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Battle of Midway Commemoration Yields Important Lessons

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Kinney, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs | June 06, 2016

MANAMA, Bahrain --

Navy leaders from U.S. 5th Fleet and Naval Support Activity Bahrain remembered the valuable lessons learned from the Battle of Midway during a commemoration of the pivotal naval battle, June 5.

"As we commemorate Midway, we must consider its legacy and enduring ability to inspire us, and we put that inspiration into practice," said Rear Adm. Eugene Black, deputy commander of U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, during the brief ceremony. "The Arabian Gulf is unlike the vast Pacific to be sure, but these lessons apply in our area of operations just the same."

In June 1942, U.S. naval forces were focused on the battle raging in the Pacific theater. U.S. and Japanese carriers squared off against each other. These nautical giants shook the world with the Battle of Midway, changing the course of World War II.

Black highlighted three important lessons from the battle: trust your intelligence, trust your Sailors, and be ready.

While pure strength and size was vital, the important role intelligence played cannot be overstated, Black said. In the lead-up to the battle, Sailors were able to decode 25 percent of the enemies' radio traffic, allowing them to determine Midway Island was the target.

"The actual sighting of the Japanese fleet on June 3, heading for Midway, validated Adm. Nimitz's trust in the intelligence information he possessed; information that had been vital to the formulation of his strategy," Black said.

Nimitz's trust in his leaders and Sailors was a key factor for flexible decision making, Black noted. Nimitz elected to remain at his headquarters in Pearl Harbor, relying on his clear direction of what he wanted to guide decisions at the scene.

"He gave clear guidance and then he got out of the way," Black said.

The third lesson learned is the most important: be ready. He said the preparations for meeting the Japanese threat would prove to be the linchpin in the victory at Midway.

"Adm. Nimitz was arguably a better strategist and possessed a clear vision of what he wanted to do -- to destroy the enemy fleet while preserving his own," said Black. "In the actions of June 4-6, 1942, those subordinates, from flag officer to fighter pilot, from ship captain to seaman, proved to be up to the challenge."

Black noted all three of these lessons have application in today's world.

"All of you here in the 5th Fleet are the heirs to these lessons learned," Black said. "Whether it's conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden or in the Arabian Gulf, countering piracy across the [area of responsibility], or escorting the free flow of shipping through the three critical chokepoints in the region, Midway serves as a strong example of who we are, and why we exist, so that well into the future, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen will continue to value the legacy of Midway."