Diary

Battle of Midway - A Tribute

The following are excerpts from letters written by Ensign William R. Evans of Torpedo Squadron 8.  I submit these today in memory of the brave men who died in the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942.

March, 1941:

“When I can taxi off the line at seven in the morning and take off to the east light at growing incandescence, a sensation grows which is as near heaven-born as actual shafts of sunlight pouring earthward.  Then to frolic all morning throughout the hedgerows of cotton clouds, looking for the sorrows of the mist and the rain, finding the joys of the gracious sun – living in a world of ecstatic life bounded only by nothingness and the faraway horizon line where earth and sky take visual vows – there is a life produced by motion in nature, and I know in these two short months that only one mightier force can ever take it away from me.”

December 7, 1941

If the reports I’ve heard today are true, the Japanese have performed the impossible, have carried out the most daring (and successful) raid in all history.  People will not realize, I fear, for some time how serious this danger is.  And that, I fear, is a fatal mistake – today is evidence of that – this war will be more difficult than any war this country has ever fought.  Faith lost – all is lost; let us hope tonight that people… all people throughout this great country have the faith to once again sacrifice for the things we hold essential to life and happiness.  If the world ever goes through this again mankind is doomed.  This time it has to be a better world.

Christmas 1941:

Christmas, but a different Christmas from any I had ever known.  At home Christmases had meant the clatter of joyous clamourings, eager to be about the mystery of Christmas giving. Memories of the evening before still lingered with the lazy comfort of cold – and yet not too cold – blankets, brilliant trees shedding multicolored light, a murmur of well cared for voices encircled by friends and family, an old face peddling holly on a street corner, countless little thoughts passed in the present to become a multitude of conscious reality when remembered. For at the tide we sailed, not as wise men long ago had journeyed with gold and frankincense, bearing gifts to one beneath a star, but booted and spurred to spread the alarm.  We sailed on Christmas day seaward, seaward with winds, seaward to find a star.  Upon the majesty of this day, with all the irony that twenty three years (his age) of mistaken faith can summon to mind, we were sailing for the first time into the mystery of we knew not what, only knowing that this our first cruise would be one never to be forgot.

Soon after:

Probably never again will the excitement of that first ‘anchor aweigh’ be duplicated, to be sailing aboard an American man of war with the same traditions of service built by years for and by the immortal names of the past, to search ourselves for a heritage of our own to pass along down the years, to become a tradition to those generations of free men who would rather follow in our footsteps, those things and more proved ever present realizations.

March, 1942:

With 2,000 men and officers standing in the hot Pacific sun beneath a sky of unbelievably light blue, we have just experienced our first funeral at sea.  While smallish clouds of dirty cotton hung motionless in the sky overhead, all hands stood quietly with a rigidity that is not discipline but respect, as ceremonies on the hanger deck tokened the conclusion to a life spent in the service of this country, given while on duty at sea.  Words speak poorly in trying to catch the mood of the last far journey across the horizon; even in our thoughts we cannot bridge the chasm which separates the mystery of life from the mystery to which we go.  It is fitting that men and officers stand quitely as the smallest of boxes returns the unexplainable to the unexplainable.

April 1942 (to a college professor):

“Many of my friends are now dead. To a man, each died with a nonchalance that each would have denied as courage. They simply called it lack of fear. If anything great or good is born of this war, it should not be valued in the colonies we may win nor in the pages historians will attempt to write, but rather in the youth of our country, who never trained for war; rather almost never believed in war, but who have, from some hidden source, brought forth a gallantry which is homespun, it is so real.  I say these things because I know that you liked and understood boys, because I wanted you to know that they have not let you down.   If the country takes these sacrifices with indifference, it will be the cruelest ingratitude the world has ever known.  When you hear others saying harsh things about American youth, do all in your power to help others keep faith with those who gave so much.  Tell them that out here, between a spaceless sea and sky, American youth has found itself and given itself so that, at home the spark may catch, burst into flame and burn high.  There is much I cannot say, which should be said before it is too late.  It is my fear that national inertia will cancel the gains made won at such a price. My luck can’t last much longer, but the flame goes on and on.”

These words are excerpets from an article written by Elbert Watson in the World War II Times.

To all heros of the Battle of Midway, we have not forgotten.  To all those serving here and abroad today, we will never forget that our freedom rests in your capable hands, thank you.