Commemorating and Collecting Midway


Approaching June 4, many Americans will be reminded of a pivotal event that took place on this very day during World War II, when a massive armada of ships carrying troops that were preparing for an invasion (that would commence on the morning of June 6th, 1944). The plan was to establish a foothold in enemy-held territory, extending their reach with a new base of operations. Thinking of this date in particular, Americans will conjure thoughts of paratroopers flying over a stretch of water as they begin to traverse flak bursts en route to their targets.

For the past several years, veterans and their families have made their way to the hallowed ground on the beaches and drop zones in and around Normandy, France, seeking to re-trace their steps on the ground where the D-Day Invasion commenced. Though few of those brave men remain this eve of the 72nd anniversary, the children of those veterans will be joined by grateful citizens as they remember the sacrifices made by so many men on that day in 1944. With so much attention given to Normandy (especially by Hollywood in recent years with Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers series), typically overlooked (when thinking about this date) is a battle that arguably had the same or even greater impact on the War’s outcome.

The Battle of Midway took place at a time when the U.S. was still ramping up to fight, having been caught unprepared for war. American Army ground troops wouldn’t be committed for a full-scale assault until November of 1942 with Operation Torch in North Africa. The Marines wouldn’t begin any offensive campaigns until landing craft bow ramps were dropped onto the shores of Guadalcanal. This meant that the majority of the fighting that was taking place since December 7, 1941 was being carried out by U.S. naval forces.

Owning a sailor's photos may seem odd to some, but they could be one-of-a-kind images that you otherwise might not see. This hand-painted USS Minneapolis photo album is a fine example (source: eBay image).

Owning a sailor’s photos may seem odd to some, but they could be one-of-a-kind images that you otherwise might not see. This hand-painted USS Minneapolis photo album is a fine example (source: eBay image).

This group of medals from a USS Enterprise veteran largely contains modern hardware. The dog tags appear to be original to the veteran (source: eBay image).

This group of medals from a USS Enterprise veteran largely contains modern hardware. The dog tags appear to be original to the veteran (source: eBay image).

In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the battle, regrettably little ceremonial attention will be paid to the few surviving veterans who are, at the very least, in their late 80s. Yet, we need to remind ourselves of the significance of this battle and remember those who risked it all and sent the Japanese forces into a three-year retreat.

 

Being a collector (primarily interested in Navy militaria), it takes a fair amount of legwork and an awful lot of providence to acquire authentic pieces that may have been used during this battle. We have to ask ourselves, “what would be the most target-rich focus area that we can pursue for treasure?” Clearly, the answer to that question would be veterans’ uniforms. Considering that there were two task forces containing 28 vessels (and 260 aircraft), there would be literally thousands of veterans each with multiple uniforms to choose from–if you can determine that they actually participated, attached to one of these units.

Those interested in obtaining pieces of ships or aircraft will have an infinitesimal chance to locate authentic items for their collection… but that means there is still a chance. Below is a list of every U.S. Navy ship that participated in the battle (I’ll leave it up to you to research the participating aviation squadrons from the carriers and Midway Island):

  • Carriers
    USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown
  • Cruisers
    USS Astoria, USS Minneapolis, USS New Orleans, USS Northampton, USS Pensacola, USS Portland, USS Vincennes, USS Atlanta
  • Destroyers
    USS Aylwin, USS Anderson, USS Balch, USS Benham, USS Blue, USS Clark, USS Conyngham, USS Dewey, USS Ellet, USS Gwin| Hammann, USS Hughes, USS Maury, USS Monaghan, USS Monssen, USS Morris, USS Phelps, USS Russell, USS Ralph Talbot, USS Worden
  • Submarines
    USS Cachalot, USS Cuttlefish, USS Dolphin, USS Finback, USS Flying Fish, USS Gato, USS Grayling, USS Grenadier, USS Grouper, USS Growler, USS Gudgeon, USS Narwhal, USS Nautilus, USS Pike, USS Plunger, USS Tambor, USS Tarpon, USS Trigger, USS Trout
  • Oilers
    USS Cimarron, USS Guadalupe, USS Platte

 

Remember, you can also seek commemorative items, vintage newspapers or original photographs, or named (engraved) medal groups from veterans who fought in the battle – creativity and a lot of research will help you reap great reward!

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Posted on June 3, 2016, in US Navy, Warships or Vessels, World War II and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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