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NSTC Hosts Battle of Midway Remembrance

13 June 2023

From Scott Thornbloom

Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) took time to commemorate and remember one of the greatest naval battles and victories in U. S. Navy history, The Battle of Midway, with a presentation by NSTC’s resident historian, in the Bluejackets Memorial Chapel on Naval Station Great Lakes, June 6, 2023.
Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) took time to commemorate and remember one of the greatest naval battles and victories in U. S. Navy history, The Battle of Midway, with a presentation by NSTC’s resident historian, in the Bluejackets Memorial Chapel on Naval Station Great Lakes, June 6, 2023.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Erich Grawunder, NSTC’s Training officer, in 1999 the 26th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Jay L. Johnson, directed the U. S. Navy to observe the victory over Imperial Japan at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, as one of only two events remembered annually. The Navy’s birthday in October is the other observance. 

“Midway was won, not by superior numbers or daunting technology, but by the courage and tenacity of Sailors who fought a vicious air and sea battle against overwhelming odds,” said the CNO in 1999. “Their victory helped us win the world we have today, and it is appropriate that we remember it and those who participated in it.” 

This year’s ceremony was produced and led by Grawunder, a qualified military historian with a Bachelor of Arts degree in military history from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  He has conducted multiple historical presentations on 20th century warfare, connecting the lessons of the past to the present day and led the Battle of Midway commemoration for his respective commands every year since 2016. 

U. S. Navy Capt. Chris Adams, NSTC’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) director, provided opening remarks as guest of honor, while NSTC’s Chaplain, Cmdr. Douglas Grace, provided the invocation. Grawunder also incorporated the expertise of NSTC’s local naval aviator, Lt. Brian Dolat, who spoke on the role of shore-based aviation, while NSTC’s local submariner, Lt. Anthony Dinh, discussed submarines used by the United States and Japan during the battle. Grawunder also provided an in-depth historical lecture detailing the battle’s timeline.

“It’s very important for the U. S. Navy to have commemorations,” said Grawunder. “We are truly the branch of history and tradition. There are a lot of lessons that can be drawn out, particularly from World War II that can be applied today.”

Grawunder called the Battle of Midway a peer warfare situation. Near-peer or peer warfare is warfare between two near-equal or equal adversaries and is often associated with great powers. He said the United States has only participated in peer warfare on three occasions – The War of 1812, Spanish American War, and World War II.

“Particularly, the Battle of Midway was peer warfare where the U. S. was heavily outnumbered and they came out with an incredible victory against incredible odds,” he said.

Grawunder hoped the NSTC Sailors were able to take away an understanding that “the participants at the Battle of Midway were not far in age from us (today’s Sailors) and not much different in education than us as they were using what front line technology they had at the time to make the most of a difficult situation.”

Grawunder added that today’s Sailors are doing the same thing.

“We are putting Sailors just about the same age as they were out to the fleet today with the best technology we have and we are training them to make best out of any situation that’s handed to them,” Grawunder said. “Not only did (the Sailors at the Battle of Midway) make the best of a situation but they also handed their adversary a defeat that they never recovered from the rest of World War II and decisively turned the fight around and took it back to Japan’s backyard.” 

This year’s commemoration then concluded with two enlisted NSTC Sailors, Chief Hospital Corpsman Brittani Scholz and Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Davis, conducting a bell ringing ceremony in remembrance of the three TBD Devastator Torpedo Squadrons that fell at Midway, with an emphasis on USS Hornet’s (CV-8) Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) that lost all 15 airplanes in a heroic charge against ferocious enemy fire entirely on their own. Scholz also read the names of each member of the squadron who died during the attack (only one survived; Ensign George Gay), while Davis rang the bell once for each name.

“Participating in the event was important to me, to be present as a Sailor and enlisted member of today’s Navy and to show junior Sailors that it is important to be involved in these significant events, recognize the lives that were lost, and have the knowledge of lessons learned to help myself and Sailors be better prepared for the fleet,” Scholz said.

Davis said it was a great honor to be part of the ceremony and “learning about the battle and what happened is just amazing.”

During his lecture Grawunder said there are many critical lessons U.S. Sailors can take away from the Battle of Midway: the importance of American shipyard workers, who quickly repaired USS Yorktown (CV-5) in days vice months at Pearl Harbor, so they could sail her into battle again; the significance of junior officers like Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Thach or Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky who took the initiative to execute new tactics against Imperial Japan, while leaders like Adm. Raymond Spruance made risk-based decisions; as well as the value of developing a recognized maritime picture, in addition to readying a U.S. military installation for combat.  

Next year Grawunder said he would like to add more commands at Naval Station Great Lakes, to include the senior U. S. Army and U. S. Marine Corps units stationed here to speak about their respective roles. “There are reasons why the Battle of Midway is taught in Officer JPME, Chief Petty Officer Initiative, and Enlisted Advancement Exams. It’s important to remember the victory!”

NSTC, commanded by Capt. Craig Mattingly, supports 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy’s Citizenship Development program. NSTC’s support also includes Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, also at Naval Station Great Lakes; the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program at more than 160 colleges and universities; Officer Training Command (OTC) at Newport, Rhode Island; and the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.

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