Finding Meaning

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A Season for Patriots

By Skip Hellewell

American Legion Post 222 did us proud with their 92nd annual Memorial Day program in Heisler Park. We’re in the season of patriotism, which runs from Memorial Day, through Flag Day on June 14, until the Fourth of July. This coming week marks the Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942, and the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. These two great battles deserve our remembrance.

Military historian John Keegan declared the Battle of Midway, which came just six months after the ignominy of Pearl Harbor, “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” Midway was a carrier battle involving three storied U.S. carriers: USS Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. The Yorktown, damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea, was only there because of a non-stop 72-hour repair at Pearl Harbor. There were three keys to our fortuitous victory at Midway.

The first was the codebreakers, mainly women skilled at math. Midway was a feint by the Japanese to engage and destroy ships they had missed at Pearl Harbor—aircraft carriers that had been at sea. Thanks to the code-breakers, who pieced together the time and place of attack, the enemy’s feint became our ambush.

The second key was the courage and sacrifice of three squadrons of torpedo bombers. Flying slow, obsolete planes armed with ineffective torpedoes they found the carriers first, courageously pressed their attack, and were destroyed by enemy fire. Of 38 bombers, just five returned, and no torpedo found its target. Their seemingly-senseless sacrifice gained one advantage—the distraction of the carrier defense.

The third key was good fortune. The American attack had been piece-meal rather than coordinated—we were still learning the intricacies of carrier warfare. But fortune blessed us thanks to the sacrifices of the torpedo bombers, for the late-arriving Dauntless dive-bombers were able to make their attack largely unopposed. Three enemy carriers were destroyed in six minutes; the fourth was sank on a return attack that afternoon. These four carriers, participants in the attack on Pearl Harbor, were a national investment Japan could not replace. After Midway, allied forces owned the offensive in the Pacific.

For D-Day, I share three memories from my uncle Don Bosworth, a paratrooper who landed in the hours before the invasion. There was tension during the night flight over the English Channel—these were young men going to war for the first time—until the light of the moon revealed a naval armada that stretched as far as they could see. He never forgot that view, and the comfort it gave that help was on the way. His next memory was of nervously approaching a French farm that first morning and the warm, welcoming hug from the wife of the house for these conquering youths. His third memory came from a pitched battle defending a crossroad near Amfreville. He had broken his ankle on landing and as staff sergeant was using a farmer’s wheelbarrow to replenish ammunition during the fight. He was awarded a metal, a bronze star as I recall, for bravely exposing himself to enemy fire. Don later confided that the metal was undeserved, for in the adrenalin of his first battle, he had not noticed he was the enemy’s target.

Freedom isn’t free, someone has to pay for it. It’s good that we pause to remember the sacrifices of those patriots. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Skip
    Thank you, your efforts are appreciated. Thanks for helping us remember the cost of freedom and the sacrifices and commitment so many have paid through the armed services.

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