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To develop facilities at Midway, Pan Am mounted mounted two expeditions to Midway Atoll to establish facilities on Sand Island, the first "North Haven Expedition" in 1935 and the second "North Haven Expedition II" in 1936 using steamer SS North Haven traveling from San Francisco transporting construction materials, fuel and six months of supplies for the construction crew.
On February 14, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8682 established "Midway Island Naval Defensive Sea Area," which encompassed the territorial waters between the extreme high-water marks and the three-mile marine boundaries surrounding Midway. "Midway Island Naval Airspace Reservation" was also established to restrict access to the airspace over the naval defense sea area. Only U.S. government ships and aircraft were permitted to enter the naval defense areas at Midway Atoll unless authorized by the U. S. Navy.
On December 7, 1941 after learning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, USS Lexington (CV-2) enroute to Midway with USMC SB2U-3 Vindicators from VMSB-231 for Midway Airfield aborted the delivery to search for the Japanese fleet instead. Between 9:31am to 9:54am, Midway Atoll was bombarded by Japanese destroyers Ushio and Sazanami that shelled Sand Island, killing four and damaging installations.
On March 10, 1942 H6K Mavis piloted by Lt. Hashizume attempts to photograph Midway. Over the target, shot down by F2A Buffalo.
Japanese missions against Midway Atoll
TBF Avengers from Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) shore based element began their combat career with attacks against the Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway. During the battle, six B-26s, in conjunction with US Navy torpedo bombers, attack a carrier; two of the B-26s are shot down. In further morning action 14 B-17s attacked the task force approaching Midway at a distance of 145 miles; they claim several hits on carriers and 2 Zekes shot down. In the late afternoon 2 B-17s attack a carrier force, claiming hits on a battleship and a carrier and 9 aircraft shot down; 4 other B-17s claim a hit on heavy cruiser 185 miles from Midway. 6 B-17s, en route to Midway from Hawaii, bomb ships 170 miles from Midway, claiming hits on Hiryu, hit earlier in the battle, and a destroyer, which is claimed sunk ending the Battle of Midway.
In total, Japanese losses included four aircraft carriers: Kaga and Soryu on June 4 plus Akagi and Hiryu on June 6 and cruiser Mikuma, 332 aircraft and 3,500 men killed. American losses included the loss of aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) and destroyer USS Hammann DD-412, 105 aircraft and a total of 307 men killed, a decisive American victory.
On April 22, 1988 designated a National Wildlife Refuge under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Navy. On October 1, 1993 the U. S. Navy closed NAS Midway Islands. Between August 1996 until 2002 the general public could visit Midway Atoll.
On October 31, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13022 that transfered transferred the jurisdiction and control of the atoll to the United States Department of the Interior, administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). On September 13, 2000 designated the "Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial".
On June 15, 2006 President George W. Bush designated Midway part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. In 2007, renamed Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument administered by both the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawaii. A visitor program began in March 2008 but was suspended in 2013 due to budget cuts.
Visitors to Midway Islands can observe many wartime relics including the original runways, buildings, bunkers and other wartime remnants remain on the islands. Bomb craters and long strings of strafing bullet marks from Japanese Zero fighter aircraft still visible across runway aprons and buildings.
F4U-1 Corsair Bureau Number 02326
LB-30 Liberator Serial Number AL589
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