Two anniversaries of consequence

June 4, 2007, marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the pivot of World War II in the Pacific. A quarter-century later, on June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force destroyed its Egyptian counterpart in one lightning blow, thus making possible an Israeli victory in the Six-Day War — the event that set the stage for the past forty years of Middle Eastern history. Both anniversaries offer important moral lessons to ponder.

A new book by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, Shattered Sword, offers an engagingly (if sometimes excessively) revisionist history of Midway. Against the conventional telling of this tale — in which sharp-eyed American signals intelligence, the strategic and tactical acumen of Admiral Raymond Spruance, the dithering of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, and the heroic self-sacrifice of three U.S. Navy torpedo squadrons — were the key factors in the battle, Parshall and Tully emphasize the ways in which Japanese technical, strategic, and command incapacities played a large role in the destruction of four enemy aircraft carriers by U.S. Navy Dauntless dive-bombers, a blow from which the Japanese Navy never recovered.  The conventional story of the American David taking down the hitherto invincible Japanese Goliath is not-quite-right, our authors suggest.

Yet there is something to be remembered, on this anniversary, from the conventional account of Midway — and it’s the image of those three American torpedo squadrons from Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown, flying obsolete Douglas Devastators, boring in on their targets, being shot down one by one by Japanese Zeros — and so disrupting Japanese flight operations on the (unscathed) target carriers that the subsequent dive-bomber attacks of the Dauntlesses could change the course of history in two engagements lasting perhaps ten minutes each. The lesson? If freedom is not free, and it isn’t, then free peoples will always have to raise up men capable of stretching courage to its outer limits, often paying the ultimate price in the process. Few Americans, today, remember the names of the squadron commanders of Torpedo Three (Lt. Cdr. Lem Massey), Torpedo Six (Lt. Cdr. Gene Lindsey), and Torpedo Eight (Lt. Cdr. John Waldron); but we should, and we should recall their names, and those of their squadron-mates, with reverent gratitude.

Twenty-five years later, as Michael Oren narrates in Six Days of War, the State of Israel was in dire peril. Egypt had imposed a blockade of Israel’s only outlet to the south, the port of Eilat. A Soviet disinformation campaign falsely claimed that Israel was massing troops on the Syrian border, preparing an attack — even as Egypt (having thrown U.N. peacekeepers out) was remilitarizing the Sinai and concluding a military pact with Jordan, thus surrounding Israel. Seven other Arab states began sending troops to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, anticipating a vast slaughter of Jews and the State of Israel being driven into the sea, and out of existence. The U.N. was, as usual, useless, and President Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to raise an international task force to open a passage to Eilat failed.

Alone, Israel took the hard decision to strike first — to crush the Egyptian air force in one blow, and thus make possible an effective defense against the ground attack that was certainly coming. The Israelis begged Jordan’s King Hussein to stay out of the fight; but Hussein, perhaps deceived by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, got in — and lost the West Bank. In consequence, Jerusalem was united under a Jewish flag for the first time in two millennia. Much would flow from Jordan’s loss of the West Bank, including, alas, much blood.

The lesson? Sometimes, it is morally imperative to shoot first — not just strategically wise or tactically advantageous, but morally imperative. Even given the military gamble involved, for the Israeli government not to have ordered a preemptive attack on the Egyptian air force to even the odds on national survival would have been an act of moral irresponsibility. That correct just-war decision ought to be remembered, not because it provides a universal template, but because it makes a crucial moral point: faced with certain aggression, responsible public authorities need not wait for the aggressor’s first blow to fall.

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

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We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at:, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here:

Contact your Congressional Representatives here:

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver