HAMPTON ROADS -- Military members from various naval bases around the Hampton Roads area commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway with a wreath-laying ceremony, June 4.
Participants of the Battle of Midway ceremonies included active duty military, retirees and their family members from Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana (NAS Oceana) and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story (JEBLCFS).
The Battle of Midway took place, June 4 - 7, 1942. The U.S. Navy carrier strike forces defeated the Imperial Japanese strike force that prevented them from capturing Midway Island. The Battle of Midway is historically important in naval heritage because it is considered to have changed the tide in the Pacific.
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, directed all Navy commands to conduct a wreath laying ceremony on June 4.
JEBLCFS kicked off the early morning ceremonies in the Hampton Roads area in front of the Port Operations tower with ceremonial music, colors, benediction and wreath-laying in the waters of the Little Creek pier.
“It was a fierce three-day battle where pilots from our aviation community, who are not old, were able to succeed from a devastating blow from the Japanese,” said guest speaker Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson, Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. “We, the U.S., were able to crank out pilots, ships and airplanes at a phenomenal rate and we’re here to mourn and recognize those who gave their life so honorably at the Battle of Midway.”
Battle of Midway survivor, 91-year-old Dave Davenport was one of the highlights at the JEBLCFS event.
“I had to get the crew ready and we had to work extremely hard to proceed the next day at daylight,” said Davenport, a former Machinist’s Mate and accomplished enlisted pilot who worked almost 60 hours during the three-day Battle of Midway. “The planes functioned well and we completed our mission at Midway.”
During the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy sunk one Japanese cruiser, four Japanese aircraft carriers and destroyed 248 Japanese aircraft, while only losing one aircraft carrier, one destroyer and 150 aircraft.
After receiving a base coin from Tillotson, Davenport surprised Tillotson by giving him a coin in commemoration of the day’s event and told him to continue to “keep America alert.”
Another ceremony was also held at NAVSTA Norfolk with a program which featured U.S. Fleet Forces band playing processional music as the official wreath, arranged by Navy Exchange Norfolk, was carried to the steps of the ensign at Ely Memorial Park. As part of the Hampton Roads commemoration, NAS Oceana, along with the City of Virginia Beach, also held their Battle of Midway ceremony at Naval Aviation Memorial Park at Virginia Beach Oceanfront where retired pilots from the Hampton Roads Squadron Association of Naval Aviation lay their commemorative wreath at the Naval Aviation Monument.
“I’m just glad I could be part of this ceremony because honoring many of our Sailors that were in the war makes me proud to be here,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate-Fuels 1st Class Stephen Recar from Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk.