Chronology

Midway News Articles –

Midway Media Quotes –

July 5, 1859  Captain N.C. Brooks of the Hawaiian Bark Gambia discovers the Island. Islands were named “Middlebrook Islands“.

August 28, 1867  Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna takes possession of the Island for the United States. Midway becomes the first offshore islands annexed by the U.S. government.

January 28, 1869  The Navy adopts the name Midway Islands, according to a report submitted to the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs.

November 16, 1886  The schooner General Siegel was shipwrecked at Midway during a storm.

February 3, 1888  The British bark Wandering Minstrel was shipwrecked in Wells Harbor, during a storm.

January 20, 1903  Due to recurring complaints of Japanese squatters and poachers, President Theodore Roosevelt places the island under the control of the Navy.  Executive Order 199-A places Midway Islands “under the jurisdiction and control of the Navy Department.”

April 20, 1903  About 30 people from the Commercial Pacific Cable Company arrive on Midway to begin constructing the cable station. They first erect temporary houses and then construct five permanent station buildings using steel beam supports and reinforced concrete, which is considered an innovative use of the modern material. The buildings provide an office for the cable operator; a mess and recreation hall; and quarters for the staff, servants, and a superintendent. The basements are used for support functions, such as storing provisions and housing the laundry and machine shop.

June 3, 1903  U.S. Navy ejects Japanese poachers and squatters and appoints Commercial Pacific Cable Company as island custodians.  The Japanese squatters and poachers were killing seabirds for feathers that were popular for women’s hats.

June 18, 1903  The ships C.S. Anglia and C.S. Colonia complete installing the cable between Guam and Midway.

July 4, 1903  The cable, which stretches from San Francisco to Honolulu to Midway to Guam to the Philippines, carries the first ‘around-the-world message’ and wishes “a happy Independence Day to the United States, its territories and properties.” The message takes 9 minutes to be received.

May 1904  About 20 U.S. Marines arrive to secure Midway as a U.S. possession and protect the cable staff and albatross from poachers.

September 22, 1905  The U.S. Lighthouse Service illuminates the first lighthouse on the atoll.

May 13, 1906  Dr. Miller, USN, died at 5:20am on Midway and was buried in an area now referred to as the ‘Doctor’s Cemetery‘. there.  This was the first naval death recorded at Midway.  Four of six individuals buried there were doctors.

1908  Marine detachment was ordered away from Midway Island.

1917  The U.S. Weather Bureau establishes a station on Midway.

1921  U.S. Navy commenced using Midway Islands as a rendezvous for naval vessels on the East-West Pacific runs. Washington Naval Treaty (1921 -22) forbade fortifying Midway through commercial enterprises were authorized.

1923  Cable Company blasted an entrance for an undersea cable, between Sand and Eastern Islands, in the south reef.

1924  Midway Islands were investigated by Commander Rodgers of the USS Pelican, as a seaplane base.  Later, in the same year, Midway Islands were used as a rendezvous by the USS Seagull and eight submarines.

1934 Japan denounced the Washington Treaty (1922).  Naval armament race was on.

April 12, 1935  Pan American Airways sets up an air base for weekly Trans-Pacific Flying Clipper Seaplane service and constructs a hotel on Sand Island. Midway becomes a regular fuel stop on a trans-Pacific route, including Honolulu, Wake Island, Guam, and Manila.

May 1935  Fleet maneuvers conducted off Midway.  Advance base established and amphibious operations were carried out.

November 22-29, 1935  Pan American Airways’ China Clipper makes the first trans-Pacific airmail flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, and Manila.

May 19, 1938  USS Oglala and USS Beaver arrived at Midway with men and materials, from the Hawaiian Dredging Company, to dredge a channel for seagoing ships.  They dredged a new channel, through the southern reef, between Eastern and Sand Islands.  They also construct harbor and seaplane runways in the lagoon.

April 25, 1939  Public Law No. 76-43 authorizes the Navy to establish, develop, or increase naval aviation facilities on Midway.

1940  The Navy contracts with Albert Kahn of Detroit to prepare standardized plans for barracks, mess halls, and hangars for various bases.  He also provides plans for the officers’ housing, shops, storage buildings, and theater on Midway.  Kahn is considered to be one of the country’s foremost industrial designers and known for his use of steel, reinforced concrete, and natural light to create comfortable and functional interior spaces.

March 1940  Construction of a naval air station begins. Private contractors start constructing land runways on Eastern Island and other infrastructure on Sand Island in preparation for possible hostilities.

March 4, 1940  USS Swan, a mine sweeper type aircraft tender, entered Midway lagoon by the new channel in the south reef.

March 27, 1940  USS Sirius arrived with men and materials for the construction of a Naval Air Station.  Arrival of Lt. D.B.Ventries, USN, Naval representative in charge of the project, automatically relieved Cable Company superintendent of naval custody of Midway Islands.

June 1940  Marine Garrison returned to Midway Islands.  By February of 1941 the garrison, under command of Lt. Col. Pepper, was 850 strong.

July 18, 1940  Arrival of part of U.S. Fleet for a surprise visit brought the attention of splendid results of the Cable Company’s planting program over about 1/6 of Sand Island.  Under the Pacific Naval Air Base program, Midway began to fulfill its destiny as a strategic base in the Pacific.

1941  The Commercial Pacific Cable Company’s last superintendent on Midway begins his tenure. He remains on Midway during World War II, operating the cable for the Navy.

August 1, 1941  U.S. Naval Air Station Midway is commissioned, under the command of Commander Cyrill T. Simard, U.S. Navy, is established on Eastern Island.

September 24, 1941 – U.S. intercepts intelligence between Tokyo and the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu, asking spies to report positions of U.S. ships at Pearl Harbor.

November 5, 1941 – Admiral Yamamoto orders the attack on Pearl Harbor.

November 9, 1941  Pan American Clipper arrived, in-route to Washington, with Japanese Ambassador Kurusu and his secretary Yuki.  Departed November 12 for the Peace Conference.

November 26, 1941 – The Japanese First Air Fleet leaves Japan’s Kurile Islands for Hawai’i. The fleet takes a route rarely used by merchant ships, and avoids radio transmissions to remain undetected.

December 6, 1941 – In Washington D.C., U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt makes a final appeal to the Emperor of Japan for peace. There is no reply.  Late this same day, the U.S. code-breaking service begins intercepting a 14-part Japanese message and deciphers the first 13 parts. The Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere in Southeast Asia.

December 7, 1941 –  About 9 a.m. Washington D.C. time, U.S. officials decode the last part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations with the U.S. are to be broken off. About an hour later, another Japanese message is intercepted.  It instructs the Japanese embassy to break off talks with the U.S. at 1 p.m.  Washington time. The U.S. War Department then sends out an alert to Hawaii military officials. Technical delays prevent the alert from arriving until noon Hawaii time, four hours after the attack has already begun.  Almost at the same time, Japanese warplanes strike the Philippines and two U.S. islands: Wake and Guam, which are later occupied. The Japanese also invade Thailand and Malaya. Later that month, Japanese troops invade Burma and Hong Kong.

December 7, 1941  Midway Island was bombarded by the “Midway Neutralization Unit,” a Japanese raiding force of (estimated) two cruisers and two destroyers.  Return fire, from defense batteries, struck the Japanese’s ships and forced retirement under a smoke screen.  Some damage to facilities on Midway Island was sustained and the following were killed by the Japanese’s bombardment: 1st. Lt. George H. Cannon, USMC Ens. Donald J. Kraker, USNR Pfc. Elmer R. Morrell, USMC F 2/C Ralph E. Tuttle, USN 1st. Lt. George H. Cannon, USMC, became the war’s first Marine Corps recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The Midway seaplane hangar and the hospital were hit and burned.  The hospital burned completely, the seaplane hangar was badly damaged.   Reinforcements for Midway were rushed from Hawaii.

June 4-6, 1942 –  Early on June 4, aircraft from four Japanese aircraft carriers, which had attacked Pearl Harbor 6 months earlier, attack and severely damage the base on Midway. After their initial attacks, the Japanese aircraft head back to their carriers to rearm and refuel, and while the aircraft are returning, the Japanese navy is surprised by U.S. naval forces in the area. Aircraft from the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown attack the Japanese fleet. Three Japanese carriers are hit, set ablaze, and abandoned. A fourth Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, responds with two waves of attacks—both times bombing the USS Yorktown, leaving her severely damaged but still afloat. That afternoon, a USS Yorktown scout plane locates the Hiryu, and the USS Enterprise sends dive bombers to attack. The attack leaves the Hiryu burning and without the ability to launch aircraft. Over the next 2 days, the U.S. Navy forces the Japanese to abandon the battle and retreat to Japan. The Japanese lose approximately 4,800 men, four carriers, one cruiser, and hundreds of aircraft, while the United States loses about 307 men, one carrier, one destroyer, and over 100 aircraft. The Battle of Midway is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific. After Midway, the Americans and their allies took the offensive in the Pacific arena.

July 15, 1942  The submarine base at Midway is commissioned.  The base was of great strategic importance in the entire Pacific arena and of operational importance to submarines based at Pearl Harbor.

July 29, 1942  Naval Operating Base, Midway Islands, was established, by order of the Secretary of the Navy.

January 1, 1943  Sand Island landing field, composing of three landing strips, was completed and ready for use.

August 1944 –  After the Battle of Midway, extensions to Sand Island’s landing strips were completed, and large land-plane activity shifted from Eastern Island to Sand Island.Sand Island.  The airfield becomes an important stopover for aircraft transiting to the war zone as it pushes further east.

September 16, 1944  A sand stabilization program was set up.  Planting of shrubs, grass and trees commenced.

October 1944  Naval Air Transport Service was set up on Sand Island.

1945  During this period, air activity on Eastern Island began to slow down and a gradual shift to Sand Island took place.  During the period, subsequent to July 29, 1942, the Submarine Base came to its peak of utility.

August 2014 A 35-foot sailboat was denied access to the Midway Harbor, after its on-board water maker stopped working.  The FWS stated their “biosecurity protocols dictate that un-permitted vessels should not be allowed access to the lagoon unless for an emergency”.  The FWS gathered water jugs and delivered them to the boat outside the lagoon.

August 14, 1945  Japan surrendered and later signed the formal surrender document on September 2, 1945. The ceremony was performed in Tokyo Bay, Japan, aboard the battleship USS Missouri. World War II officially ended. Consequently, flight activity on Eastern Island began to slow down and a gradual airbase shift to Sand Island took place.

October 7, 1945  Midway began demobilization.  Buildings were nailed up.  Eastern Island was abandoned.

Troop and facilities demobilization began on Midway.  The islands were placed in “caretaker status,” requiring less than 300 men stationed there for Sand Island base maintenance and potential air and sea rescues. Unused buildings were boarded up. Eastern Island facilities were abandoned soon thereafter.

August 13, 1946  The first male child was born on Midway Island.  Richard Thor Holmes was born to Mrs. Elaine D. Holmes and Lt. Col. M.D. Holmes, USMC, the Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks, Midway Island.

September 17, 1946  The first female child was born on Midway Island.  Jennifer Kathleen Ayers was born to Mrs. Majorie Mae Ayers and Aviation Chief Ordanceman Gordan K. Ayers, attached to the U.S. Naval Air Station, Midway Island.

1947 –  Pan American Airways discontinues its operations on Midway. In September, the Civil Aeronautics Authority takes over the maintenance and operation of airport facilities at Midway, Wake Island, and Guam, and the facilities become part of the federal airways and links in the air routes over the Pacific.

May 29, 1947  The first child, in recorded history, graduated from Elementary School on Midway Island, her name was Nellie Leo Ganci.

May 1, 1950 –  The Civil Aeronautics Authority ceases airport operations on Midway because of the Navy’s decision to withdraw from the island.

June 6, 1950  Midway Naval Air Station was deactivated. Twenty Pan Am employees, plus a few Pacific Commercial Cable Company workers, remained to “guard the islands’ deserted buildings.”

September 1950  Seemingly overnight, Midway was reactivated in support of Korean War airlift operations as an aircraft refueling and servicing base. Oil, airplane fuel and other provisions were stockpiled at Midway to keep its generators and facilities functioning, and buildings were reopened and remodeled. An office building was renovated as a 62-bed “air evacuation holding ward hospital.” As the “war” progressed, thousands of troops on ships and planes stopped at Midway for refueling and emergency repairs.

1951 –  The Federal Communications Commission issues an order authorizing permanent discontinuance of all operations of the Commercial Pacific Cable Company’s route between San Francisco and Manila.

November 4, 1952  Midway hit by tsunami – caused by 9.0 earthquake that occurred off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

December 31, 1952 –  The Pacific Commercial Cable Company ceased operations on Midway and turned over all its buildings and equipment to the US Navy.

April 1953  The Navy deactivates the Naval Air Station on Midway as hostilities in Korea decrease.

July 1953  The Navy reactivates the naval air station on Midway in reaction to Soviet bombers flying across the Pacific, sparking the era of “Cold War” hostilities. To protect the United States and keep track of the Soviet planes, construction begins on the Distant Early Warning Line—a network of radar picket ships to give a distant early warning of aircraft or missile attack on North America.

September 1954  John Ford, who at the request of the US Navy had filmed documentary footage during the Battle of Midway, returned to Sand Island for the filming of Mister Roberts. The light cargo ship USS Hewell sailed from Honolulu and moored at the naval base to double for the fictional USS Reluctant. Many of the film’s exteriors were shot aboard the Hewell and off Midway’s harbor.

August 28, 1955  The first twins, in recorded history, were born on Midway Island.  Parents were Mrs. Polly Worsley and John Worsley.

1957  A major building program was begun to create a Pacific airborne early warning base.

1957  A $40 million construction program begins as Midway becomes a home for the Pacific Airborne Early Warning portion of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), known as the Pacific Barrier or DEW Line.  Navy construction units (Seabees) complete an 8,000-foot runway for the heavy aircraft landing on Midway and build an aircraft hangar large enough to hold six aircraft. During this construction, the Hawaiian Dredging Company completes new housing, reconditions the station theater, and builds a new chapel in a modern “A” frame design.  Construction work employed over a thousand men. The channel between Eastern and Sand Islands was deepened to allow the largest US tankers to enter.

October 7, 1957  The Midway Station Theater was reopened, after being reconditioned by MCB #9.

May 1958 –  The Hawaiian Dredging Company completed a new hangar, school, chapel, housing and barracks on Sand Island. Midway’s population grew, maintaining a populace of about 2,800 working on DEW Line programs. On Eastern Island, 100 or fewer people were stationed with the Naval Security Group with their own barracks, mess hall and recreation facilities. Systems installed on Eastern Island by 1960 included a “missile impact location system” and other radar devices.

May 14, 1958 –   Ceremonies were held for the opening of the new Midway Chapel.

July 1958 –  The first flight from Midway, of the Airborne Early Warning Carrier, was made this month. Midway became the refueling and jumping off point for squadrons of 3,000-mile-long round-the-clock patrols of Super Constellation Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star airplanes. Their objective was to extend early warning coverage from land-based antenna arrays and radar picket ships to detect surprise Soviet bomber and missile attacks. The flights continued through 1965. Warning Stars were nicknamed “Willie Victors” by naval aircrews, based on a slang version of the phonetic alphabet and the naval version of the aircraft’s pre-1962 designation of WV-1, WV-2 or WV-3.

March 1959 –  Midway’s first TV station, KEIK-TV, started broadcasting. It was the first of its kind in the world.  Called STAR (simplified television and radio), a one-man operated station.

March 18, 1959 – The Hawaiian Statehood Act is passed and, on August 21, 1959, Hawaii becomes the 50th state. The law excludes Midway from the state of Hawaii’s territory.

June 3, 1959   Douglas Carson and Howard Sakahara were the first students to graduate from Midway George Cannon High School.

July 4, 1959  The new 49-star flag (with Alaska admitted to the Union on January 3, 1959) was raised over Midway for the first time. Midway residents celebrated its 1859 discovery centennial.

August 21, 1959  Hawaii became the 50th US state. Politically, since Midway was already claimed by the US, it did not become part of the State of Hawaii and remained a US territory.

[Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean is a United States unorganized, unincorporated insular area administered by the US Navy (Executive Order 199-A on January 20, 1903). The Secretary of the Navy designated the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) to act as its administrative authority.

A passport is required to enter the United States from Midway (including US citizens).

January 22, 1961A WV-2 (Willy Victor) aircraft was returning to Midway Island, having just completed a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Mission.  In the final stage of touching down at Midway, the aircraft came into contact with a small pile of coral on the approach end of the runway.  After a hard landing, the aircraft veered to one side of the runway.  It then hit a crash truck that was routinely parked to the side of the runway in the event of an emergency and broke apart.  A fire then started, killing six crewmen aboard the aircraft and three Navy men on the crash truck.

June 1960  First Fish and Wildlife Conservation Management Program implemented.

September 4, 1962 –  Executive Order 11048 makes the Secretary of the Navy responsible for the civil administration of Midway and vests all executive and legislative authority necessary for that administration, and certain judicial authority, in the Secretary.

1955-1965  Midway plays host to squadrons of Super Constellation “Willy Victor” radar aircraft and crews that played the role of the eyes and ears of the Nation forming the Distant Early Warning line in coordination with radar picket ships.

1965  With the use of “spy” satellites for Soviet surveillance, Warning Star flights from Midway halted.  Sand Island population was reduced to 1,700 to maintain the antenna array. US combat units were deployed to Vietnam. Some 58,220 US service men died in the conflict. The bodies of many casualties were repatriated to the US mainland through Midway during the “war.”

1968 – Midway is one of the main aircraft and ship refueling stations during the Vietnam War. It also accommodates classified missions and the storage and assembly of advanced underwater weapons and the Sound Surveillance System (Project Caesar), which includes miles of undersea cables with hydrophones to pick up the sounds of submarines.

January 13, 1969  Naval Facility Midway (NAVFAC) was commissioned. The NAVFAC was used in support of the Navy’s Undersea Sound Surveillance Program – SOSUS. 

June 8, 1969 –  The United States and South Vietnam conduct secret meetings in the Midway House (the Officer-in-Charge House, property number 414). During this meeting, the United States announces the “Vietnamization” of the war and a U.S. troop withdrawal of 25,000 men.

May 1970  Last flight of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron.

July 1970  Eastern Island vacated by all personnel and designated a wildlife habitat.

October, 1973  The Gooney Statue project was completed by Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Robert C. Cook, an oral surgeon on Midway. He carved it during his time on the island, in 1972.  It was carved from a solid Mahogany wood piece that washed up onto the shores of Midway. He also carved a large ‘Aloha’ sign that was placed at the NAF Hangar, to welcome everyone to the island.  Neither carvings were maintained, by FWS, and both are now gone.

October 1978  Naval Air Station Midway re-designated Naval Air Facility and dependents begin to depart the island. As many as 4,000 personnel and dependents were stationed here at the height of the Cold and Vietnam Wars.

March 1982 Base Services, Inc. is awarded a Base Operating Support (BOS) contract and assumes all operations and maintenance of the island.

September 30, 1983  NAVFAC Midway was decommissioned, after 24 years of service, in support of the Navy’s Undersea Sound Surveillance Program – SOSUS.

November 23, 1985 Pan American B747 “China Clipper II” visits Midway to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first China Clipper flight.

1986 – The National Park Service initiates a study of Midway’s heritage resources to determine if any of the World War II-era properties are eligible for designation as a National Historic Landmark. The study identifies nine eligible defensive structures on Sand Island and none on Eastern Island.

May 1987 – Six ammunition magazines, a pillbox (a defensive structure built on or near the beach), and two gun emplacements on the west side of Sand Island are, as a group, designated a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

April 22, 1988 –  Midway was designated as an “Overlay National Wildlife Refuge”. This designation created a dual purpose use between the US Navy and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

April 25, 1991  Undersea cable services terminated.  A new Satellite Earth Station was activated for telephone and data communications.

July 1, 1993  The Naval Air Facility on Midway is recommended for closure under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (Pub. L. No. 101-510, Tit. XXIX).

1993 and 1994  The Navy conducts cultural resources surveys to identify buildings, structures, objects, and sites on both Sand and Eastern Islands that might be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The Navy determines that 78 properties are eligible, including 9 properties that were designated as a National Historic Landmark.

September 30, 1993  Naval Air Facility Midway is “operationally closed” and the Navy initiates plans for environmental cleanup of the Island.

August 1995 –  The Battle of Midway Memorial was erected and dedicated on Sand Island.

February 5, 1996 – FWS, the Navy, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation enter into a programmatic agreement, as authorized by the regulations implementing section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, regarding historic preservation issues on Midway. The agreement addresses the transfer of historic properties identified on Midway in 1996 and how FWS was to treat the properties afterward.

August 2, 1996 – FWS enters into a cooperative agreement with the Midway Phoenix Corporation for support of a public visitation program.

August 1996 – Midway opens to public visitation.

October 31, 1996  President Clinton signs Executive Order 13022 transferring jurisdiction of Midway Island from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages Midway  Island National Wildlife Refuge to maintain and restore its natural biological  diversity, provide conservation and management of the wildlife and habitats  within refuge boundaries, provide opportunities for scientific research and  environmental education, maintain the Island’s historical significance, and  provide compatible wildlife-oriented activities to the visiting public.

1996 –  Midway Phoenix Corporation (of Cartersville, Georgia) entered a cooperative agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to open Midway Atoll for public visitation. Wildlife watching, fishing, scuba diving and military history tours were featured in its ambitious tourism offering. In addition, Midway Phoenix would provide electric power, maintain buildings, service the airport and runways, and fuel planes and ships from time to time. Midway Phoenix invested millions of dollars into upgrading “Charlie Barracks” into hotel rooms, renovated offices, repaved roads, and constructed the Captain Brooks beach pavilion (bar) and Clipper House restaurant/dining room.

February 5, 1996 –  FWS, the Navy, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation enter into a programmatic agreement, as authorized by the regulations implementing section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, regarding historic preservation issues on Midway. The agreement addresses the transfer of historic properties identified on Midway in 1996 and how FWS was to treat the properties afterward.

August 1996  Midway opened for public visitation, via Midway Phoenix Corporation management.

1997 – The first systematic marine invertebrate survey is conducted and documents 316 invertebrate species, 250 of which had not been previously recorded at Midway.

April 3, 1997  Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton, presents the “Key to Midway” (in the shape of a Laysan Albatross) to Interior Assistant Secretary Bonnie Cohen. In his speech, Secretary Dalton celebrated “trading guns for goonies” on Midway Island.

June 30, 1997  The last U.S. Navy personnel stationed on Midway Island depart.

1998 –  FWS and the Oceanic Society sponsor the first two Elderhostel historic preservation projects. Working under the supervision of a historic preservation specialist, volunteers clean and preserve the 3-inch antiaircraft gun on Eastern Island, clean and stabilize Battery C, and remove paint from the 5-inch guns in the memorial park. FWS funds roof and soffit repairs on eight officers’ quarters and the Officer-in-Charge house. FWS receives a National Park Service grant for $6,000 to develop a plan for restoring the Armco huts, power plant, and cable station.

March 19, 1998  Midway Phoenix contracts Aloha Airlines to fly chartered 737 flights from Oahu to Midway for visitor and logistical support.   First flight was scheduled for April 29, 1998.

April 29, 1998 –  Aloha Airlines began weekly tourist flights via a Boeing 737 to Midway.

1999 –  FWS and the Oceanic Society sponsor three Elderhostel historic preservation projects. Work includes restoring the theater windows and completing a condition assessment, cleaning and stabilizing Battery A, preserving the 5-inch guns, completing a condition assessment of the cable station, inventorying changes to the buildings, drafting new architectural floor plans, and organizing a library of historic resources.

June 1999 –  FWS issues the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge Historic Preservation Plan 1999, which defines a program to integrate historic preservation planning with the refuge’s wildlife conservation mission.

June 4, 1999  Navy Admiral Jay L. Johnson declares June 4, 1942 (The Battle of Midway) as one of the two most significant dates in naval history, stating this date will henceforth be celebrated annually as the centerpiece of our heritage.

2000-2001 – FWS receives a Save America’s Treasures grant for $308,681 from the National Park Service. The grant provides funds for termite prevention of the officers’ housing, Officer-in-Charge house, theater, and several shop buildings; re-roofing of a cable station building (property number 643; mess hall); and restoration of an ARMCO hut.

September 13, 2000 –  In response to a mandate in the fiscal year 2000 appropriations act, the Secretary of the Interior signs Secretarial Order 3217 designating the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial “so that the heroic courage and sacrifice of those who fought against overwhelming odds to win an incredible victory will never be forgotten.”  Lands and waters of Midway were designated as a Battle of Midway National Memorial.

December 4, 2000 –  Executive Order 13178 establishes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. The reserve encircles the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, except for Midway; however, it directs the Secretary of the Interior to follow the order’s management principles in managing the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to the extent consistent with applicable laws.

January 2002  Midway was closed to visitors due to Cooperative Agreement disputes between Midway Phoenix Corporation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

January 7, 2002 – The fiscal year 2000 appropriations act requires the Secretary of the Interior to consult on a regular basis with organizations with an interest in Midway, including the International Midway Memorial Foundation, on the management of the national memorial. The Secretary of the Interior establishes the Battle of Midway National Memorial Advisory Committee to develop a strategy for a public dedication of the memorial, identify and plan for appropriate exhibits to commemorate this important event, and offer recommendations on improving visitor services.

March 6, 2002 –  The Midway Phoenix Corporation and FWS enter into a settlement agreement to terminate their cooperative agreement.

May 1, 2002  Midway Phoenix make their final exit from the island, citing cooperation issues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

May 1, 2002  GEO-Engineers took over as a temporary contractor to maintain continuity of operations on the island.

May 6, 2002  Assistant Secretary of Interior, Craig Manson, states “The Department of the Interior is fully committed to restoring public access to Midway“.

June 4-7, 2002  Veterans commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway on Sand Island.

January 7, 2002 –  The fiscal year 2000 appropriations act requires the Secretary of the Interior to consult on a regular basis with organizations with an interest in Midway, including the International Midway Memorial Foundation, on the management of the national memorial. The Secretary of the Interior establishes the Battle of Midway National Memorial Advisory Committee to develop a strategy for a public dedication of the memorial, identify and plan for appropriate exhibits to commemorate this important event, and offer recommendations on improving visitor services.

February 2003  As much as 100,000 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel were spilled from a pipeline at the Midway fuel farm. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Response Team, the U.S. Coast Guard and Geo Engineers responded. The Service received $4.5 million in emergency supplemental funds for the fuel spill cleanup effort.

February 26, 2003 –  H.R. 924 is introduced in the House of Representatives, which, if enacted, would require the Secretary of the Interior to designate an agency within the department to replace FWS as administrator of Midway. Congress does not pass H.R. 924.

May 7, 2003  A contract was awarded to Chugach, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chugach Alaska Corporation, to provide operations and maintenance services at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

July 3, 2003 – A  military C-130 makes an emergency landing because an engine is out.

December 9, 2003 – A Feasibility Study was prepared by the IMMF and presented to Assistant Secretary of Interior, Judge Craig Manson, who rejected the recommendation.  This Feasibility Study was prepared at no cost to the government.  The purpose of the study was to determine if an Affordable Visitor Program was financially feasible at Midway.

2004 –  FWS transports 20 endangered Laysan ducks to Midway from their home at Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The birds adapt well to the seeps created on Sand Island and surprised biologists by breeding during their first year, with 12 ducklings successfully fledging. An additional 22 ducks are transported to Midway in 2005, most of which are introduced to Eastern Island. By the end of 2006, more than 100 Laysan ducks are living on Midway.

Jan. 6, 2004 –  A civilian Boeing 777 makes an emergency landing because of left engine issues.

November 22, 2004  FWS closed all airport operations.

April 12, 2005 –  FWS spent $30,000 for a ‘Feasibility Study’, to determine if a Visitor Program were feasible at Midway. The study provided proof and offered examples of how a Visitor Program would work via an alternate Cooperative Agreement with a new Cooperative Contractor. The FWS elected to ignore the recommendations of that report and did not select an alternate Cooperator to run a Visitor Program at Midway, as they said they were going to do, since 2002.

May 26, 2005 –  An oversight hearing entitled “Public Access Within The National Wildlife Refuge System” was held before the Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans, House Committee on Resources. Witnesses include the Chairman of the International Midway Memorial Foundation, who requests that the committee consider designating an agency other that FWS to manage Midway.

January 14, 2006 –  A kayaker drowned at Midway on Saturday 1/14/06, at about 12:30pm – Midway time.  He was a Chugach Thai employee, an electrician, who had only been on the island for a couple of weeks.  He was in a one-person kayak with three others preparing on shore to go with him.  The accident occurred right off-shore, in about chest-deep water.  Apparently, the kayak tipped over and the others did not notice what sort of trouble he was in, until it was too late.  The kayaker became entangled in the straps that are supposed to be used for a seat back-support.  It was reported that he tied the straps around his waist, like a seat-belt.

June 15, 2006  President George Bush establishes Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Midway Atoll NWR and the Battle of Midway National Memorial.  Proclamation 8031 designates the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The monument is one of the largest fully protected marine managed areas in the world.

February 28, 2007 –  Proclamation 8031 is amended by Proclamation 8112 to give the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument the Hawaiian name Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

March 1, 2007 –  The First Lady (Laura Bush) visits Midway in recognition of the newly designated Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and to increase public awareness of its exceptional marine ecosystem. On March 2, 2007, in a ceremony in Honolulu, accompanied by the Governor of Hawaii and native Hawaiian elders, she announces the new native Hawaiian name of the marine monument. While on Midway, she stayed at the Midway House, the former commanding officer’s residence and current home of the refuge manager.

June 4, 2007  Veterans commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway on Sand Island.

December 28, 2007  Midway public access still closed.

2008 – FWS contracts for a condition assessment of the cable station. Because of their deteriorated condition, a decision was made to salvage and dismantle three of the four two-story buildings and save one. FWS contracts to salvage the windows, doors, and other fixtures of the cable station.

January – 2008  After a six-year lapse, tourism reopened on Midway in very small, limited groups -paying about $7000 for their flights to Midway.

March – 2008  Limited public access to the island was restored, in very small groups -paying about $7000 for their flights to Midway.

2008  Visitor Program open to smaller tourist and student groups – about 250 to 325 total visitors for this year – Max capacity – 30 per week / Airplane max capacity – 18 passengers per flight – with each visitor paying about $7000 per visit.

2009  Visitor Program open to smaller tourist and student groups – about 250 to 325 total visitors for this year – Max capacity – 30 per week / Airplane max capacity – 18 passengers per flight – with each visitor paying about $7000 per visit.

2009 –  FWS’s Cultural Resources Team travels to Midway with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to record the terrestrial elements associated with the Battle of Midway for the American Battlefield Grant. Consultation is completed for the cable station and a memorandum of agreement is signed with stipulations that mitigate for the loss of three buildings. Engineering and historic preservation firms assess the condition of the seaplane hangar and present the results in two different studies. They begin the process of developing appropriate plans and costs for rehabilitating the seaplane hangar.

July 8, 2009 –  A military F-18 conducts an emergency landing because an engine is out.

2010  Visitor Program open to smaller tourist and student groups – about 250 to 325 total visitors for this year – Max capacity – 30 per week / Airplane max capacity – 18 passengers per flight – with each visitor paying more than $7000 per visit.

July 30, 2010 –  Delegates to the United Nations’ Educational Scientific and Cultural Organizations 34th World Heritage Convention agree to inscribe Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as one of 28 mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Sites.

December 2010 –  FWS revises its Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge Historic Preservation Plan 1999 and reissues it in December 2010.  Officer 2-Story Houses were rehabilitated. These homes are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.  FWS collected $2.84 million from an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to Rehabilitate 2-story homes and to add solar water heating.

2011 –  FWS facilities maintenance officials spent $193,000 for estimates to repair the Seaplane Hangar – which included the costs to transport and house potential bidders on Midway as well as to transport and house three to four staff members from the winning bidder to conduct work necessary for developing the estimate.  Plans and costs to rehabilitate/repair the seaplane hangar are finalized and contract bids are reviewed.  The project is halted because of the high cost.

2011  Visitor Program open to smaller tourist and student groups – about 250 to 325 total visitors for this year – Max capacity – 30 per week / Airplane max capacity – 18 passengers per flight – with each visitor paying about $7000 per visit.

March 10 – 11, 2011  Midway Tsunami – Cause by 9.0 earthquake in Japan
Following a massive earthquake in Japan, Midway was partially washed over by four successive tsunami waves—the tallest being 4.9 feet. There were no human casualties and no damage to buildings, but old seawalls suffered extensive damage. Due to the quake’s timing at the height of the breeding season, an estimated 110,000 Laysan and black-footed albatross chicks were killed in low-lying areas. As many as 2,000 adult albatrosses were also killed, as well as many Bonin petrels that drowned in their underground burrows. Introduced and endangered Laysan ducks suffered substantial losses on Eastern Island which was overwashed by the tsunami wave that covered the island by sixty percent.

June 4, 2012 –  Veterans commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway on Sand Island.  The Navy lands a 737 on Midway, with about 100 attendees for the Battle of Midway Ceremony.  FWS handed out this brochure for the ceremony.

June 16, 2011   A Delta Airlines Boeing 747 jumbo jet with 380 passengers and crew made an emergency landing at Midway after a “sudden and serious” crack developed in the plane’s windscreen. Delta Flight 277 was en route from Honolulu to Osaka, Japan, at the time of the incident. The plane struck two albatrosses on its approach but suffered only minor damage to a flap. The passengers were later transferred to another Delta jet.

August 2, 2012 –  A military F-18 makes an emergency landing at Midway because of an in-flight emergency.

October 22, 2012  Google completes a Street View scan of Midway.

October 23, 2012  USFWS suspends Midway’s Visitor Program citing agency budget cutbacks.

November 14, 2012  Midway’s Public Visitation Program is suspended.

July 2013  SKI Warehouse demolished by FWS, as scheduled.

August 2013  Four of Five Historic Cable Houses were demolished by FWS, as scheduled.

September 2013  Historic Marine Barracks (buildings #578 and #579) were demolished by FWS, as scheduled, without notification to or consultation, as required by Public Law 106-113. The cost of demolition and remediation was $2.7 million.

November 30, 2013  Midway Visitor Program remains closed.

2014  USFWS volunteer program restarts.

July 10, 2014 –  A Boeing 777 en route to Guam with 348 passengers makes an unscheduled landing at Midway because of smoke in the cockpit.

August – 2014 A 35-foot sailboat was denied access to the Midway Harbor, after its on-board water maker stopped working.  The FWS stated their “biosecurity protocols dictate that un-permitted vessels should not be allowed access to the lagoon unless for an emergency”.  The FWS gathered water jugs and delivered them to the boat outside the lagoon.

November – 2014   Midway Visitor Program remains closed.

November 20, 2014  Fish and Wildlife Oversight Hearing, held in Washington D.C. – To determine if the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is being properly managed?”.

March – 2015 Midway Visitor Program remains closed – No plan to reopen the Visitor Program at Midway.

April 7, 2015 – April 21, 2015  Three GAO Auditors on-island to audit USFWS, in response to the November 20, 2014 FWS Oversight Hearing – To determine if the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is being properly managed.

July 14, 2015 –  Two U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, one with a cabin pressure malfunction, make an emergency landing on Midway.

September 2015  FWS completes demolition of Fuel Farm Storage Tanks, as scheduled, despite request to pause demolition, for 10 years, at a November 2014 Oversight Hearing.

May 6, 2016  14 years from the day Assistant Secretary of Interior, Craig Manson stated, The Department of the Interior is fully committed to restoring public access to Midway – The Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway National Memorial remain closed to the public, with no apparent plan to reopen.  Airport and Harbor services are closed to everyone, except where an emergency is declared.

April 26, 2016  Visitor Program still closed to the public, with no plan by FWS to reopen.

May 2016  The USFWS on Midway denied the International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF)’s request to land on Midway’s airstrip on June 4, 2017 for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Midway.

June 2, 2016  The long-awaited Government Accountability Report was released on June 2, 2016.  This Audit / Investigative Report was a result of the November 21, 2014 Hearing, in Washington D.C.
Here’s a link to the 117 page PDF GAO Report
Here’s a link to a GAO Video of the Midway Report
Here’s a link to GAO photos

September 1, 2016  President Obama visits Midway Island
Click here to see video and media news articles about his visit
American Flags are flown from two locations on the island.

November 11, 2016 – Veteran’s Day – The Fish and Wildlife Service did not fly the American Flag, from any location on the island.

December 7, 2016 – Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration Day – 75 years ago Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese at 7:48 am. It was also 75 years ago that Midway was first attacked by two Japanese Battleships, within a few hours of the major attack on Pearl Harbor.  Two Imperial Japanese destroyers bombarded Sand Island. 75 years ago First Lieutenant George Ham Cannon-USMC was killed in the old Power House at Midway. He was later awarded (posthumously) the nation’s highest military award – the Medal of Honor.  These events occurred prior to the Battle of Midway. The BOM occurred between June 4 and June 7 of 1942 – six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Fish and Wildlife Service did not fly the American Flag, from any location on the island, on December 7, 2016.

May 11, 2017 – Newly appointed Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, seeks input for Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment – Public asked to weigh in on future of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

June 5, 201775th Battle of Midway Ceremony, held at multiple locations including Midway Island This year, the USFWS limited the number of visitors to the island to only 25.  The International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) was denied permission to land a chartered plane at the Midway airport, to accomodate other veterans and visitors to attend the ceremony.  The Midway ceremony included a live satellite feed for others to watch.

July 6, 2017 – A USFWS employee was attacked by a Hawaiian Monk Seal at Midway, while swimming at Midway.  The employee was the same person who had previously posted ‘Keep-Away’ signs for others to stay away from the same mother seal and her new pup.

2 thoughts on “Chronology

  1. Great report. Midway should be taken away from FWS and turned over to the National Park Service so a viable and cost effective visitor program could be established.

  2. Concur with Mr. Estes. As a retired USN officer, I would like to revisit the island having gone to Midway Island 3 times on official duty. If I am able to visit, I will take an American flag with me, because it appears FWS has a shortage of flags. (What else could account for the lack of patriotism by not flying our flag?)

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