by Chris Gacek
June 4, 2019
As the 75th anniversary of D-Day approaches this week, I recently had reason to remember the heroic sacrifices of three great Americans who fought at the Battle of Midway on this date in 1942—a mere seven months after the Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.
This past Saturday, I attended a wedding in the beautiful chapel of the United States Naval Academy. The reception was held nearby at United States Naval Academy Club. As one might imagine, the Naval Academy Club is a historic building, and one of its rooms had paintings and photographs of heroic graduates who fought the Second World War. There were painted portraits of Admirals Nimitz and Spruance. There was a photograph of Admiral Jack Fletcher, the operational commander at the Battles of the Coral Sea and soon afterward at Midway.
However, what struck me most was a beautiful plaque (pictured above) dedicated to three naval aviators, all former midshipman, who were killed in action at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. Each former USNA graduate died serving as the commanding officer of a torpedo bomber squadron while attacking the Japanese fleet. There was one squadron from the Enterprise (Squadron 6 – Eugene E. Lindsey); one from the Yorktown (Squadron 3 – Edward Massey); and one from the Hornet (Squadron 8 – John Charles Waldron). Each was awarded the Navy Cross. Most of the aviators in these squadrons lost their lives attacking the Japanese fleet that day.
As the plaque noted:
The torpedo attacks of Waldron, Lindsey, and Massey had followed hard upon each other by luck. What was not luck, but the soul of the United States in action, was the willingness of the torpedo plane squadrons to go in against hopeless odds. This was the extra ounce of martial weight that in a few decisive minutes tipped the balance of history.
I was so thankful that someone had lovingly and painstakingly taken the time to honor these men in a manner that allowed me to be reminded of the skill, dedication, and bravery it took for this free American to enjoy a perfect June wedding reception on such hallowed ground.