The Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL) annual Battle of Midway commemoration at the Great Lakes Naval Museum (GLNM) on Wednesday featured Joe Sanes, who survived the sinking of USS Hammann, a Sims-class destroyer, during the Battle of Midway.
USS Hammann was trying to assist the sinking aircraft carrier USS Yorktown when it was sunk by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.
The ceremony marked the 72nd anniversary of the historic battle, in which the U.S. Navy decisively defeated the Japanese Navy on June 4-7, 1942, changing the course of World War II. Sanes brought along with him a replica of the ship that was torpedoed out from under him, handcrafted by his friend Art Carlson out of sheet metal over the course of two and a half years.
Sanes had a bird's eye view of the battle from the fo'c's'le of Hammann. Upon seeing torpedo that sunk his ship heading his way, Sanes said to himself, “Here comes a crappy end." But he survived. He left the Navy in 1947 and worked for 40 years in air conditioning repair, even though the Navy aptitude test he took before he separated indicated he had no mechanical abilities, Sanes pointed out with a laugh.
Sanes was introduced by Capt. Bill Bulis, NSGL commanding officer, who provided context for Sanes’ talk. Bulis talked about the battle while praising those who fought in it.
“The Battle of Midway is not just a story about ships and aircraft,” Bulis said. “The real story is about the people who fought, the pilots who flew the planes and the sailors who manned the ships. And it was our Sailors’ ability to make tough decisions in the midst of tremendous uncertainty and profound risk that would give us victory at Midway. Virtually every decision in this great battle would prove to be absolutely critical to the outcome.”
"I wasn't a hero," Sanes said. "The men who did not come back were."
LS1 Rashaad Essex, NSGL outreach coordinator, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
About 60 people attended the standing room only ceremony in the museum. Light refreshments were served following the talk.