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Submarine Force Museum commemorates Battle of Midway, celebrates reopening

Groton — Navy officials, veterans and community members gathered at the USS Nautilus on Friday to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, and to celebrate the reopening of the Submarine Force Museum after a 14-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"On the one hand, we will be reflecting on the heroism of past years, while we look forward to the future to make sure we are in the proper position relative to our adversaries," said retired Adm. John Padgett, president of the Submarine Force Library and Marine Association.

The Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942, and was a turning point in World War II.

Capt. Todd Moore, commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Base, said prior to the battle, more than 1,400 personnel worked around the clock to repair the USS Yorktown, following earlier battle damage. Yorktown played a critical role at Midway.

Moore also cited the efforts to crack the Japanese navy's codes but said "knowing about the enemy's plans is no sure guarantee of thwarting them" — it also took teamwork, skill on the bridge and in the cockpit, and trust, he said. Aircraft sunk four Japanese carriers, and on June 6, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto's forces withdrew.

Related story: New Submarine Force Museum director and Nautilus OIC settles into role in unusual times

Officials on Friday also paid homage to the late Master Chief Deen Brown, a radioman stationed aboard the USS Trout, which was on patrol around the battle.

"He had no idea that the Battle of Midway would be the turning point in the Pacific for World War II," said Master Chief Kellen Volland, command master chief of the Naval Submarine Base. He said radiomen had to copy 25 words per minute of Morse code.

After the war, Brown stayed in the Navy before being employed at Electric Boat. Prior to his death in 2019 at age 96, Brown had been the only Battle of Midway veteran attending the annual commemoration in Groton.

Volland said Brown's "quiet dignity, robust constitution and fierce patriotism" — words used in Brown's obituary — were "the bedrock of this annual event."

Three children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild of Brown attended the event Friday, laying a wreath in the Thames River. One of the daughters, Jessica Hoadley, said she came to the commemoration in 2019, shortly after Brown died. But there was no event last year, due to the pandemic.

Hoadley said her father didn't talk about the war a lot at home, and when he did, it was more on an intellectual level than a personal one. But she said he did a lot of teaching.

Multiple submarine veterans attended the event Friday, such as Bob Sharpe. He is a docent at the Submarine Force Museum, and had training this past week to start again next week. He said it's "going to be a lot of fun" and he's looking forward to interacting with kids.

The museum reopened to the public May 26 and is now open Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. COVID-19 restrictions include a one-way traffic pattern through the museum with barriers up, but those who are vaccinated don't have to wear a mask.

A new addition with the museum's reopening is an augmented reality feature, in which visitors can scan a QR code with the Zappar app and see images and videos projected onto the space around them.

"It really does feel like we're really, as a state and as a region, ready to resume normalcy, and obviously the museum is such a destination," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Friday. He thinks its opening "is just another milestone for the recovery to normalcy."

e.moser@theday.com

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