Commemorating the Battle of Midway 65 Years Later - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Commemorating the Battle of Midway 65 Years Later

Ensign William Tunstall Ensign William Tunstall
Rear Admiral John Besson Rear Admiral John Besson
CPO George Chockley CPO George Chockley
Admiral Robert F. Willard Admiral Robert F. Willard

By Howard Dashefsky

MIDWAY ATOLL (KHNL) - Ensign William Turnstall made his way nimbly down the stairs of his chartered plane.  

When welcomed back to Midway and asked how he was doing, Turnstall replied "not bad for an old guy".

At 85 years of age Turnstall was one of a handful of Midway veterans to return for the ceremony commemorating a victory many believe was the turning point of World War Two.

Located some 13 hundred miles northwest of Honolulu, Midway Atoll is a picture of serenity today.

But 65 year ago it was the scene of a horrific battle few could imagine. Less than 6 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the empire of Japan looked to overrun the tiny atoll, and possibly set a course for the invasion of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Japanese believed America was ripe for the taking.

"At this particular time it was touch and go as to who was ahead because we were so short on carriers" said Rear Admiral John Besson of the USS Pensacola.

But thanks to an incepted transmission from the Japanese fleet, American sailors and airmen ambushed the enemy.

Instead of gaining superiority in the Pacific, the battle at Midway proved to be a crushing defeat for the Japanese, and to this day the battle here is still regarded as the most important naval battle of WWII.

On Monday a handful of Midway veterans, family, friends and historians marked the 65th anniversary of that three day battle. 

They also paid tribute to those who fought it.

"Their spirit and their bravery carried the day and when it was all said and done the Japanese had lost 4 carriers, and heavy cruiser, 3 destroyers, 3 hundred planes and thousands of men" said Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of the Pacific Fleet. "It was a miraculous victory by any standard".

"There was a lot leading up to it, and I think it was the turning point" said Chief Petty Officer George Chockley, who served on the USS Enterprise.

Ensign Turnstall could only reflect on those not there on Midway.    

"Here I am 85 years old and imagine all the things that have happened in my life. I'm so happy to be here, and I only wish many of my friends were too".

"The battle was much more than just a battle of titans" said Admiral Willard. "The battle must always be remembered as a tribute to the courage skill and luck of our World War Two predecessors,  and in remembering the fight we must also remember them".

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