PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - A week-long series of remembrance events across the Navy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway culminated in San Francisco June 6.
U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift gave a keynote speech to a crowd of 200 active duty, retired servicemembers and civilian business leaders at the Marines' Memorial Club.
Delivering his remarks just down the street from the office of retired Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, the legendary commander during the 1942 Midway battle, the current commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet reminded the crowd of the region's deep military ties and how "San Francisco will always be a Navy town."
"The Bay Area has a special place in the hearts of all fighter pilots like me, for it was here in 1911 that naval aviation at-sea was born," said Swift, who conducted his first public outreach engagement since taking command on May 27. "From those humble beginnings, no one could have possibly known that only 31 years later, naval aviation would change the course of a world at war."
The Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike forces defeated Imperial Japanese aircraft carrier strike forces and prevented the capture of Midway Island. The operation is one of the most important victories in U.S. Navy history because it is considered to have changed the course of the World War II Pacific campaign by putting the previously thought to be unstoppable Imperial Japanese forces on the defensive where they remained until their ultimate surrender, Sept. 2, 1945.
"Admiral Nimitz's ability to take calculated risk to achieve a game-changing moment is the legacy of the U.S. Pacific Fleet team that won Midway," said Swift of his renowned predecessor. Swift then reminded the crowd that it was a team victory. "While our Navy leadership was strong, our triumph at Midway is rightly attributed to the courageous men at the deckplates who took critical actions in combat while battle fires raged."
One of those men was 93-year old Bay Area resident Slim Moore. In 1942, Moore was a "backseater" Aviation Radioman assigned to Bombing Squadron Eight onboard the carrier USS Hornet (CV 8). After his Dauntless dive bomber attacked an Imperial Japanese destroyer on June 5, Moore's group returned to the American carriers after dark, landing on the carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6) after task force commander Rear Adm. Raymond Spruance boldly ordered the lights turned on. During a June 6 air patrol, Moore radioed that Imperial Japanese ships had been sighted, leading Spruance to launch an attack that sank one enemy cruiser and damaged another.
"Honoring those who participated in what I think was the most important battle in the World War II Pacific campaign is why we are here tonight," said Swift. "Those who made naval history at Midway 73 years ago created the heritage that guides our Navy today. We can't ever thank enough heroes like Slim Moore who answered the call of a wounded nation, and in the process, shaped who we are today."
The 18th annual commemoration ceremony by the San Francisco Battle of Midway Committee also honored Sailors of the Year from Bay Area Navy Operational Support Centers to include Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 1st Class Gaylord Calibuso, Personnel Specialist 1st Class Brian DeJesus, Hull Technician 1st Class Sean Stout and Logistics Specialist 1st Class Robert Tan.
Swift said that involving today's Sailors in events that recognize the past helps the Navy maintain its warfighting edge by remembering the importance of predictive intelligence and the value of taking calculated risks.
"Today, as America continues our strategic rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we remember the service and sacrifice of those who went before us," concluded Swift. "Now that it is our turn to defend American interests, I can assure you that the United States Pacific Fleet remains a credible and capable warfighting force - ready to answer our nation's call whenever and wherever needed."