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History and Heritage

Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

World War II-era Flag Flown at Navy base in Honor of Fallen Midway Sailor

Navy Feature Photo

Navy Feature Photo

A World War II-era flag that flew over Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), Dahlgren, Va., in honor of a Sailor on the 71st anniversary of his death at the Battle of Midway, was presented to his sister during a ceremony on base.

The Sailor - Seaman 2nd Class George Luther Self - was killed in action the day before his 25th birthday when a Japanese submarine fired torpedoes that sunk the destroyer USS Hammann.

"I am so happy that my brother is recognized and his memory is kept alive," said Virginia Self Trent, 90, after the ceremony.

The Hammann was towing the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown back to Pearl Harbor when it was attacked near the end of the battle. The destroyer sank in four minutes with heavy loss of life, and the Yorktown went down early the next day.

Trent and other family members watched as NSWCDD Sailors lowered and ceremoniously folded a 48-star flag in honor of Self.

"I felt honored to be able to honor a fallen Sailor who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his family and the country that he loved so much," said Chief Fire Control Technician Christopher Morge. "We were extremely happy to be part of something that provided a little closure to a story that should have had the proper ceremony so many years ago."

NSWCDD Commander Capt. Michael Smith presented the flag to Trent, telling her that it's a symbol of appreciation for her brother's service to the United States and a grateful Navy.

Navy Photo

Capt. Michael Smith presents Virginia Self Trent, sister of a Sailor killed during the Battle of Midway, with a World War II-era national ensign.

Smith also presented Trent with a certificate stating that the flag was flown over NSWCDD in Self's honor with printed words expressing gratitude for Self's courageous service.

"This 48-star flag is just as alive as any flag today," said Trent's son, Bill Coleman, NSWCDD Rapid Development and Integration Branch Head. "It's keeping my uncle's memory alive."

Coleman located the vintage 48-state flag that would have been flown during World War II and contacted the NSWCDD commander in mid-May with a request to fly the flag at the NSWCDD headquarters building in honor of his uncle.

"Imagine finding out that your brother is missing in action and presumed dead several days after the battle was over," said Coleman. "That is how my grandfather's family found out, and my grandmother especially never got over losing her son or not having a way to honor her son."

As Coleman informed the command about his uncle's story, the request to fly a flag evolved into a long awaited ceremony for family members.

"We're thankful to everyone who made this possible," said Coleman. "The command's support is overwhelming. We greatly appreciate the Navy team's (three NSWCDD Sailors) flag folding ceremony. I could feel the gratitude from them for my uncle's sacrifice."

Trent said her brother enlisted in November 1941. The family saw him for a day in South Carolina the following month, where he was on shore leave. After that, he sent postcards from the Pacific.

"They were mainly about how much he missed us," she said. "There's not a day goes by that I don't think of him."

The Battle of Midway - fought June 4-7, 1942, near the Central Pacific island of Midway - was considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific, ending Japanese naval superiority. The U.S. Pacific Fleet surprised Japanese forces, sinking four Japanese carriers, while losing only one.