The U.S. Navy celebrated the 74th anniversary of the historic victory at the Battle of Midway with a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 3.
Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen joined surviving veterans of the battle to remember what is considered to be the turning point in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
The ceremony is known as the "Sea of White" because of the hundreds of Sailors attending in their dress and summer white uniforms. The ceremony included formal wreath-laying to remember the lives lost during the battle and veterans of the battle lost in the years and decades since.
Midway Island -- located roughly halfway between the United States and Japan -- served as one of the last strategic footholds keeping the Japanese from reaching Hawaii and the U.S.
The Battle of Midway was a decisive naval battle. June 4-7, 1942, only six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy, under Admirals Chester Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher and Raymond A. Spruance, decisively defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo and Nobutake Kondo near Midway Island.
Losses were heavy on both sides, but Japan lost the core of its aircraft carrier group, along with hundreds of aircraft and pilots. U.S. forces inflicted devastating damage on the Japanese fleet that proved irreparable, and military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."
Had U.S. forces failed to defeat the Japanese at Midway, historians theorize the outcome of the entire war, both in Europe and the Pacific, would have been drastically different.
"[USS] Yorktown was lost that day; over 300 Sailors perished," said Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran at the ceremony. "I believe that in that moment on that day, even though the Yorktown perished our spirit as a Navy was born. No one gave up; even [when] under heavy attack and the outlook was very dim, the crew never quit. That 'never say quit' attitude became part of our young Navy and our DNA."
The Battle of Midway was the answer to the attacks of our fleet at Pearl Harbor, said Moran. "Smart, imaginative leaders; tough, determined, and courageous Sailors rose to the occasion as our Navy was truly tested once more. Today we reflect on acts of valor, teamwork and determination like these veterans behind me and in front of me."