A Government Accounting Office (GAO) investigation (and subsequent report) and a House hearing were prompted by evidence provided by the International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) in 2014 to Congressman John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs and Congressman John Duncan (R-TN). The investigation was conducted to scrutinize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s management of the historic aspects of Midway Atoll. This inquiry also included an investigation of the closing of the islands to public visitation since November 2012, and an assessment of FWS’ management of Midway’s infrastructure. It was completed in May and released to the Congress and governmental agencies. The report became available to the public on June 3.
The GAO stressed the importance of Midway as an alternative landing site for aircraft in the Pacific both for emergency landings and for lowering the cost to the airlines for trans-Pacific travel, without which the airline industry would have to fly in closer proximity to Alaska which would increase flying time across the Pacific, thus the cost of trans-Pacific air travel.
The report failed to address the solution to the fundamental issue involving the Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) management of the historic structures and buildings ---- that is the FSW non-preservation policy of demolition by neglect, as it relates to the historic aspects on Midway. While the GAO report did point out that FWS’ notification process was flawed (the agency did not directly contact key parties of interest in writing before they demolished historic buildings or structures), the GAO did not address the issue of the process itself, that is, the FWS can continue to implement its destructive policy of demolition by neglect, as long as FWS notifies the key parties and the public.
The GAO also failed to address the role of the private sector in resolving the issue of the closure of Midway Atoll to public visitation, and of its financial viability. It defended FWS’ action by stating it was “budgetary” in nature. There was no mention of the fact that private sector management of Midway Atoll was the key to the financial success of Midway as demonstrated by the years (1996-2002) that the Midway Phoenix Corporation operated the infrastructure and public visitation to Midway at minimal tax-payer expense.
To further remove any possibility that the private sector has an opportunity to resolve the financial issues at Midway, FWS took steps to remove one vital component that is critical to the private management of Midway. The Agency removed the sale of aviation fuel as a source of revenue for the private sector operating the Atoll by demolishing the two large fuel tanks on the islands (another example of demolition by neglect) which held four million gallons of aviation fuel, and then installed a new system that holds only four hundred and fifty thousand gallons. This action removed one of the main sources of revenue for any potential private sector manager. The GAO failed to report that FWS’ own study in 2005 recommended that a private sector manager was a reasonable approach to maintain public visitation to Midway and therefore place the Atoll on sound financial footing. This recommendation has since been rejected by the Service, thus ensuring their position that they lack funding to adequately preserve the historic structures and buildings on Midway.
Lastly, the GAO report failed to directly address that the FWS did not follow the law (Section 126 of the 1999 Omnibus Bill) that “the Secretary shall consult on a regular basis with such organizations, including the International Midway Memorial Foundation on the management of the National Memorial. “
Overall the GAO report failed to adequately address the fundamental issue involving FWS’ management, that is, that the obvious solution to the many financial and operational difficulties facing Midway, including the closure of the Atoll to public visitation is: the private sector management of the Midway Atoll.
The Annual Midway Night Dinner held in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2016 was a great success. Dave Jourdan, president of Nauticos, delivered a great narrative on the history of the Nautilus submarine in the Battle of Midway and its crew members, as well as the means he took Nautilus’ logs) to discover remnants of the Japanese carrier Kaga. Dave has published a book entitled The Search for the Japanese Carriers based upon his experience in this endeavor. During the program, Dave Jourdan and James Delgado, Director of NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program received the International Midway Memorial Foundation’s highest honor, the sterling silver National Memorial Coin, for their dedication to the discovery of the sunken Japanese carriers and other remnants from the Battle of Midway. Five Midway veterans, Captain Jack Crawford, USN (Yorktown), William Fentress, (Yorktown), Henry Kudzu, (Nautilus) LCDR Joseph E. Miller, USN (Hornet) and Bill Nordberg (Enterprise), were present at this years’ dinner commemoration.
Senator Dan Sullivan from Alaska has been trying to gain approval from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for the introduction of a bill that would direct the U.S. Postal Service to issue a 75th anniversary Battle of Midway stamp. A meeting is scheduled for July 6 in Washington, D.C. between Senator Dan Sullivan’s staff (Erik Elam) and Harry Burroughs and myself to discuss the issue.
The IMMF accepted an invitation by FWS to be a consultant for a Remembrance Ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Midway on Midway Atoll on June 4, 2017, as well as related events to be held on Oahu. I, along with Harry Burroughs, member of the Board of Trustees will meet with Kevin Foerster (Regional Chief, Pacific Region) and Alice Garrett (Special Assistant to the Regional Refuge Chief, Pacific Region) to discuss the ceremony and other historical aspects of Midway Atoll including public visitation on July 6.
Dr. William Dudley and Harry Burroughs, members of the Board of Trustees, deserve to be recognized for their efforts in arranging meetings with the following members of Congress: Dr. Dudley is responsible for an IMMF meeting with the staff of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) and Harry Burroughs is responsible for meetings with the staff of Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Congressman Hal Rodgers (R-KY). Without their dedication and support, accomplishing the goals of the Foundation would much more difficult. On behalf of the Foundation members, I extend our sincere thanks.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, Nauticos and the IMMF are planning the next step in the task to find one or more of the Japanese fleet sunk during the Battle Midway. We will keep our members updated in the next issue of the Midway Sentinel.
Chris and I wish everyone a happy summer.