Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 5.28.22
On the last Monday of May each year, we set aside a day to honor those who have fallen in defense of our country.
Throughout our history, we have been fortunate to have men and women step forward to serve the United States. Citizenship imposes obligations on all of us, but these individuals gave more. Sometimes, they gave all they could give. Memorial Day is an occasion for the rest of us to recognize the sacrifices they made for us.
In the earliest iterations of Memorial Day, sometimes called Decoration Day, flowers were strewn on the graves of soldiers killed in the Civil War. It has also become a day of parades, speeches, and gunfire salutes. I will spend this Memorial Day in Marion, which hosts a wonderful parade and service, and members of my congressional staff will attend numerous other ceremonies across Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District.
The least we can do on Memorial Day is remember – remember those who were lost, what they did, and why it mattered.
One of the great examples of what our fighting men and women can do took place eighty years ago this June 4-7.
The Battle of Midway matched a battered U.S. fleet against a powerful Imperial Japanese naval force looking to continue its sweep across the Pacific. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese had swiftly conquered American and Allied territories. Looking to secure his country’s dominance, Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, who had planned the Pearl Harbor raid, prepared to attack the American base on Midway Island and lure the U.S. Navy into a trap that would knock it out as a threat.
Unbeknownst to Yamamoto, American codebreakers could partially read encrypted Japanese communications. They figured out that Midway was the target of a coming offensive.
Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet, dispatched a naval force centered around three aircraft carriers to intercept the Japanese fleet formed around four heavy carriers. One of the U.S. carriers, USS Yorktown, had been badly damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea and had limped back to Pearl Harbor. Repairing the ship was estimated to take 90 days, but Admiral Nimitz ordered it done in three, and in fact the Yorktown returned to sea after only two days in the navy yard.
Aircraft from the Japanese carriers struck Midway on June 4. They damaged but failed to knock out the U.S. base on the island.
Once the Japanese fleet was located, planes from the American carriers and Midway launched their attack. Several waves of torpedo bombers targeted the Japanese carriers. The slow planes were picked off by Japanese fighters and antiaircraft guns without inflicting damage on the Japanese carriers. One wave lost all of its aircraft and 29 of its 30 personnel.
But this sacrifice drew away Japanese fighter planes. Dive bombers from the U.S. carriers arrived to find an easier path to their target as the Japanese carriers rearmed and refueled their planes. The bombers set ablaze three of the four Japanese carriers. While the aircraft of the remaining Japanese carrier Hiryu struck back at Yorktown, which was crippled and then sunk by a Japanese submarine, the Hiryu was itself bombed and eventually sank.
More than three years of savage fighting lay ahead, but Japan would not recover from losing four aircraft carriers and over one hundred pilots. Victory at Midway halted Japanese advances across the Pacific and set the United States on the path to roll back the Japanese Empire.
These successes happened because brave men risked and often gave their lives to make them happen. The author Walter Lord wrote in his account of the battle, Incredible Victory:
They had no right to win. Yet they did, and in doing so they changed the course of a war…even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith and valor – that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.
These words are now inscribed on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, but they can be applied more broadly to those we commemorate on Memorial Day. These men and women braved danger to the point of giving up their lives so that the liberties we now enjoy could be secured and protected. Let us honor them for it.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also, on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.