Naval squadron leader credited for turning the tide at the Battle of Midway — and WWII — 75 years ago
BUFFALO, N.Y. — June 4, 2017 — The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park hosted a ceremony today to honor the legacy and memory of C. Wade McClusky, a South Buffalo native whose heroic actions have been widely attributed for leading to a decisive World War II victory during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942 — which many believe was the turning point in the war.
To mark the 75th anniversary of this event, the Buffalo Naval Park is installing a new sculpture and tribute plaque of McClusky, who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral (RADM) before retiring in 1956. He passed away 20 years later, in 1976, at the age of 74. A clay model of that sculpture, created by Youngstown, N.Y.-based artist Susan Geissler, was unveiled at the conclusion of the ceremony, which was highlighted with numerous guest speakers, including Lieutenant Commander George Walsh, (ret.), a living WWII Naval dive-bomber pilot and author of, “Battle of Midway: Searching for the Truth,” who traveled from Darien, Conn. — at age 96 — to be part of the celebration and to help put McClusky’s achievements in their proper context.
A graduate of South Park High School, then-Lieutenant Commander McClusky led his group’s dive-bombers at the Battle of Midway against superior Japanese naval forces. Running low on fuel, he risked going beyond the point of no return to locate the Japanese fleet. He found the enemy and directed dive-bomber attacks which destroyed two Japanese fleet carriers in minutes.
Upon returning to his fleet, he was attacked by Japanese fighter planes, which struck his plane with 55 bullets, which led to a serious wound to his left shoulder – a detail which is clearly represented in Ms. Geissler’s sculpture within McClusky’s flight jacket.
U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, 26th District, was also on hand to share his thoughts on McClusky’s heroism. He presented an official U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to Philip McClusky, RADM McClusky’s son, who made his very first visit to his father’s hometown. In turn, he surprised those in attendance by donating four of his father’s most prestigious war medals — the Navy Cross, Navy Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart — to the Naval Park to be added to its permanent collection.
Congressman Higgins, together with New York State Senator Chris Jacobs, 60th District, and Naval & Military Park volunteer Lee Simonson, both of whom also offered comments during the ceremony, collaborated with Buffalo Naval Park officials to bring this story and today’s event to fruition. Congressman Higgins’ office has worked to have more than 20 additional medals posthumously bestowed upon McClusky — the most his office has ever obtained for a single individual, he said.