Some military historians declare that the Battle of Midway “was the greatest naval battle ever fought.” Providentially, it was the turning point of World War II in our contest with Japan, and our victory was nothing less than miraculous and unexpected.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor officially brought the United States into World War II on December 7, 1941. Providentially, Admiral Nimitz noted strategic mistakes made. Since the attack was on Sunday morning, 9 out of 10 American military were on leave. The Japanese did not bomb the dry docks or repair facilities. They did not strafe the fuel tanks five miles away. Some of our key Destroyers and Aircraft Carriers were not in Pearl Harbor. Though our losses were great, we were able to quickly recover. Dictators have always underestimated the power of the United States since they do not understand self-government or economic freedom.
On February 6, 1942, Stanford Linzey, a clarinet player in the Navy Band, stood at the rail of the USS Yorktown with 2,500 other crewmembers as they entered Pearl Harbor. They were all dressed in their whites, as crowds gathered on the beaches just outside the harbor entrance. Stanford Linzey, a dedicated Christian, and newly married, was known for his Bible studies among the crewmembers of the Yorktown aircraft carrier and was thus given the nickname “The Deacon”. Christianity was not as respected and believers were not as open as in World War I, for they were persecuted at times if they shared their beliefs in public. However, Linzey was a part of that remnant that God always uses powerfully.
Though sailors are jovial and happy upon entering port, the shocking sight of the destruction of Pearl Harbor only two months before brought silence, disbelief, horror and anger to this crew. In one hour and 20 minutes, 18 ships had been sunk, many at their docks. 140 planes were shot down, 2,403 military and civilians lost their lives, and another 1,173 were wounded. As a result, Japan was arrogant and felt it could not be defeated since it had not failed in achieving victory in any conflict in the previous months. Howver, God can humble the proudest of nations – and as Americans we must remember this.
In March the secret code of Japanese communication was broken and in April morale dropped in Tokyo due to the success of Commander Doolittle’s bombing raids. In May the battle of the Coral Sea, though technically won by Japan, blocked her objective of taking over the islands off Australia, sending two disabled carriers back for repairs. The Yorktown and Stanford Linzey were in this battle, (the first fought entirely by aircraft), with bombs hitting the ship and killing many. The Yorktown herself was sent back for repairs to Pearl Harbor. The estimation was that she needed six months of overhaul!
Yamamoto wanted revenge on all the carriers not destroyed at Pearl Harbor, and he hatched a plan to do it. He would attack Midway Islands (off of Alaska), and draw the U.S. carriers out of Pearl Harbor into a trap of submarines waiting to destroy them. The Midway Islands were discovered by America in 1859, and a military base was put there in 1941. They were named “midway” because they were about half the distance between North America and Asia.
A number of providential events took place that preceded this battle. First, we had cracked the code and knew of Japan’s plans. Second, Halsey (a reactionary commander) became sick, and Spruance (a cool-headed commander) took his place. Third, the U.S. repair yards at Pearl Harbor did a 72 hour rush job on the Yorktown by May 29. Fourth, by May 31, three carriers (one crippled), eight cruisers, and 14 destroyers, a total of 25 ships, went to Midway! On June 3, the day before the attack planned by Japan, 16 submarines surrounded Hawaii to surprise the U.S. Fleet when they came to rescue Midway Islands – but there was a major problem; they weren’t there!
War on earth is a reflection of spiritual warfare. On June 3, Linzey’s wife Verna was urged to pray at the same time Stanford was praying on board the Yorktown! By 9:30 A.M. the fleet of the Japanese approached Midway. There were 185 ships, 5,000 troops, 72 bombers, 31 fighters, and 81 torpedo bombers in the first wave – a huge advantage over U.S.! They needed to pray! On June 4, at 6:30 A.M. Midway is attacked and the U.S. sends its counterattack! Since the Japanese did not know we were coming, they left their bombs, torpedos, and gas tanks on top of their decks, not thinking there was any opposition. In six minutes we had destroyed four of their cruisers, but had lost most of our planes when they were shot during the attack. We lost 150 planes and one carrier but the Japanese lost four carries, two cruisers, three destroyers and 275 planes!
Some of the Japanese planes followed us back to the Yorktown, and discovered the disabled carrier and attacked, hitting it with several bombs and torpedos and everyone had to “abandon ship.” It is interesting to note that this carrier had most of the believers’ Bible study participants on board! All climbed up through the wreckage, over the sides, down the ropes, into the oily water. There were no sharks due to the explosions. Linzey noted a “mysterious arm” helping to rescue him – but 500 died. Rescued by the destroyer Balch, six Bible study students openly knelt on deck, giving thanks to God! On June 6, the Yorktown and Hamman were sunk by enemy torpedoes because they was trying to be repaired and towed back to Pearl Harbor. They sunk 3 miles to the bottom on June 7 exactly six months from the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the next months of the war, every piece of equipment sent by Japan to attack Pearl Harbor was desroyed, and much of it when the U.S. was outnumbered.
At the 74th anniversary of this battle, in 2006, Stanford and Verna Linzey were honored. The heroic actions of our military were numerous, but not everyone honored God like the Linzey’s. Let us learn our lesson, that God defended liberty even when most in the U.S. did not remember its source. Today, we are in need of honoring God evern more like never before!