the Ja­panese did not win. Af­ter that bat­tle, the dam­aged York­town limped into Pearl Har­bor. Cap­tain El­liott Buck­mas­ter re­quested six months to re­pair the ship, but Ad­mi­ral Ch­ester Nimitz knew what was brew­ing near Mid­way Is­land and gave Cap­tain Buck­mas­ter only 72 hours.

The Ja­panese fleet ad­vanc­ing to at­tack Mid­way included four at­tack car­ri­ers, two bat­tle­ships, three cruis­ers, nine de­stroy­ers, twenty-eight sub­marines and eight re­fu­el­ing tankers. Al­to­gether, they could have had about 150 ships as­sem­bled for the op­er­a­tion. This was not some spur-of-the-moment im­pulse; rather it was a strate­gic, well-planned full-scale at­tack — as was the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor. We might have had about 50 ships in the area to counter the as­sault.

The York­town did set sail in three days. How­ever, only half the boil­ers that ran the ship were op­er­at­ing, so re­pairs con­tin­ued as she slowly headed to­ward what would be her fi­nal voy­age and fi­nal bat­tle.

As the York­town ap­proached Mid­way, a par­a­lyz­ing fear gripped my dad. He couldn’t shake it off. Fi­nally he prayed, “Lord, I’m saved and I know it. If I must die, I must. It is okay with me. Only one thing I ask of You: take this numb­ing fear out of my heart and mind so I can do my duty. Amen.”

Dad, an in­tra-ship ra­dioman and mu­si­cian, said the fear lifted im­me­di­ately. The change was so dra­matic that he thought some­one had en­tered the room. Then Psalm 91:7 came to mind — “A thou­sand shall fall at thy side, and ten thou­sand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” Dad said he ex­pe­ri­enced no fear through­out the rest of the war.

The Ja­panese in­tended to use Mid­way Is­land as a base of op­er­a­tions from which to fin­ish the job they started at Pearl Har­bor; and Ad­mi­ral Nagumo be­trayed his ig­no­rance by say­ing, “The en­emy [Amer­ica] lacks the will to fight.” But when U.S. in­tel­li­gence broke the Ja­panese code, Ad­mi­ral Nimitz bril­liantly de­vised a plan sim­i­lar to an old western am­bush and caught Ad­mi­rals Yamamoto and Nagumo off guard. Ja­pan learned about our will to fight when they lost the same four air­craft car­ri­ers they used in at­tack­ing Pearl Har­bor. They also lost two heavy cruis­ers, three de­stroy­ers, and 275 planes. This bat­tle ended Ja­panese naval su­pe­ri­or­ity in the Pa­cific. We lost one car­rier (the USS York­town), one de­stroyer (the USS Ham­mann), and 150 planes.

My fa­ther was a sur­vivor from the USS York­town, CV-5, that sank on June 7. Af­ter the war, dad at­tended col­lege and sem­i­nary, and re-en­tered the U.S. Navy for an­other 20 years; but this time as a Chap­lain. Re­tir­ing with the rank of Cap­tain, he said that the eight years as an en­listed man and the hos­tile ex­pe­ri­ences in the Bat­tles of Coral Sea and Mid­way helped pre­pare him for what lay ahead in life.

We should not be afraid of neg­a­tive cir­cum­stances in life; rather we should prayer­fully face them and learn from them. Let’s re­mem­ber Je­sus’ words in He­brews 13:5 — I will nei­ther leave you nor for­sake you.

— Gene Linzey is a speaker, au­thor, men­tor and pres­i­dent of the Siloam Springs Writ­ers Guild. Send com­ments and ques­tions to mas­ters.ser­ The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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