NEWPORT, R.I. -- On the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, U.S. naval historian John Parshall told Naval War College students and faculty that "minions" or subordinate commanders played a vital role in achieving the seminal naval victory.
"You must appreciate the value of good minions," Parshall said during the June 4 commemoration, 68 years to the day the battle began between U.S. and Japanese forces to control the key Pacific Ocean atoll.
Regarded as the turning point in the Pacific during World War II, the Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942. Each year the U.S. Navy renews a commitment to appreciate and preserve the nation's Midway naval history and heritage.
Parshall, whose historical book "The Shattered Sword" is considered an authoritative account of the battle, urged Naval War College students to "value the contributions and capabilities of your subordinates."
"Sometimes, and history has proven it, you have to show a lack of ego and get the heck out of the way," said Parshall, who offered two examples of how the expertise of "minions" helped win the Battle of Midway.
The first example was that of Lt. Richard Halsey Best, an expert dive-bomber pilot under the overall command of air group commander Lt. Cmdr. C. Wade McClusky. Best and his Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) are credited with scoring hits that helped sink the carriers Akagi and Hiryu after becoming separated from McClusky's Torpedo Squadron Six (VT-6).
The other example given by Parshall involved Adm. Raymond Spruance, former Naval War College graduate, faculty member and president. Spruance is credited for helping the Americans avoid an all-out naval surface clash with the enemy during the Battle of Midway, Parshall said.
Spruance was a "minion" of Adm. Frank Fletcher during the Battle of Midway, Parshall said. Fletcher was the operational commander who informed Spruance on the evening of June 4, 1942, "You're in charge, and then he went to bed. Later on, Fletcher was asked about that decision and responded, 'I have good officers under me. They know how to carry on in my absence,'" Parshall said.
Parshall reminded the audience to not only value subordinates, but trust them. "Let us celebrate these people who may have superior knowledge and expertise. Let us cherish and encourage them," Parshall said.
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Doug Kimsey, Naval War College Public Affairs