Saturday, June 4, 2005

4 June 1942

Went the day well ?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.
John Maxwell Edmonds, London Times, 6 February 1918
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the turning point of World War II in the Pacific. Sixty-three years ago today a handful of U.S. aviators, (Navy of course, but also Marines and Army Air Forces) outnumbered, outgunned, some scarcely trained - defeated the cream of Japanese naval aviation and exacted partial revenge for Pearl Harbor by sending carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu to the bottom. From 7 December 1941 until that day, the U.S. was on the defensive in the Pacific. No longer. At Midway, the United States, in Gordon Prange's words, put aside the shield and picked up the sword.
America and Japan deployed vast fleets that day -- hundreds of ships, crewed by thousands of men. But the battle was won by about 100 pilots in their twenties, many of whom paid with their lives. Sixty years on, we've lost or are losing the World War II veterans. Some, killed that day in 1942 or soon after, are forever young in the memories of their families and their country. Do not forget Waldron, Osmus, McClusky, Lindsey, Gay and all the others. Think of them today and every 4th June.

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