Hello, Midway Family! Welcome back to “Karl’s Korner”, a historical segment written by myself, Karl Zingheim – Ship Historian of the USS Midway Museum.
As we fly in to 2020, I wanted my first post of the year to highlight the significance of 1945. This year was a crucial year for Midway and really for the entire world. Today I will share with you why that is and in the coming months, I will continue to illustrate the hallmark moments and significant anniversaries that we are honoring this year as a result of the crucial year.
Three quarters of a century ago, humanity, and the future USS Midway, endured a tumultuous year that closed the door on an older world order, and saw the dawn of a troubled new era, uncertain of its path.
The start of 1945 found the last sputter of Nazi Germany’s attempt to divide the Allied armies in Belgium with the Battle of the Bulge and a costly Luftwaffe assault on British and American airbases. To the east, massive Soviet armies stood poised to conquer the western half of Poland and invade German soil. In Italy, the peninsular war was finished, and German forces prepared to fall back upon the foothills of the Alps. Half a world away, MacArthur’s forces readied for the return to Luzon as Spruance’s Fifth Fleet finalized preparations to assault a forbidding volcanic island known as Iwo Jima. In Southeast Asia, U.S.-led Chinese armies battered their way into northernmost Burma to permit a new overland supply for their homeland, while British forces drove on Mandalay to the south.
By the following month, the imminent demise of the Axis powers was obvious, and the major Allied leaders conferred in the Crimea at Tsar Nicholas’ old resort at Yalta. The meeting’s topics ranged from how to mutually administer Germany to finding a method to rapidly defeat Japan. Though burdened with immediate demands, Roosevelt and Stalin, if not Churchill, were in fact ushering out a centuries-old world of empire and imposition, a process that began more than thirty years earlier with the preceding World War. In that contest, while some empires merely expanded at the expense of others, the seeds of nationalism were amply sowed, and the catharsis of the Second World War would soon see the germination of independence movements within the surviving imperial orders. In Eastern Europe, states that were familiar with a youthful sovereignty would be ensnared in a defensive arrangement with the Soviet Union that usurped self-determination and prosperity for decades to come.
In the summer of 1945, the spectacular rise of atomic weaponry made the price of waging war on a titanic scale unthinkable, but did nothing to exclude smaller conflicts. For America, her traditionally parochial interests in hemispheric affairs were overtaken by a dawning realization that the radically altered world demanded constant global involvement, with profound implications for generations of American policymakers and military personnel. Into this pivotal year, the USS Midway arrived, designed to fight a particular war, but destined to wage a very different conflict.
Over the course of this year, we will examine aspects from seventy-five years ago that set the stage for the USS Midway to enter.
Today, Midway celebrates 16 years along the San Diego Harbor as a ship museum attracting visitors from around the world! I look forward to sharing more of the Midway story with your this year, stay tuned!
Please leave me a comment below and tell me what you thought of this month’s Karl’s Korner and any questions you may have about the Midway or any of our aircraft and exhibits onboard.
Launch em’… until next time,