A Galesburger at the Battle of Midway
In September of last year the SBD Dauntless Dive-Bomber Midway Memorial was dedicated at Midway International Airport in Chicago. A former Galesburg resident's name figured prominently in the ceremony as the aircraft on display served to represent the plane of ENS Frederick Weber, who was killed in action at the World War II Battle of Midway in the Pacific Ocean.
Frederick Weber was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1916. He was a student at Knox College in 1933-34, and his mother, Opal Walsh, lived at 1089 Bateman Street in Galesburg. (Frederick used the name Walsh while a student at Knox but was using the name Weber at the time of his death in 1942.)
In the Battle of Midway, Weber was part of a Dive-Bomber group called Bombing 6 which was sent to search for a Japanese fleet on a mission to attack the U.S. station on Midway Island. In spite of dwindling fuel supplies, the Americans finally located the fleet and were successful in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers and turning the tide of the war in the Pacific. One of the bombs that struck the carrier Kaga was determined to be from Weber's dive-bomber. After returning to refuel, Bombing 6 again set out to strike at the Japanese, this time without their fighter escorts, who were needed to protect the American fleet.
The attack was an overall success, but the American flyers paid a price as they were attacked by Japanese Zeros. According to Walter Lord in his book Incredible Victory, the Zeros “struck with that breath-taking rush the American pilots were getting to know so well? One pounced on Ensign F. T. Weber, lagging behind the rest of Bombing 6. Straggling was always fatal when Zeros were around, and this time was no exception.” The group of American flyers, however, were overwhelmingly successful, with four Japanese carriers eventually destroyed in what came to be considered a decisive battle in the Pacific theater of World War II.
Weber received the Navy Cross, presented posthumously with the following citation: “For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as pilot of an airplane of a bombing squadron in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942. Flying at a distance from his own forces which rendered return unlikely because of probable fuel exhaustion, Ensign Weber participated in two dive-bombing attacks against Japanese naval units. In the first, launched in the face of concentrated anti-aircraft fire and overwhelming fighter opposition, he scored a direct hit on an enemy aircraft carrier. In the second, while pressing home a desperate and vigorous counterattack against Japanese fighters, he was shot down. His unflinching devotion to duty, maintained at great personal risk against tremendous odds, aided greatly in the success of our forces and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave up his life in the defense of his country.”
The Glenview Naval Air Station was an important training facility for naval aviators during World War Two, and the training plane on display, recovered from Lake Michigan, in Midway International Airport in the new Memorial is dedicated to the memory of Frederick Weber as one of the heroes of the Battle of Midway.