This blog post was written on June 4, 2012 by Captain Bill “Boomer” Hamilton, commanding officer of USS Enterprise, following a ceremony held on the aircraft carrier commemorating the battle and role of CV-6, the seventh ship to bear the name Enterprise.
Commemorating the 70th anniversary of one of our Navy’s greatest victories – the Battle of Midway, from the deck of our eighth warship named Enterprise (CVN 65) will no doubt go down as one of my most treasured personal memories.
As a Naval Aviator and student of naval history, the stories of Midway and the actions of the brave aviators that day are often shared and studied, for many recognize Midway as a battle that changed the course of history forever. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of those serving aboard USS Enterprise (CV 6), and her sister carriers Yorktown and Hornet, the entire complexion of the war in the Pacific during World War II changed drastically on June 4, 1942.
In my inport cabin there are four portholes, all taken from USS Enterprise (CV-6), the seventh ship to bear the name and the most decorated warship in U.S. history. To look out these portholes each day brings great pride, but also a sense of wonder. What did Captain George Murray see the morning of June 4, as Enterprise prepared for what would become a defining moment in our Navy’s history?
Dawn of Battle
At twenty minutes past ten, the morning of June 4, 1942, dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown found four undamaged enemy carriers, preparing to launch a powerful attack against the US fleet. Six minutes later, three of those carriers were infernos. Enterprise destroyed two enemy carriers in those six minutes, Yorktown one. Aviators from both carriers, flying from Enterprise, destroyed the fourth carrier later that same day. Enterprise Air Group, both pilots and gunners, displayed a spirit of utter fearlessness, resolution and determination throughout all air actions.
In no other battle was Enterprise so instrumental in forging decisive victory as she was at Midway. In no other battle did Enterprise – or arguably any other US Navy ship – deliver in a single blow such a stunning reversal to Japanese fortune. This offensive, and the eventual victory at Midway, enabled the United States to launch a counter-offensive in the Solomon Islands, culminating in the decisive victory at Guadalcanal by February 1943.
Japanese losses were staggering – having lost all four of the large carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor, a heavy cruiser, 248 carrier-based aircraft and over 3000 lives, including 100 trained pilots who could not be replaced.
We were not without losses of our own, however. Comparatively, US casualities were much less; one aircraft carrier, one destroyer, approximately 150 aircraft and 307 lives. Although Enterprise was not attacked during the battle, her air wing suffered the heaviest losses of any air wing at sea up to that point.
The brave men who fought the Japanese at Midway in early June did far more damage to the Japanese Pacific Fleet than they possibly could have imagined. These actions prevented Japanese forces from capturing Midway Island. The Japanese would never be able to re-build their fleet, and their plans for victory in the Pacific were lost forever.
Undamaged and confident from a short campaign in the Marshall Islands, the fighting spirit of Enterprise blossomed at Midway that day. It was not Big-E’s first action of the war. But the intensity of the Midway battle, the friends lost that day, and the inevitable carnage of combat on both sides, transformed many young men into seasoned veterans in just a few hours. From Midway they forged ahead, aggressive and bold, experienced and capable of handling any challenge. Enterprise went on to fight in 18 more battles in the Pacific campaign, compiling 20 Battle Stars.
Legacy of the Battle
A naval legend was born during the Battle of Midway, a legend it is my sincere honor and privilege to carry forward. Today, the current crew of Enterprise saluted the Sailors and Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of Midway. We remembered their great victory and tremendous sacrifice. Above all, we honored them as part of the Enterprise legend…a legend that we strive to live out in our daily lives aboard this eighth ship to bear the proud name.
We have a saying aboard Enterprise – “There’s tough, and there’s Enterprise tough.”
In the early days of June 1942, the Sailors of CV 6 showed our nation’s adversaries what “Enterprise tough” really meant.
The effects of this pivotal battle are still being felt today, as Enterprise continues its 22nd and final deployment, carrying on the legacy of one of our Navy’s greatest warships – CV 6 – the most decorated ship in Naval history.
The Battle of Midway both cemented the need for carrier aviation and showcased the carrier’s ability to deliver combat power while forward deployed…something we continue to do on our historic final deployment.
Today, the current crew of Enterprise saluted the Sailors and Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of Midway. We remembered their great victory and tremendous sacrifice. Above all, we honored them as part of the Enterprise legend…a legend that we strive to live out in our daily lives aboard this eighth ship to bear the proud name… Enterprise. We remain “Enterprise tough.”