Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Enright

BREMERTON, Wash. – Active duty Sailors and veterans joined local community leaders to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, June 4.

“Today we honor the courage of those who served during this battle and the battles that followed,” said Capt. Michael Wettlaufer, commanding officer of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and the guest speaker at the ceremony. “This battle was won by the brave men and women who stood in the face of uncertain odds and persevered as a team.”

The ceremony featured two local World War II Navy veterans, James Bowen, from Bremerton, Wash., and Eric Kegley, from Silverdale, Wash.

“I am honored to be in the presence of veterans who gave so much,” said Capt. Thomas Zwolfer, commanding officer of Naval Base Kitsap, who hosted the event. “They freely sacrificed so that we all could lead lives of promise, potential and opportunity.”

After the ceremony, Bremerton Mayor Patti Lent commented on the battle’s significance to the Kitsap community noting that several ships from the Battle of Midway, including heavy cruiser USS Astoria (CA-34) and destroyer USS Worden (DD 352), were built in Bremerton.

“This memorial is of great importance to the community because this shipyard [Puget Sound Naval Shipyards and Intermediate Maintenance Facility] played such an important part in repairing and building the ships involved in the war,” said Lent.

In honor of those lost in the battle, Bowen and Kegley joined Stennis’ Sailor of the Year, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Anthony Johnson, from Lubbock, Texas and USS Seawolf (SSN-21) SOY Electronics Technician 1st Class Jonathan Panciera, from Fredrick, Md., to lay a wreath on the waters of the Sinclair Inlet.

“Watching the wreath drop and reflecting on the Sailors who came before me brought the event into perspective,” said Johnson. “I’m humbled to have the opportunity to pay respect to those who paved the way for us today.”

The Battle of Midway occurred June 4, 1942, only six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered a surprise attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy near Midway atoll. By the time the battle ended on June 7, four enemy carriers were sunk and more than 300 enemy aircraft had been destroyed, ultimately crippling the Japanese fleet and tilting the balance of power in the Pacific to the U.S. for the remainder of World War II.

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