In the Spring of 2002, I was quoted in the Washington Times as saying that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had essentially closed the Midway Islands to the public. A few weeks later, a supporter of the USFWS wrote a letter to the Washington Times which denied that the closure was true, stating that she had been told the Atoll would be open to the public in the near future. This statement came as no surprise to me as the USFWS was very adept in the words they chose, knowing full well they bore no resemblance to reality.
Example: USWFS claims that Midway is open to visitors, citing as examples the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Midway ceremony on Midway in June 2002 (see below) and the 1300 visitors from the Regal Princess in October of last year. In the same paragraph they state that currently there are no scheduled flights to Midway so guests must provide their own transportation through charter aircraft or commercial vessel. So the reality is the Atoll is only open to tourist ships and anyone that is wealthy enough to lease a plane that will fly there.
The USFWS goes on to say that now that they have signed a contract for operation of the airport and island intrastructure, they will be working to restore the island's public use and visitors programs. *** The USFWS fails to mention that, unlike the Midway Phoenix Corporation, the newly contracted Alaskan minority company, The Chugach Corporation, has no interest nor has it been contracted to promote and operate the visitation infrastructure as Midway Phoenix Corporation did at virtually no cost to taxpayers.*** The Chugach Corporation contract has been quoted to be 8 million dollars a year, which is even more than it cost the U.S. Navy to run the Atoll when it was operating the islands---and "the beat goes on".
This brings us to a discussion of where the U.S. Navy stands on this issue. Certainly the U.S Navy has had little or no interest in defending Midway National Memorial nor has it spoken out regarding the USFWS indifference toward Midway National Memorial. The USFWS did everything in its power to ensure the 60th anniversary commemorative ceremony would not take place on Midway (including refusing to follow FAA regulations regarding Midway's airport, resulting in the closure of its airport the day before the event). However, when the IMMF and the Midway Phoenix Corporation brought this issue to the attention of the public through the national newspapers, the USFWS was ordered to follow FAA regulations and the U.S. Navy was there to help prepare the Atoll for the 60th anniversary ceremomy.
This is the culture in which we live today. A federal agency (USFWS) has disdain for and indifference to the most decisive naval battle in U.S. Navy history and this same military branch of our armed forces (U.S. Navy) is quiet on the issue. How can the young sailors in the Navy be inspired by the Battle of Midway when their leadership ignores the very issue that is the heart and soul of the Navy's heritage?
Some people might say: "Who cares whether the public has access to Midway?" My response would be that the issue is much greater than public access. The question is this: Now that Congress has recognized Midway as a National Memorial, do we want that segment of our culture---personified by the USFWS---to place its own selfish interests and disregard for the Midway National Memorial above the law of the land?, and in doing so, dishonor a battle that is considered by historians not only to be the turning point of the war in the Pacific, but a battle that clearly altered the course of the World War II in favor of the Allies?
This egregious situation can only be resolved by a Congressional bill that will replace the USFWS' jurisdiction over Midway with another federal agency that cares about and respects the National Midway Memorial designation.
Permanent closure of the Midway Islands to the public will remind us of that old adage that Midway is a National Memorial "in name only". Since the introduction of resolution HR 924 by Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr.(TN)in April 2003, the Foundation has been successful in obtaining the following:
**The Foundation will now devote its efforts to passage of the bill in the House and Senate.**
On January 7, 2003 Senator Richard Lugar introduced a bill to authorize the President to promote the late Raymond Ames Spruance to the grade of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy and for other purposes. The Foundation fully supports this bill and has begun to actively encourage Congress to pass this legislation.
Two weeks prior to the Naval War College's Annual Midway Night Dinner (June 7, 2003) the Foundation had to regrettably inform Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, USN, President of the Naval War College, that the IMMF would be not be able to co-sponsor the Dinner. Unforeseen circumstances led to this decision. However, the Foundation expressed its hope to Admiral Rempt that this co-sponorship might continue in future years.
Dr.William Dudley, Director of the Naval Historical Center, is the new Chief Historian for the Foundation. We are proud to have him on board.
On June 21, 2003, M. Christine Sims and I were married. The ceremony was officiated by Captain Stanford E. Linzey, ChC, USN (Ret.)(CV-5) in Great Falls, Virginia. Present were Midway veterans Major J. Douglas Rollow, Jr., USMCR (Ret.) VMSB-241 and Ensign William A. Tunstall, USN (CV-8) with their wives. Among our family, friends and honored guests were Rear Admiral and Mrs. Whitey Feightner, USN (Ret.), Captain and Mrs. James A. Noone, USNR (Ret.), Esq., Mr. and Mrs. Rollow, Esqs. and Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Mottur, he being the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce. Of special note were the toasts made at the wedding dinner in honor of the men who fought and died in the Battle of Midway.
Stay tuned and don't touch that dial!!