Chronology of Events

Big gun


5 July 1859  Captain N.C. Brooks of the Hawaiian Bark Gambia is the first Westerner to record the atoll. Islands were named "Middlebrook Islands".

28 August 1867  Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna takes possession of the atoll for the United States. Midway becomes the first offshore islands annexed by the U.S. government.

20 January 1903  Due to recurring complaints of Japanese squatters and poachers, President Theodore Roosevelt places the atoll under the control of the Navy.

20 April 1903  Commercial Pacific Cable Company's first contingent arrives on island.

June 1903  U.S. Navy ejects Japanese poachers and squatters and appoints Commercial Pacific Cable Company as island custodians.

4 July 1903  The first "around the world" cable message was sent via Midway by President Roosevelt. The message took nine minutes.

12 April 1935  Pan American World Airways sets up an air base for weekly Trans-Pacific Flying Clipper Seaplane service.

March 1940  Private contractors start construction of the runways on Eastern and other infrastructure on Sand Island in preparation for possible hostilities.

1 August 1941  U.S. Naval Air Station Midway is commissioned.

7 December 1941  Two Japanese destroyers, the "Midway Neutralization Unit," shelled Midway. Four men were killed, including the war's first Marine Corps recipient of the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant George Cannon.

3-6 June 1942  Japanese launched an attack against Midway in the hope of engaging and destroying the U.S. aircraft carriers and occupying Midway. U.S. Fleet aircraft ambush the Japanese Fleet north of the islands inflicting heavy losses (four aircraft carriers), thus turning the tide of the War in the Pacific.

15 July 1942  The submarine base at Midway is commissioned. The base was of great strategic importance in the entire Pacific arena and of operational importance to submarines based at Pearl Harbor.

1955-1965  Midway plays host to squadrons of Super Constellation "Willy Victor" radar aircraft and crews that played the role of the eyes and ears of the Nation forming the Distant Early Warning line in coordination with radar picket ships. 

8 June 1969  U.S. President Nixon and South Vietnam President Thieu conduct secret meetings in the Midway House - the Commanding Officer's residence. 

October 1978  Naval Air Station Midway re-designated Naval Air Facility and dependents begin to depart. As many as 5,000 personnel and dependents were stationed here at the height of the Cold and Vietnam Wars. 

23 November 1985  Pan American B747 "China Clipper II" visits Midway to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first China Clipper flight. 

22 April 1988  Midway Atoll is designated as an overlay National Wildlife Refuge. 

30 September 1993  Naval Air Facility Midway is "operationally closed" and the Navy initiates plans for environmental cleanup of the atoll. 

August 1995  Battle of Midway Memorial erected and dedicated on Sand Island. 

31 October 1996  President Clinton signs Executive Order 13022 transferring jurisdiction of Midway Atoll from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. 

3 April 1997  Secretary of the Navy John Dalton presents the "key to Midway" (in the shape of a Laysan Albatross) to Interior Assistant Secretary Bonnie Cohen. In his speech, Secretary Dalton celebrated "trading guns for goonies" on Midway Atoll. 

30 June 1997  The last U.S. Navy personnel stationed on Midway Atoll depart. 

13 September 2000  Lands and waters of Midway Atoll NWR designated as the Battle of Midway National Memorial.

4-7 June 2002  Veterans commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway on Sand Island. 

15 June 2006  President George Bush establishes Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Midway Atoll NWR and the Battle of Midway National Memorial.

4 June 2007  Veterans commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midway on Sand Island. 

4 June 2012  Veterans commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the historic Battle of Midw