Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, addresses the audience during a ceremony at fleet headquarters to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Kolmel)

PEARL HARBOR - Members of U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) staff and military commands throughout Hawaii gathered to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway during a ceremony at PACFLT headquarters, June 6.

The Battle of Midway, fought June 4-7, 1942, is regarded as a decisive engagement during World War II in the Pacific. A U.S. force of three U.S. Navy aircraft carriers - USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Yorktown (CV-5), and land-based bombers - dramatically defeated an Imperial Japanese force led by four veteran aircraft carriers.

"The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the war," Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet said (see his remarks). "The first important step as we pushed across the Pacific and towards victory in Japan."

Naval intelligence played a crucial role in the victory. In May 1942, intelligence experts at the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor known as Station Hypo intercepted 500 to 1,000 Japanese radio messages a day, deciphering and translating roughly 25 percent. They provided Adm. Chester Nimitz with the vital information about the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Midway Atoll.

"When fate tapped the men of Station Hypo on the shoulder in the early months of 1942, they were found more than ready for the task," Harris said. "And I for one am thankful for all that they did for our nation and the world."

Capt. James Fanell, director of intelligence for PACFLT, reiterated the importance of what the men of Station Hypo did for the intelligence community and how it affected the outcome of the Battle of Midway.

"The herculean efforts in breaking the code known as JN25B is the very essence of why Joe (Capt. Ret Joseph Rochefort) is so critically important to the victory at Midway," Fanell said. "They knew the fruit of their labor rested in providing ultra-sensitive but operational relevant radio intelligence, as it was then called, to the fleet commander, who required this intelligence to ensure our fleet was in the right position for that fateful battle."

Harris emphasized the importance of continuing to look for threats to America.

"So as I look out at you all in formation today, I look with eager anticipation at this community of experts, a corps, one the Navy now calls the Information Dominance Corps, to drive the development of systems and operational practices to ensure that our Navy retains the same decisive advantages that my predecessor, Adm. Nimitz had at Station Hypo.

"I'm counting on each and every one of you to make sure that Pacific Fleet is prepared. That means not only are we are we ready to fight tonight, but that we're reading those signposts well enough to predict when and where that fights going to be and how it will manifest itself," Harris said.

Harris went on to link history to the Navy's current rebalance to the Pacific.

"In 1940 we relocated the Pacific Fleet from California to Hawaii, a move designed to give pause to a potential adversary, last century's rebalance to the Pacific," Harris said. "Today we are mindful of the lessons from the past as we look for the signposts that will chart our future. We again cast a wary eye westward as we recognize the Indo-Asia-Pacific for its tremendous potential, and we see with clear eyes the tremendous risks, and again we are rebalancing to the Pacific."

PACFLT also held a wreath-laying ceremony at the old Station Hypo plaque on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony honored the work of the men at Hypo like Rochefort, Rear Adm. (Ret.) Edwin Layton, Cmdr. (Ret.) Jasper Holmes and Rear Adm. (Ret.) Donald "Mac" Showers.