Exploring the Sunken Heritage of Midway Atoll: Honoring the Legacy of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway
From May 2 - May 16, 2017 scientists will embark on an expedition to a tiny atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to explore for sunken artifacts related to the historic Battle of Midway, one of the most decisive U.S. victories of World War II.
This research will add an important maritime heritage component to what is known of the broader history of World War II in the Pacific. Archival research identifies at least 31 plane crashes within three miles of Midway Atoll, which is now Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway Memorial, a part of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM). Additional aircraft losses are reported by survivors who describe loss locations based on their first-hand experience. Of these 31 aircraft reported lost, 22 were American and 9 were Japanese. All are considered war graves.
“This unique opportunity to explore the seafloor at Midway Atoll for World War II sunken aircraft sites associated with the Battle Midway will occur in advance of the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle on June 4-7,” said Kelly Keogh, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Maritime Archaeologist for PMNM. “The Battle of Midway is often referred to as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.”
This project focuses on the exploration of sunken aircraft lost in shallow waters within three miles of Midway Atoll, where the famous air battle took place. The broader naval (or ship-based) engagement of the Battle of Midway took place approximately 180 miles northwest of Midway Atoll in deeper waters, where various aircraft carriers were lost, including the USS Yorktown and the Japanese Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu, as well as hundreds of planes, one Japanese destroyer and one American cruiser. This battleground became part of PMNM when President Obama expanded the boundaries of the Monument in August of 2016.
Supported by NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research (OER) and conducted in collaboration with ONMS/PMNM, National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, East Carolina University, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this project aims to raise awareness and honor the legacy of the brave men who helped to turn the tide in the Pacific during the course of the Battle of Midway.