The young men of Midway

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You may have to strain to see the young man that is still probably inside these old men, who were honored today. Bill Roy (2nd R) and Henry Kudzik (4th R) were escorted after commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

The battle of Midway took place in the south Pacific, six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It was the most important naval battle of the Pacific campaign, and spanned two days.

Richard Fleming of Saint Paul was one of those young men. The St. Thomas Military Academy and University of Minnesota graduate enlisted in the Marines and, after his flight training, flew to Midway Island from Pearl Harbor 10 days after the war began.

His Medal of Honor citation picks up the story from there.

When his Squadron Commander was shot down during the initial attack upon an enemy aircraft carrier, Capt. Fleming led the remainder of the division with such fearless determination that he dived his own plane to the perilously low altitude of 400 feet before releasing his bomb. Although his craft was riddled by 179 hits in the blistering hail of fire that burst upon him from Japanese fighter guns and antiaircraft batteries, he pulled out with only 2 minor wounds inflicted upon himself.

On the night of 4 June, when the squadron commander lost his way and became separated from the others, Capt. Fleming brought his own plane in for a safe landing at its base despite hazardous weather conditions and total darkness. The following day, after less than 4 hours’ sleep, he led the second division of his squadron in a coordinated glide-bombing and dive-bombing assault upon a Japanese battleship. Undeterred by a fateful approach glide, during which his ship was struck and set afire, he grimly pressed home his attack to an altitude of 500 feet, released his bomb to score a near miss on the stern of his target, then crashed to the sea in flames.

On 24 November 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Capt Fleming’s mother.

Fleming Field in South Saint Paul is named in his honor.

  • Jim Shapiro

    In a few years, nearly everyone who fought in the last Good War will be gone.

    How are we gonna frame our pride in militarism THEN?