FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (NNS) -- U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F) and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6 (CWG-6) held a Battle of Midway remembrance in the Fort Meade Post Theater, June 7.
The remembrance gave Sailors insight into the Battle of Midway and its tie to the modern intelligence community. This year marked the 77th anniversary of the battle, where predictive and actionable intelligence led to the U.S. victory against Japanese naval forces.
"Midway was a pivotal battle for not only the United States Navy, but cryptology at large," said Capt. Joseph Sears, commander, CWG-6. "It was a place where operational maneuver was enabled by the intelligence provided by a group of dedicated professionals working at Pearl Harbor."
Often described as the turning point in the Pacific during World War II, the Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942. The United States led a decisive victory, thanks in large part to the intelligence collected by U.S. Navy codebreakers who broke the Japanese naval code, giving U.S. forces advanced warning of Japanese fleet movements.
The efforts of the Navy codebreakers, working to decipher, understand and predict Admiral Yamamoto’s next steps, were key to Adm. Chester Nimitz's decision as U.S. Pacific Fleet commander to engage the Japanese at Midway.
“The success at Midway would not have been possible without the intelligence effort of Joseph Rochefort, his team, and a lot of other Navy professionals that made it happen,” said Sears. “Their efforts allowed us to decisively engage the enemy on our terms and not theirs.”
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort and his code-breaking team at Station Hypo in Pearl Harbor worked around the clock to decipher the thousands of Japanese messages that the Americans routinely intercepted. Months of work to break down Japan’s JN-25 code revealed hints of the imperial force’s next move – an operation against an American base in the Central Pacific.
The success of Station Hypo was the result of years of teamwork by U.S. Navy Radio Intelligence Specialists, Japanese linguists and Navy Cryptologists who penetrated Japanese naval codes as far back as the 1930s.
Jeff Barta, deputy for museum operations, Naval History and Heritage Command, was the guest speaker for the ceremony. He spoke in depth about the battle and the importance of the intelligence efforts of Rochefort and his team in winning the battle.
"Cryptology was a fairly new skill in the warfare area," said Barta. “Rochefort had a lot of political infighting to overcome, both in Pearl Harbor and with superiors back in [District of Columbia] DC. He had to prove that the Japanese were coming, so he sent out the famous ‘distillation plant is broken’ message, which the Japanese picked up on. The Japanese transmitted that Midway was short on water, which in return confirmed what Rochefort had said and Nimitz could make preparations for the battle.”
Instead of being the victims of an ambush, they had turned the tables on the Japanese navy and had ambushed them.
“Because of Rochefort, we were in the perfect position to spring the trap and defeat the Japanese,” said Barta.
The Japanese fleet lost four carriers, 256 aircraft and 2,204 men while the U.S. lost one carrier 150 aircraft and 307 men. The American victory at Midway made it possible for the U.S. Navy to eventually reclaim maritime superiority in the Pacific.
Midway is seen as a moment in history where the Navy proved itself both adaptive and cutting-edge in how its Sailors’ apply technical skills to challenges facing our nation and the Navy.
“With what our Sailors do at this command, the Battle of Midway was one of the greatest examples of the importance of what we do and why we do it,” said Chief Yeoman Steven Day, assigned to FCC/C10F. “The work that a small group of Sailors do can make a big difference.”
Code breaking continues in today’s Navy with modern cryptologic technicians working to interpret and assess intelligence received and translate that intelligence into useable information for the benefit of the Navy worldwide.
FCC is responsible for Navy information network operations, offensive and defensive cyberspace operations, space operations and signals intelligence. Comprised of over 14,000 Sailors, Reservists and civilians stationed across the world, C10F is the operational arm of FCC and executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders.