NAS Whidbey Island Hosts Battle of Midway Commemoration

Story Number: NNS120605-19Release Date: 6/5/2012 3:47:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joan E. Jennings, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway during a ceremony at the Crescent Harbor Marina on board the NASWI Seaplane Base, June 4.

The Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942 and is observed as the turning point in the Pacific Campaign of World War II.

"Those men and boys at Midway, those glorious few patriots with their backs against the wall, without enough training, without enough equipment, faced the biggest enemy imaginable," said Capt. Jay Johnston, commanding officer, NASWI. "They did more for their country in three days than most of us do in a lifetime."

Six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and a month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, U.S. Navy carrier strike group, augmented by shore-based bombers and torpedo planes defeated an Imperial Japanese Navy carrier task force. The actions of the U.S. Navy put a stop to Japanese forces from capturing Midway Island and marked the dawn of the Navy's global dominance and importance of aircraft carriers. The majority of the aviators who flew to Midway Island were 21-year-old men teamed up with 17 to 18-year-old gunners.

"They were just kids, but their story of heroism is about ferocity and tenacity," said Johnston. "Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit, a magic blend of skill, faith and valor that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory."

Three U.S. Navy carriers, USS Enterprise (CV 6), USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Yorktown (CV 5) defeated four veteran Japanese aircraft carriers.

"I am proud to carry on the legacy of those men and boys who battled the skies over Midway Island and won," Johnston said.

NASWI welcomed honored guest Battle of Midway survivor, retired Cmdr. Harry Ferrier, who was a 17-year-old radioman/gunner with Torpedo Squadron 8. Ferrier flew into battle June 4, 1942, in a Grumman TBF-1 "Avenger".

"Harry Ferrier is a national treasure, and we're lucky to have him as part of our community," said Johnston. "He is an incredible story of heroics and valor that we should all learn from."

Ferrier, the remaining survivor of the aerial battle, shared memories to the audience from that day.

"To me it is always important to remember the men who lost their lives," said Ferrier. "It made it possible for the others to do their job on that significant day."

Brittany Rigby, 17, an Oak Harbor High School student won an essay contest about the Battle of Midway and presented her essay during the commemoration.

"Like all monumental historic events, remembering the Battle of Midway is essential to understanding the sacrifices made in order to gain and preserve the freedoms and rights we enjoy as U.S. Citizens and serves as an outstanding example for our future generations," said Johnston.

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