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U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander donates historic Battle of Midway map to GSA

by Tom Andrews

Admiral Scott Swift

Admiral Scott Swift prepares to present the lithograph to Tom Andrews.

Admiral Scott Swift, the newest Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was in San Francisco on June 6 to speak at the annual San Francisco Battle of Midway Commemoration Dinner at the Marines Memorial Club. GSA's Public Buildings Service Acquisition Management Division Director, retired Rear Admiral Tom Andrews, is a member of the committee that hosts the event each year, and was there not only as a participant, but to receive the first donation to the 50 United Nations Plaza’s historic Nimitz Suite. Following his remarks, Admiral Swift presented a framed lithograph of Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet battle map to Andrews, who received it on behalf of GSA and the Nimitz Suite at 50 United Nations Plaza.

The Battle of Midway was waged from June 4-7, 1942, a mere six months after the devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It was significant in many ways. Noted historian Joel Keegan called it “as great a reversal in strategic fortune as the naval world has ever seen.” Admiral Nimitz committed virtually his entire Pacific Fleet to the battle, including all three remaining carriers, two of which had just returned from launching the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, as well as the repaired USS Yorktown, which had been severely damaged just a month before in the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was notable in that it was the first time two opposing fleets battled each other without ever coming into view of one another.

As Admiral Swift said during his comments, “The Battle of Midway should always be remembered as the prime example of when warriors looked risk squarely in the eye and did not flinch. They went all in and put everything on the line when time and opportunity demanded. Midway reaffirmed for us the power of decisive leadership and how calculated risk, as the inscription on the National World War II Memorial tells us, ‘can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory'.”

One of the illuminations from Admiral Swift’s speech was regarding the data call from Washington. Admiral Nimitz was convinced that the next major engagement with the Japanese Fleet would be at Midway, but the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations was skeptical – Admiral King needed data. So Admiral Nimitz provided it to him, probably the single most important piece of data provided during the entire War in the Pacific. Admiral Nimitz had the Marine Detachment on Midway broadcast in the clear that they were having problems with their water purification system. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, the U.S. Navy had partially broken the Japanese Navy’s code, and they knew that Midway was designated as “AF” and was the next target of the Japanese Fleet. When the Japanese broadcast in code that there were water problems at AF, the Admiral had his single data point, and provided the data to Washington. The rest is history.

The entire Battle of Midway was tracked on a battle map that has hung in the office of the Commander of the Pacific Fleet for decades. Recently, the commanders have taken to creating lithographs of the battle map and presenting them to deserving organizations. GSA and 50 United Nations Plaza are now among those lucky recipients.

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