To commemmorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, I thought I would post the names of a few of the Montanans who participated in one of the most important sea battles of all time. In May 1942, Allied airplanes defeated the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Coral Sea, although the carrier USS Lexington was lost with several sailors from the Treasure State aboard. At the same time, Japanese troops overran the fortified island of Corregidor in Manila Bay, the last American stronghold in the Philippines. Defenders of the island were killed or captured, and at home, the casualty lists of Montanans killed or missing in the Pacific became a regular feature in local newspapers.
Warm weather in June 1942 weather brought a sense of optimism to the Treasure state. Although no one really knew it at the time, a turning point was reached in the Pacific War during the Battle of Midway (June 4 through June 7). The news that four Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser had been sunk in the Battle of Midway, balanced by the loss of one American destroyer and the aricraft carrier USS Yorktown, came as a welcome ray of hope after the military reverses of the previous winter and spring.
Charles M. Mason, the son of Missoula’s mayor, and Wayne Daigle, also of Missoula, were rescued from the USS Yorktown when it sank.
Capt. James Murphy of Roundup (B-17 pilot) was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Star with four clusters for his actions at Midway, Bismarck Sea, and New Guinea.
Ens. James Shelton of Denton was killed attacking the Japanese fleet at Midway. He was a member of Scout Squadron Six, based on the USS Enterprise. His squadron of Dauntless bombers attacked and sank the Japanese carrier Kaga. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, and a destroyer escort, the USS Shelton, was named after him. The USS Shelton was commissioned in May 1944 and was sunk on November 20, 1944.