By lex, on June 4th, 2007
“After that, I have no expectation of success.” — Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, speaking to the Japanese Cabinet during planning for war with the United States in 1940.
On December 7th, 1941 Yamamoto’s fleet delivered a crushing surprise attack on the US at Pearl Harbor. Exactly six months later, four of his six fleet carriers: Soryu, Hiryu, Kaga and Akagi went to the bottom in the waters off Midway Island. The battle began 65 years ago today and was a turning point in the Pacific War, and as US industrial capacity ramped up to wartime production levels the strategic tide had turned.
The only questions remaining was how long it would take to end the fighting, and how many would have to die along the way.
Too long, as it turned out. And far too many.
Update: Saturday evening was the annual Midway celebration here in Sandy Eggo, and it was held – quite appropriately – aboard the ex-USS Midway, now moored as a museum on the waterfront, her active service complete. Two of the aircraft aboard the museum’s flight deck are represented by bureau number in your correspondent’s log book, aircraft he flew in his youth and which are now, like the ship they rest upon, retired from the line – a knowledge which makes your humble scribe thoughtful.
Officers, Chief Petty Officers and Sailors, together with their escorts were invited to the celebration, and a right good time was had of it too. This was our Trafalgar, the moment when the US Navy put all the chips in and helped to save the world.
The last survivors of that campaign joined us on deck, a few dozen or so men gone nearly as gray as ghosts, reedlike, aged, vanishing almost before our very eyes. Each year there are new holes in the line, fewer arrive – but each year a young Sailor in whites stand tall beside them as the ones that can still make the journey come aboard, living witnesses to history, hardship and courage. They speak to us with quavering voices but with fire in their eyes and we are transported.