News Release

Historic World War II Seaplane Hangar to be Restored on Midway Atoll

June 4, 2010


Contacts

Barbara Maxfield, (808) 792-9531 or 753-0440
Dan Dennison, (808) 397-2660 ext. 230


Amidst a group of visitors honoring the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is launching a multiyear, multimillion dollar rehabilitation project to preserve the historic seaplane hangar within the Battle of Midway National Memorial at Midway Atoll. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the most iconic remnants of the Battle of Midway.

“The building appears a bit tattered today, but the basic structure is in reasonably good shape,” said Barry Stieglitz, project leader for the National Wildlife Refuge System in the Pacific Islands. “You can walk into the seaplane hangar today and still see the shrapnel damage from attacks nearly 70 years ago, bearing witness to the rich history and resilience of the structure.”

The seaplane hangar, like many of the other buildings on Midway, was designed by a famous industrial architect, Albert Kahn (perhaps best known for designing Ford Motor Company plants). The building became a standard hangar design, called “Midway-Type,” that was used at Naval Air Stations at Barbers Point and Kaneohe Bay.

Midway’s seaplane hangar was built in late 1940 or 1941 and housed two squadrons of amphibious aircraft, known as PBY Catalinas, during World War II. These aircraft were on constant patrol to survey for the location of enemy ships, and the crew of one such scouting patrol was the first to discover the Japanese invasion force on June 3, 1942. After the battle, PBY crews rescued dozens of downed American and Japanese survivors.

The hangar was shelled on the night of December 7, 1941 – the same night as the raid on Pearl Harbor – and was also set ablaze and nearly destroyed during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. Only half of the massive hangar was repaired and rebuilt after the battle, and it has been in nearly continuous use since the 1940s.

“Maintaining buildings – historic or not – on remote, low-level islands is a tremendous challenge,” Stieglitz said. “Rain, salt water, and wind entering the building through holes in the roof, missing windows, and broken wall panels eat away at the steel structural elements. The deteriorating roof needs to be made watertight; the east side hangar doors need to be removed so that the wall can be stabilized; and asbestos and lead paint are hazardous materials that require removal and safe disposal.”

A condition assessment report developed priority recommendations to guide the work, and a detailed plan to direct the repairs will be created this year. Implementation should start next year.

Each year, the Fish and Wildlife Service joins with Military Historical Tours and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Midway. The U.S. Navy also provided a color guard and chaplain for the ceremony. Veterans, their families, and military history enthusiasts spend about 10 hours at Midway Atoll participating in the ceremony and touring historic sites.

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway National Memorial are within Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument. Papah?naumoku?kea is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of Northwestern Hawaiian ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations. Three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and State of Hawai‘i – joined by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, protect this special place, which is now being considered for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more information, please visit www.papahanaumokuakea.gov.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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