To many its seems that it was just yesterday. Sixty years ago on June 4, 1942, a critical battle took place near a small atoll in the north central Pacific called Midway. The United States victory in this conflict changed the course of history and preserved democracy for the western world. The International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF), sensing the importance of the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Midway, was committed to a week of remembrance commensurate with such an occasion. The week was May 31-June 4, 2002. The place was Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Emotions there that week ranged from pride and joy to tears and love.
The Remembrance covered the first six months of World War II in the Pacific. It was fitting that a cocktail reception on May 31 was held in the beautiful Halekulani's Hau Terrrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For it was here that Admiral Husband Kimmel dined with his wife and friends on December 6, 1941, the night before the Pearl Harbor attack.
Rear Admiral Robert T. Conway, Jr., USN, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific gave the keynote address and welcomed all aboard. Reporters interviewed the Midway veterans and dignitaries present. All looked forward to the coming week's events and the First Six Months of World War II in the Pacific Symposium which was to be held the next day in the auditorium near the HYPO Unit on the Pearl Harbor base.
The June 1 symposium opened with a presentation of the events that led to World War II in the Pacific, beginning with Commodore Matthew Perry's entrance into Tokyo Bay in 1853 and ending with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Daniel A. Martinez, Arizona Memorial Park Historian, followed with an outstanding discussion of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wake Island was next covered by Colonel Keith L. Maxfield, USMC (Ret.) and your president, who also covered the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore. Superlative first hand accounts of the "Doolittle Raid" were given by William A. Tunstall (CV-8)and Carlos McNamee (CV-6). The day ended with recollections of the fall of Bataan and the "Death March" resulting from this tragic U.S. and Philippine defeat.
On the morning of June 2, the Battle of the Coral Sea was covered by Jim D'Angelo. A personal account was given by Rollin Schwirtz of the rescue of two downed fighter pilots, Scott McCluskey and John Adams, from the southeastern coast of Guadalcanal by crew members of the USS HAMMANN.
In the afternoon the symposium turned to the Battle of Midway itself where the audience heard stirring first hand stories of the battle by Midway veterans Rollin Schwirtz, Bill Tunstall, George Chockley, Albert "Choppy" Powers and Carlos McNamee.
The commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the "First Six Months of World War II in the Pacific" was held on the Battleship Missouri Memorial on June 3. In attendance were the Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Albert del Rosario; the Philippine Consul General, Rolando Gregorio; Australian Consul General Paul Robilliard; New Zealand Consul General Peter Lewis; Judge Frederico Dominguez, President of the Argentina Court Tribunal; Argentina's Chief of Prorocol, Guillermo Assaf; Rear Admiral Robert T. Conway, Jr., USN; naval historian Brigadier General Jerry Hagen, USMC (Ret.); keynote speaker Brigadier General Jerry C. McAbee, USMC, Commanding General, Marine Corps Bases Hawaii; Chaplain Lt. Charles E. Crane, USN; and Midway veterans Vice Admiral William D. Houser, USN (Ret.); Ralph Brevik; George Chockley, USN; Christopher Sanchez; Rollin Schwirtz, USN; William A. Tunstall, USN; BMC Albert "Choppy" Powers, USN (Ret.); and Carlos McNamee, USN.
This program which began with the National Anthem, was followed by the presentation of the Colors, the invocation and welcoming remarks by the IMMF president. Admiral Conway, the Philippine ambassador and the Consul Generals all made appropiate statements. Brigadier General Jerry Hagen gave an outstanding historical perspective on the first six months of World War II in the Pacific. Rollin Schwirtz and Bill Tunstall gave their own personal vignettes. Taps was played as Ambassador del Rosario led the group of over a hundred to a moment of silence for those who suffered and died in the "Death March of Bataan." Brigadier Jerry C. McAbee delivered a rousing keynote address.
A letter was read by Jim D'Angelo from Senator Akaka to the those in attendance commemorating the 60th anniversary of "The First Six Months of the War in the Pacific," who then followed with remarks entitled "A Letter of Remembrance" (a copy is enclosed in this newsletter). The Midway National Memorial flag was unveiled by the Midway veterans and then raised on the main mast of the Missouri while the Navy band played the "Remembrance Hymn." Following the presentation of the Midway Atoll Memorial Coin to the Midway veterans and dignitaries present, Lt. Crane gave the benediction. The ceremony ended to the strains of "God Bless America."
That evening of June 4, 2002 was a night I will always remember. It all began with a "black tie/white mess dress" champagne reception in the all glass enclosed Hau Terrace of the Halekulani Hotel. One could hear the waves break on the Waikiki shore line while listening to the strains of the Navy brass band quintet. Conversation was later interrupted when the U.S. Marine bagpiper led the Official Party to the Head Table. The Colors were paraded and then retired after the playing of the National Anthem and the invocation by Lt. Crane. General Ralph E. Parker, USMC (Ret.), President of the Mess, introduced those at the Head Table: Ambassador and Mrs. Albert del Rosario, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable H.T. Johnson, Assistant Secretary of Interior, the Honorable Craig Manson, Admiral Walter F. Doran, USN, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Philippine Consul General Rolando S. and Mrs. Gregorio, Brigadier General Ralph and Mrs. Parker, USMC (Ret.), James D'Angelo and M. Christine Sims. A special table was set up with appropriate dinnerware in honor of LCDR Richard H. Best, USN (Ret.), who helped sink two Japanese carriers on June 4, 1942 and Walter Lord, author of "Incredible Victory." Both men had died in the last eight months and a toast in their honor was made by the President of the IMMF. General Parker approved the fare and the mess sat down to a dinner consisting of roasted eggplant with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, double chicken consomme with brunoise root vegetables, dry rub crusted New York steak and mashed potatoes with a mushroom shallot glaze, and a key lime tart with a raspberry coulis for dessert. The meal was accompanied by the appropriate wines. During this time commemorative toasts were made in honor of the men who fought and died in the first six months of World War II in the Pacific.
In the meantime, the President of the Mess and Mr. Vice, Major Michael Rohlfs, USMC provided the perfect atmoshere of judge and jury, though each of the accused could defend themselves on the floor of the Mess and seek mercy.
One of the highlights of night was the first public showing of the IMMF's promotional documentary film "Against All Odds". This was followed by Chris Sims reading the "Origin of the Midway Medallion." The Midway Medallions and a 14k gold 60th anniversary flag lapel pin were awarded to the Midway veterans and dignitaries present. Jim D'Angelo then gave some remarks entitled "The Green Light" (a copy of which is enclosed in this newsletter).
The fitting finale of the Night, the Keynote Address was given by Admiral Walter F. Doran. He connected the past military history with the present. General Parker concluded the business of the Mess and gave the word for Lt. Crane to close with the Benediction. In so doing, a most memorable night of a "...Time Gone By" came to an end.
On June 5, the Department of Interior hosted a 60th anniversary ceremony on Sand Island of the Midway Atoll. The ceremony was held at the site of the replica of the "Gooney Bird." The Navy Band played the National Anthem and the Colors were presented. Featured speakers were Jim D'Angelo, President of the IMMF, Vice Admiral William D. Houser, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of the Navy, H.T. Johnson Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Judge Craig Manson and Rear Admiral Anthony L. Winn, USN, Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. A wreath laying ceremony concluded the ceremony. Free time on the island was followed by the return flight to Oahu that night.
By this time accounts of the week's events had been covered in multiple newpapers. On the morning of June 6, Judge Craig Manson, Bill Tunstall and myself were interviewed live on the local FOX television studio in regards to the Battle of Midway and the future of Midway Atoll.
The 60th anniversary commemorative ceremony on June 5, 2002 was NOT held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) but held by the insistance and authority of Judge Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior. While the judge was telling me that there would be a commemorative ceremony on Midway, the USFWS was telling me that there could be no ceremony because, apparently, two years of requests by the IMMF did not give them enough time to prepare for a ceremony. Forty eight hours prior to June 5, the airport on Midway was closed to commercial airlines because of the USFWS failure to comply with FAA regulations. Those regulations were finally met by a directive from the Department of Interior to the USFWS.
The administrative situation of the USFWS on Midway had deterioriated to the point that on May 21, 2002, Congressman John Duncan, Jr., introduced a bill HR 4784, co-sponsored by Congressmen Bob Barr and John Sullivan, that would effecively remove the USFWS administative authority over the Midway Atoll. The IMMF has also received the full support of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Association for passage of this bill.
The time had come, I concluded, that neither I nor the IMMF could any longer be associated with a federal agency that both thwarted and refused to recognize the National Midway Memorial Act and the sacrifices of the men who fought and died in the Battle of Midway. Accordingly, having previously been appointed by the Secretary of Interior, Gale Norton, to the Committee, I resigned. In my letter of resignation to the Secretary, I offered my future services, as an advisor to Judge Manson. To date, I have not received a reply.
The battle being waged by the IMMF goes far beyond a disagreement between the USFWS and the Foundation over Midway Atoll. Consider the enclosed editorial by Congressman James Hansen. It illustrates a culture of extremes which, in preserving endangered species, is now endangering our national security. This extremism is a malignacy that the people and Congress must put to an end, for either we destroy this malignacy or it will destroy us.
Natalie Cosans, an eighth grader from Saint Jane de Chantal was the year 2002 winner of the Battle of Midway Essay Contest in Maryland. Her award will be presented to her in a ceremony this Fall. The title of her award winning essay is "The Significance of the Battle of Midway." The essay will be published on the IMMF's official website.
Special thanks are offered to Captain James A. Noone, USNR (Ret.), Esq. who labored intensively to ensure the success of the IMMF's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Midway in Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Unfortunately, a professional commitment prevented Jim from attending.
Special thanks are again offered to Christine Sims for her tireless efforts in making the 60th anniversary of "The First Six Months of World War II in the Pacific" the success it was.
Special thanks to Judge Frederico Dominguez and Guillermo Assaf for their sincere friendship and support of the mission of the Foundation in Hawaii.
It's now up to every man, woman, and child,
To give to the cause, to make it worth while.
It's up to the factories, in whose homeland thy rest,
To put forth with all effort, and accomplish its best.
The past is a powerful beacon of light to the present and the future. If that beacon of light is extinguished under the guise of being "Out of Style," the Ship of State will be dashed in a storm upon the rocks of adversity.