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Midway movie star Patrick Wilson visits Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard

By Cameron Salony, PHNSY & IMF Director of Congressional and Public Affairs Office | Nov. 7, 2019

Recently, Hollywood actor Patrick Wilson visited Station Hypo located in the basement of Building 1 at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY&IMF). On Nov. 8, Lionsgate will release Midway, a film based on the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Battle of Midway during World War II. Wilson plays the role of Edwin Layton, an intelligence officer who worked at Pearl Harbor alongside cryptanalyst Joseph Rochefort to break the Japanese secret code and influence military decisions based on intercepted information. Layton’s actions were part of a combined effort to reach a desired outcome: American victory at the Battle of Midway.

Wilson spent time on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) along with fellow Midway cast members Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Ed Skrein and movie director Roland Emmerich touring various points of interest around the base before attending a panel discussion and red carpet movie premiere at Sharkey Theater.

Lionsgate filmed portions of the movie around JBPHH including outside Building 1 in the fall of 2018, but Wilson’s latest visit was the first time he had been inside the building to see Station Hypo.

“It is so fantastic to be here. When we shot even for a few weeks here, I just kept thinking I hope we come back here,” Wilson said.

Wilson had an opportunity to share what he learned during his portrayal of Layton.

“I learned everything. At the time, it was such a new concept: Naval intelligence. They didn’t trust him. A large part of that is because of the communication disaster that became Pearl Harbor as we sit here on these hallowed grounds,” Wilson said. “So much of what Layton did, as I’m sure every intelligence officer does, you get your information and then you got to follow your gut.  At some point you’ve just got to make your decision and you got to hope that you’re right.”

U.S. Pacific Fleet Director of Intelligence and Information Operations Capt. Anthony “Tony” Butera is considered the current equivalent of Layton. He walked Wilson through the space and recounted its heralded history.

Station Hypo was part of the U.S. Navy signals monitoring and cryptographic intelligence unit in Hawaii during World War II. It was known as “The Dungeon” because it was located in a basement with few doors, no windows and surrounded by thick concrete. If you were cleared to pass through the three-inch, stainless steel and aluminum door, you’d then meet an armed Marine guard. Access was limited and only up until recently was the space declassified.

In rooms filled with early computers, large electronic fiddle boards intercepted encrypted Japanese intelligence. In June 1942, they decrypted enough of the code to believe the Japanese were planning to attack Midway. Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief. U.S. Pacific Fleet, ordered his battle fleet to Midway to intercept the Japanese. The turning point in the War in the Pacific, the Battle of Midway stopped the tide of Japanese expansion and was the beginning of the Allies’ victory.

PHNSY&IMF Executive Officer Cmdr. Scott Shea also joined the tour and had a chance to talk about the shipyard’s history with Wilson including some of the events depicted in the upcoming film. 

On Dec. 7, 1941, USS Pennsylvania (BB-39), USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) were damaged while in Dry Dock 1 for repairs when the Japanese attacked. In May 1942, USS Yorktown (CV-5) pulled into that same dry dock after battle damage at Coral Sea. More than 1,400 shipyard workers responded to the call by Adm. Nimitz to get USS Yorktown fit to fight in time to meet the enemy at Midway. From welders to shipwrights, countless workers labored around the clock. Despite estimating repairs would take three months, just 72 hours later USS Yorktown pulled out to sea battle-ready to meet the enemy.

Construction of Dry Dock 1 began in 1909, but violently collapsed in 1913. Some native Hawaiians attributed the collapse to failing to honor the shark goddess and her ancestors who made their home in the waters of Pearl Harbor. The dry dock was rebuilt, given a Hawaiian blessing in 1917, and then dedicated on Aug. 21, 1919.

Shipyard personnel told Wilson about the Dry Dock 1 centennial celebration in August when the Ali`i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club reaffirmed that 1917 blessing and gave Dry Dock 1 the name Keaoonāmanō, meaning “The Realm of the Sharks.” Building 1 also received the Hawaiian name of Keaowāmaluhia, or “The Light in the Time of Peace.”

“That is amazing!” Wilson said.

Wilson hopes that shipyard workers and military personnel alike enjoy the film.

“You make a movie like this and if we don’t make you guys happy, then we feel let down. So no pressure, but we hope you enjoy it,” Wilson said.

 

 

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