SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) observed the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, June 5.
The Battle of Midway began June 4 and ended June 7, 1942. U.S. Navy carrier forces countered a plan by Imperial Japanese naval forces to ambush U.S. warships near the island of Midway. This was a major turning point in the Pacific campaign, which inflicted serious damage on Japanese naval forces in the Pacific.
The USS Midway (CV 41) was built in response to U.S. Navy aircraft carrier losses in the battle of Midway and the ship was commissioned a week after the end of World War II.
"The Midway will always hold a special place in my heart," said Lt. Cmdr. William Dorwart, a U.S. Navy Chaplain assigned to Theodore Roosevelt. "It was the first ship that I was assigned to as a chaplain."
Dorwart said he first served in the Navy in 1967 as an Aviation Electronics Mate and after four years of service he left to attend Notre Dame, where he earned a degree as a Master of Divinity. It would be more than 20 years later that he would step aboard Midway as a chaplain where he served through Operation Desert Storm.
"One interesting fact about Midway was that pilots agreed if you could land on Midway, then you could land on any carrier," said Dorwart. "It was also the only aircraft carrier in Desert Storm to not lose an aircraft during the conflict."
Midway was an integral part in the victory the U.S. had during Operation Desert Storm, said Dorwart. The battle and the ship both hold an important place in U.S. naval victories.
"It was an interesting time in Midway's history as a warship," said Dorwart. "It was around Christmas and we were preaching peace on Earth. The whole ship was attentive to prayer and we were also preparing for war."
Midway's namesake and history are essential to understanding the importance of the battle, said Dorwart. Its legacy continues to across the bay from Theodore Roosevelt.
"When I was working at Arlington National Cemetery, I buried a Sailor who fought in the Battle of Midway," said Dorwart. "Although I never met anyone who served in the battle, it is important for us to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and honor them."
There were times when the Sailors who had been tasked with the duty of Honor Guard felt as though they were not worthy to bury these fallen heroes, said Dorwart. Regardless of a casualty of war or old age, these young men in the Honor Guard realized the importance of their duty in burying these men and women.
"The Battle of Midway was so unique for its time frame," said Dorwart. "I remember hearing about how much of a turning point it was for the U.S. and Allied forces."
During the battle the U.S. lost the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5), destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412), 145 aircraft and 307 Sailors. Japanese naval forces lost four aircraft carriers, a cruiser, 292 aircraft and had an estimated 2,500 casualties.
"Overall it is a day of remembrance," said Dorwart. "A day, much like Memorial Day, when we should take a moment to remember those who lost their lives and thank those who participated in the battle who are still with us."
Nimitz gave passing honors to the Midway June 5 on her way out of the San Diego Bay for deployment.
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