Aug 4th, 2017

Chicago Midway: Where did it get its Name?

Where did the airport, Chicago Midway, get its name?  I always assumed (you know what you get when you assume) that it earned its moniker by being geographically located midway across the country…wrong!  The real story is below:

While on vacation in July, I had a three hour layover at Chicago Midway.  Since I had missed my thrice weekly run earlier in the day, I decided to go for a thirty minute speed walk through the terminal.  I suppose it is like exercising in a mall.

As I headed toward Terminal A, I ran into a fantastic display on the Battle of Midway during World War II.  Aha, I thought, that is where the terminal got its name.  After reading the interesting displays, my suspicions were confirmed.  Apparently many men who had ties to Chicago helped win this battle in June of 1942.

Chicago has a naval training base called, Naval Station Great Lakes.  During World War II, men were trained to fly off of carriers at this base located on Lake Michigan.  Overhead I saw a SBD-3, a US Navy Scout Dive Bomber, which was sunk in the lake during training and later beautifully restored.  Many of the men trained at Great Lakes later fought at the Battle of Midway.

The battle itself was the turning point in the war in the Pacific.  For the first several months of World War II, the Japanese enjoyed victory after victory in the Pacific.  Finally at Midway the United States was able to win a battle and inflict huge damage on the Japanese Navy.  The battle was won against long odds as the Japanese possessed a superior fleet at the time.

A display credits three factors for the victory.  First of all, a group of hard working men in Hawaii were able to crack the secret Japanese military code.  Hence we learned that the Japanese planned an attack on Midway Island and the US was able to surprise them.  Secondly, Admiral Chester Nimitz devised a superb strategy to use against the larger Japanese forces. Finally, the US pilots and crewmembers displayed unusual courage and valor.  As a result, the US sunk four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of their own.  The Japanese fleet had to retreat to Japan and never went on the offensive again in the next three years of the war.

Nimitz quote thanking his troops

I am so glad that the city of Chicago decided to name the airport after this important battle so that the gravest sacrifices made by the US troops back in 1942 will be preserved for all to remember.  Below is how retired Marine and school volunteer, Edgar Fox, put it.