Is it just a coincidence that, on 21 April, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead ordered the U.S. Navy to begin preparing to mark the 67th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, 4-7 June, while he was in China 16-22 April for the People's Liberation Army Navy's 60th aniversary? China used an international fleet review held at Qingdao to show off to the world some impressive-looking (but not their very best) PLAN assets, including two first-generation home-built nuclear subs. Midway marks a decisive American victory over Imperial Japan, China's nextdoor neighbor and the last Asian country (so far) to quickly build a modern navy -- and go to war with it in the Pacific.

Roughead's order reminds its readers that Midway put America back on the offensive only six months after the disastrous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, at a time when the IJN outnumbered the USN due to a gap in longterm shipbuilding programs combined with asymmetric battle losses; there is also today real concern about the adequacy of the current USN longterm shipbuilding program. Interestingly, Roughead goes on to reach back to the Great Depression to praise the "innovation and resilience," in what construction did occur and in tactical development, that during the 1930s lay the groundwork for success at Midway in 1942; current economic conditions are notably more harsh than anything since the Great Depression.

Each fleet concentration area and regional command around the world (such as Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Yokosuka) is to prepare and then communicate, to both sailors and civilian communities, a knowledge base about Midway and its veterans, with a coordinated global wreath-laying ceremony, "to carry their legacy forward." Roughead's order charges the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) and the Chief of Naval Information (CHINFO) with preparing a Battle of Midway lesson plan and a public affairs plan.

These educational products, with their use by local commanders, will be crucial to the success of the CNO's directive to preserve history, learn from the past, and prepare for the future.

At a time when information is power like never before, and soft power is very real power, this confluence of USN and PLAN anniversaries -- if handled properly -- could "foster relationships between the two nations and explore areas for enhanced cooperation," which the CNO's PAO says was the main purpose of Rougheads' visit to Qingdao.

-- Joe Buff

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