Sand Island is located at the southern end of Midway Atoll and has a total land area of 1,117 acres. At the western end is Inner Harbor (Submarine Basin).
To the east is the Eastern Channel, Spit Island and Eastern Island. To the north is Midway Lagoon and Sand Islet.
During April 1935, a Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) Sikorsky S-42 "Pan American Clipper" piloted by Captain Edwin Musick with a crew of five on a transpacific survey flight visited Midway Atoll to establish an aerial route linking Hawaii to Midway then onward to Wake, Guam and Manila.
To develop facilities at Midway, Pan Am mounted mounted two expeditions to Midway Atoll to establish facilities on Sand Island, the first "North Haven Expedition" in 1935 and the second "North Haven Expedition II" in 1936 using steamer SS North Haven traveling from San Francisco transporting construction materials, fuel and six months of supplies for the construction crew.
On Sand Island, Pan AM constructed the Pan Am Hotel, nicknamed "Gooneyville Lodge". The structure was a prefabricated building with forty-five rooms with solar heated water, electric lights and screened in porches and formal dining room to lodge guest traveling on the Pan Am Clipper via Midway. During the Pacific War, this used as a barracks for U. S. Navy personnel. The building was demolished in 1957.
During 1939, the U. S. Navy (USN) contracted several construction firms, which formed Contractors Pacific Naval Air Base for the construction of facilities for two patrol squadrons on Sand Island. Work began on Eastern Island and the construction of Midway Airfield. While most base facilities were built on Sand Island.
During September 1940, a U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) 3rd Defense Battalion detachment was assigned to Midway and began constructing defenses. In September 1941, replaced by the 6th Marine Defense Battalion.
On February 9, 1942 I-69 submarine surfaced and bombarded Sand Island with her deck gun. Spotted by a Midway Airfield based F2A Buffalos from VMF-211 and damaged. During the Battle of Midway, Sand Island was bombed by Japanese carrier aircraft on June 4, 1942.
Japanese missions against Midway Atoll
December 7, 1941 - June 4, 1942
By 1943, Sand Island Airfield was completed and during the remainder of the Pacific War was further expanded with fill to expand the island and improvement of facilities.
Used by Pan Am until 1947 them turned over the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) until 1950. During 1957, a major $40 million building program got underway on Sand Island to prepare it for a Pacific Airborne Early Warning DEW line with quarters built on Sand Island.
During the Vietnam War, roughly 3,500 were stationed on Sand Island to support operations. In June 1969, Sand Island's Officer-in-Charge house (Midway House) was used for a secret meeting between President Nixon with Republic of South Vietnam President Thieu. During 1978, downgraded to Naval Air Facility Midway Islands and many of the personnel departed.
On October 31, 1996, through a presidential executive order, the jurisdiction and control of Midway Atoll was transferred to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge system.
The World War II Facilities at Midway consist of ammunition magazines, a concrete pillbox, gun emplacements for 3-inch batteries, which were manned by U.S. Marines, and two emplacements for the 3-inch naval battery, all on Sand Island. Other properties associated with the defense of Midway, but not listed in the National Register, include seaplane ramps/hangar on Sand Island and the Eastern Island runways.
Sand Island Seaplane Base
Located at the western end of Sand Island with Inner Harbor and Midway Lagoon as operating areas.
Sand Island Airfield (Henderson Field)
Located on the southern end of Sand Island
Sand Island PT Boat Base
Located on Sand Island. During the middle of May 1942, twelve PT Boats from MTBS 1 (Squadron 1) under the command of Lt. Clinton McKellar, Jr. departed Pearl Harbor and made an open ocean crossing of 1,385 miles, the longest ever made by PT Boats. Only one boat, PT 23 aborted due to a broken crank shaft. The rest of the PT Boats make a refueling stop at Necker Island east of the French Frigate Shoals then arrived at Sand Island PT Boat Base. On June 4, 1942 During the Battle of Midway an air raid was sounded allowing the PT Boats leave dock and motor in Midway Lagoon where PT-21 and PT-22 contribute anti-aircraft fire and claim a low flying Zero that crashes into Sand Island. Another Zero strafed PT-25 (one officer and one enlisted man were wounded and 25 bullet holes impacted the hull). After the raid, PT-20, PT-22 and PT-28 return to Sand Island PT Boat Base then patrolled Midway Lagoon to rescue downed aviators. Later in the day at 7:30pm all eleven PT Boats sortied to search for the Japanese fleet including carriers reported 170 miles to the northwest but were unable to find them due to bad weather and returned to Sand Island by dawn on June 5, 1942. Returning, PT-20 and PT-21 spotted smoke 50 miles to the west of Midway and sped to investigate but only found an oil slick. After the battle on June 6, 1942 each PT Boats put to sea carrying one casket each, to bury the eleven U. S. Marines killed during the air raid and buried them at sea.
Battle of Midway Memorial
Three stone pillars on Sand Island to commemorate the Battle of Midway. Also known as the Midway Memorial.
5" Coastal Defense Gun Serial Number 774 (No. 1)
Emplaced on the island, gun on mount only.
5" Coastal Defense Gun with Shield (No. 2)
Emplaced on the island, gun with shield on mount.
New York Times "Pacific Airline ships two hotels" January 15, 1936
Milwaukee Journal Radio Broadcast "Loading the China Clipper Like Days of Sailing Ships" by Edwin Musick November 25, 1935
The Battle of Midway (1942) directed by John Ford includes combat footage during the Battle of Midway June 1942
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial - Pan Am Hotel (photo)
Pan Am Historical Foundation - North Haven Expedition II
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy pages 79, 81, 449
Riding the Reef: A Pan American Adventure With Love by Bret Voortmeyer
U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service - After the Battle of Midway
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October 23, 2019