He graduated from Annapolis. He flew the Douglas SBD “Dauntless” dive bomber, a plane that had a reputation for being slow and outmoded even before World War II began. The SBD served as the mainstay of the Navy’s carrier strike force into 1943.
On May 7, 1942, Powers led his section of bombers in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Navy’s first real chance to strike back after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. He would make history leading the first U.S. pilots ever to take down an enemy carrier. That morning they spotted the Shokaku 8,000 feet below and began their run. They screamed past enemy fighters and through black clouds of anti-aircraft bursts, and their windshields fogged so badly that the pilots had to fly nearly blind.
Powers held 1,000 pounds until he dropped to 1,000 feet, because that was the only way to ensure that he wouldn’t miss his target. He also knew at that height he couldn’t miss. He also knew his plane would not survive the back blast.
Powers and his backseat crewman traded their lives to protect us. Powers received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
I told the story of John Powers at CPAC in Chicago as part of panel that compared the foreign and national security policy of two sons of Illinois—Reagan and Obama.
It is a reminder that you wind up fighting the wars with the military you have. When you invest in unpreparedness—it’s the men and women we send out to protect us who pay the price.
Reagan rebuilt America’s military after decades of war and neglect. We have been living off that legacy for over 20 years. President Obama is planning the largest reduction in national defense since the end of the Cold War. “America at Risk,” a recent series of videos produced by The Heritage Foundation, highlighted the troubles ahead.
The problem is this: Is anyone in the White House watching them?
Watch the videos from our America at Risk series: