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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

Ceremonies to mark 60th anniversary of Battle of Midway

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to have the Midway Atoll airport open and to fly in dignitaries June 5 for the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which was a turning point in World War II's War in the Pacific.

Among those scheduled to participate are Assistant Navy Secretary H.T. Johnson, Rear Adm. Anthony L. Winns and Craig Manson, assistant secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife and parks, along with other senior military officials and representatives of veterans groups. They are expected to fly aboard a chartered Aloha Airlines jet.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the atoll as a wildlife refuge, will also hold a reception for Midway veterans June 3 at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu.

Public access to Midway has been halted since the Fish and Wildlife Service's contractor, Midway Phoenix, withdrew from managing the island's utilities and its ecotourism operation. With its withdrawal, the FAA removed the Midway airport's certificate.

Another contractor is keeping the island operating under a six-month, $1.3 million contract, and the service is seeking another operator. The Fish and Wildlife Service expects within a few days to announce details of the reopening of the airport.

"The Department of the Interior is fully committed to restoring public access to Midway. ... We are working to reopen the island as quickly as possible so that veterans, birders and the general public once again can have the opportunity to experience the significant historic and wildlife resources so abundant on this atoll in the middle of the Pacific," Manson said.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., introduced a resolution this week calling for the Interior Department to take management away from the Fish and Wildlife Service and give it to another Interior agency.

Duncan said the service appears to be too concerned about wildlife and not sufficiently committed to the history of the place. The atoll in 2000 was designated by Congress the Battle of Midway National Memorial.

"Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has not been able to effectively manage this unique wildlife refuge that is also home of the national Midway memorial," he said.

Don Walker, a member of Duncan's staff, said that the National Park Service or the Bureau of Land Management are possible alternative agencies.

Manson, an Air Force officer who oversees both the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior, said the Interior secretary is being advised by a group of veterans and others on how to manage the Battle of Midway National Memorial.