WWII Veteran To Help Mark 75th Anniversary Of Battle Of Midway

CHICAGO (CBS) — A U.S. Navy veteran from Northbrook who fought in the Battle of Midway was headed to Midway International Airport on Tuesday to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the conflict considered to be the turning point in the Pacific in World War II.

Jack Coombe, 92, was just starting his naval career when he found himself first under attack at Pearl Harbor, and later aboard the USS Pierce, a troop transport, during the Battle of Midway.

Coombe said the 1942 clash with the Japanese fleet surprised the sailors, in a way, but he said the Navy had expected it, and they had practiced for it.

“Of course, I hadn’t been in the Navy much longer before that, but oh yes, we had received a lot of intelligence that something is going to happen. This was going to be a big deal,” he said. “We were well-trained for it, anyway. It was just that once the surprise went out, it sort of dissipated, and then we went to work. We really … everything was we were going to win this war. We weren’t going to let Japan win it, at all costs, and that was our battle cry.”

The battle was a decisive victory for the U.S., as Navy planes destroyed four of the six Japanese aircraft carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier, leaving the U.S. with a decisive advantage in the Pacific.

The U.S. lost only one carrier, the Yorktown, and one destroyer; and within months, the U.S. gained naval supremacy in the Pacific.

Coombe will join Retired Navy Vice Admiral Dirk Debbink and several city officials at Midway International Airport on Tuesday to discuss the historic battle. The airport was named after the Battle of Midway in 1949, and is home to a restored Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber similar to the ones flown against the Japanese.

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