Maritime Heritage





At least 67 naval aircraft are recorded as being lost in the vicinity of the NWHI. World War II played a large role in these losses. The Navy built a Naval Air Facility at Midway Atoll beginning in 1940; Eastern Island had the main airfield in the early days of the war and the submarine and seaplane support operations were concentrated on Sand Island. This was a vital center for submarine, surface and aviation operations. Initially, the Hawaiian Sea Frontier forces stationed patrol vessels at most of the islands and atolls. Midway was also the focus of one of the most important naval battles in the Pacific. The Battle of Midway took place from June 4-7, 1942 and is considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific. The majority of the sea battle took place beyond the NWHI between 100 to 200 miles to the north, but an intense air fight was waged directly over and around the atoll itself. Numerous Japanese and American planes splashed down into Midway waters. Many of these sites are war graves. Training exercises before and after the battle also took their toll.

Diorama of Japanese air raid on Midway, 4 June 1942.
Diorama of Japanese air raid on Midway, 4 June 1942. Courtesy: NARA
SBD-2 scout-bombers over the Pacific, circa late 1941.
SBD-2 scout-bombers over the Pacific, circa late 1941. Courtesy: NARA