NSGA Midway Island was commissioned on July 1, 1954 and was decommissioned and closed in February, 1971. Midway Island was part of the Eastern Pacific (EASTPAC) HFDF net, from 1952 through 1971. The last Commanding Officer of NSGA Midway Island was LCDR Fred W. Evans.
Midway Atoll, formerly known as Naval Air Facility (NAF), Midway, is a coral circular atoll formed atop a volcanic seamount. Located just East of the international dateline, Midway is located 1,100 miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, but is not part of the state of Hawaii. Midway Atoll consists of two main islands, Sand and Eastern, totaling three square miles in area, with several smaller islets enclosed within a reef approximately five miles in diameter. Midway has no indigenous population. The Island has two serviceable runways with one permanently surfaced and one small minor port.
Site of the historic Battle of Midway in June 1942, Naval Air Facility (NAF) Midway Island has supported various Naval operations since the late 1800s. The operational facilities were located on Sand Island, which has an area of 1,201 acres. Eastern Island comprises 334 acres and has been uninhabited since 1970, although it was used extensively by the Navy prior to 1970. Midway is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and enjoys a tropical climate. There are no active streams on either Sand Island or Eastern Island. There are no urban areas or urban populations on the island. While operating as a Naval Air Facility, majority of the residents were military personnel.
Midway Atoll was discovered in 1859 and claimed by the U.S. in 1867. In 1859, Captain N.C. Brooks of the Hawaiian Barque “Gambia” discovered Midway Island and named it Brooks Island. Captain William Reynolds of “USS Lackawanna” on August 28, 1867, officially claimed the atoll a U.S. insular area. This claim was in accordance within instructions from the Secretary of the Navy, pursuant to the Guano Act of August 18, 1856. The Navy renamed it “Midway Island” in recognition of its geographic location on the route between California and Japan. Midway was formally annexed by the U.S. in 1867. In 1903, President Roosevelt assigned jurisdiction and control of the atoll, surrounding reefs, and territorial waters to the U.S. Navy. Sand Island became a station of the Hawaii-Luzon submarine cable in 1905. In 1936, Pan American Airways made the Island a regular stop on its San Francisco-Manila run.
In 1940, the Navy commenced construction of a Naval Air Station at Midway. Midway Atoll was designated a Naval Defense Sea Area and Airspace Reserve on February 14, 1941. Naval Air station, Midway Island, was established and commissioned on August 1 1941. On June 4, 1942, a Japanese armada including four aircraft carriers attempted to capture Midway and its landing strip, as the first step toward a second assault on the Hawaiian Islands. Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance led the outnumbered Americans in repulsing the invasion and sinking all four Japanese aircraft carriers. A Submarine Base was established on Midway Island, on July 15, 1942.
After WWII, the development of long-range planes reduced Midway’s importance as a commercial air base, and Pan American eliminated stops there in 1950. That year also saw the reduction of Midway’s U.S. Navy establishment to a housekeeping force.
The islands were virtually abandoned after World War II. In 1957, the airfield facilities on Sand Island were expanded to create a Pacific Airborne Early Warning base. As Naval Air Base and later Naval Air Facility, the Navy operated and maintained facilities and provided services and materials to support aviation activities. Past operations and activities included construction, fuel and oil storage, dry cleaning, pest control, refueling, aircraft and vehicle maintenance, a power plant, pesticide applications, firing ranges, landfills, and hazardous waste storage. In 1978, the Naval Station was redesignated NAF Midway Island. As a component of Naval Air Station (NAS), Barbers Point, NAF Midway Island underwent operational closure on September 30, 1993.
On April 22, 1988, Midway Atoll was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge, a unit of the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It provides nesting grounds for several species of migratory seabirds. In addition, a wide variety of sea creatures, including dolphins, the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal and the threatened Green Sea Turtle; all thrive within the atoll’s coral reef, which extends five miles in diameter.
The Department of the Navy and the Department of the Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on May 22, 1996, concerning the transfer of NAF Midway to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Executive Order transferring legal enforcement authority to the USFWS was signed on October 31, 1996. The USFWS assumed custody of Midway Island when the transfer of MOU was signed, but operation of Midway did not change until the current Navy Base Operating Services (BOS) contract was completed on June 30, 1997, and the Navy left Midway.
In 1999, in recognition of the atoll’s historical significance, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to develop Midway as a National Memorial and establish a preservation program for its historic military buildings and gun emplacements. This was to include interpretative displays and promotion of tourist visits.
Midway was closed to visitors in January, 2002. The abundant wildlife, sparkling white beaches and historical sites were just beginning to attract significant numbers of tourists when the USFWS closed the island to visitors. The Fish and Wildlife Service continues to protect the atoll’s wildlife and endangered species.