Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

June 5, 2014

Midway Island Reunion

LUCAS — One of the first things Michael Wilson did Thursday during opening ceremonies for the Midway Island Reunion at Barren River Lake State Resort Park was recognize those who fought in the Battle of Midway or had a connection to the island in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Wilson, who spearheaded the development of the reunion, asked those people to stand and tell what years they were on the island. Most were servicemen who had been stationed at Midway for a time during their military careers. Wilson was there in 1972 and 1973, after Vietnam.

Only two who were present actually fought in the battle in June 1942: John Wood of Glasgow and James Edwards of Louisville. Both are also survivors of the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor.

Edwards was a bit surprised he and Wood were the only battle survivors in attendance.

“That tells us that we are getting kind of senior,” said Edwards.

He was stationed off the coast of Midway from 1941-42, before the battle and during it. He served as a gunner’s mate on a catapult.

“I actually wasn’t on the island. We took some Marines out there before the war. Every six months they would change the Marines out. After fleet maneuvers in the summer 1941, we took some Marines out and brought some back to Pearl Harbor,” he said. “During the Battle of Midway, that was in 1942, we came back from the Far Off Sea Battle and we came out with the U.S.S. Enterprise to Midway. We were there for three days during the Battle of Midway.”  

Wood, a Marine, was stationed at Camp Catlin during the battle.

State Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, was one of several dignitaries who spoke during opening ceremonies.

“The Battle of Midway, from what I read and what I understand, was a pivotal battle,” Bell said. “It was a battle that turned the tide in the Pacific.”

Bell thanked those who won the battle. Even though they were “out-manned and out-gunned ... ,” Bell said, “through sheer determination and tenacity they were able to pull off a victory.”

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, also spoke during opening ceremonies. Guthrie quoted Sir Winston Churchill, who asked the question, “Who do these people think we are?” after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“They got their answer at the Battle of Midway. That’s who we were,” Guthrie said.

Also attending was World War II veteran Robert North of Gallatin, Tenn., who was stationed at Midway in 1944.

North’s granddaughter, Erin Kingrey, who lives in Austin, was with him.

“We’ve heard lots of his stories,” she said.

She and other family members accompanied North to the reunion for a couple of reasons.  

“We wanted to be here with him and hear some of the stories that he’s going to tell, and maybe meet some of the other people who have been there and just be here to support him,” Kingrey said.

Three people attended opening ceremonies who were born on the island.

Michelle Tenderholt of Houston was born on the island in 1968. She has no memory of what it was like to live there.  

“I remember growing up my mom having the old film reels showing pictures of the island and my older sisters and brothers being on it,” she said.

Her sister, Yvonne Pittenger of Spokane, Wash., attended kindergarten while they lived at Midway and returned to the island in 2012.

Her visit, she said, “was very bittersweet.”

“It’s changed a lot. The school is no longer there. A lot of the housing has been torn down,” she said. “There is one little strip that is still pretty much as it was, but it is a shadow of what it was.”

Lisa Brackin of Sebastian, Fla., was also born on the island. She came to the reunion for a multitude of reasons.

“One, were on Facebook together, so when Mike started this, of course we were very supportive and there is a small group of us who are in the process of trying to address what is going on out on Midway,” she said.

Brackin has returned to Midway on several occasions. In 1997, she worked for the Midway Phoenix Corp., which formerly had a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to open the island to visitors.

Brackin is hoping to share with those attending the reunion what is happening to the island and stress to them that the history of Midway cannot be lost.

Following opening ceremonies, reunion attendees were invited to visit the Stonehaven Art Gallery where various pieces of memorabilia from Midway were on display.

A tour of the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center and a visit to the Barren County Veterans Wall of Honor was also planned for the day.

The reunion continues throughout the weekend and concludes with a memorial service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the state park. A public concert by the 113th Army band of Fort Knox will perform on Glasgow’s public square during closing ceremonies at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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