Hawaii News

Navy base on Kaua‘i played role during WWII Battle of Midway – 82 years ago this week

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Deputy Public Affairs Officer Louis Lea assembled a display highlighting PMRF’s role during the Battle of Midway. Photo Courtesy: PMRF Facebook

A new display at the US Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on the West Side of Kaua‘i is highlighting the role of the site’s runway during the pivotal World War II Battle of Midway.

“If you are on base, stop by Shenanigans restaurant through June 9 to visit our display,” reads a recent post on PMRF’s Facebook page. “Thank you MC1 [Louis] Lea, with PMRF Public Affairs, for coordinating the setup of this important historical exhibit!”

The Battle of Midway spanned three days in early June 1942, resulting in a US victory that curbed Japan’s offensive capabilities and shifted the war in the Allies’ favor.


In May 1942, what is now PMRF was an Army Air Force station called Barking Sands Army Air Base. Flying units hosted at the base included PBY5 torpedo planes belonging to the Navy’s 91st VP Squadron, and marine attack squadrons 223 and 224 of Marine Air Group 24.

The scene aboard USS Yorktown shortly after she was hit by three Japanese bombs on June 4, 1942, during the Battle of Midway. Photo Courtesy: US Navy/US National Archives

United States forces clashed with the Japanese at Midway – a coral atoll located 1,100 miles from the main Hawaiian Islands – soon after the Army Air Force established itself at Barking Sands.

“On June 3, 1942, the 42nd Bomb Squadron (Heavy) landed six B-17s, under the command of Major George A. Blakely, at Barking Sands en route to the imminent sea battle,” according to PMRF. “Using Barking Sands as a launching point, the B-17s took off at 2:05 p.m. to arrive at Midway that evening. The 42nd, part of the larger 11th Bombardment Group, assisted in bombing the Japanese fleet in the battle.”


PMRF states US air power planners predicted injured or returning aircraft might make landings at any island that could be reached, including Kaua‘i. Barking Sands was warned of the possibility B-17s returning from the Battle of Midway would need to land at the base.

“Historical records differ on whether or not this actually happened, however one unit history makes mention of numbers of injured aircraft flying into Barking Sands,” PMRF wrote on Facebook.


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