Charles R. Ware (1911-1942) enlisted in the United States Navy on June 14, 1929, in Athens, Tennessee. The following year, he won appointment to the United States Naval Academy. After graduating from Annapolis in 1934, he served at sea for six years on the battleship USS Texas (BB-35) and the destroyer USS Dahlgren (DD-187) until February 1940, when he entered flight training at NAS Pensacola, FL. Upon winning his wings, he served with Scouting Squadron 5 (VS-5), based on USS Yorktown (CV-5) and then USS Enterprise (CVA-6).
It was from the Enterprise that Lt. Ware and his section of six Dauntless Dive Bombers flew into naval history during the Battle of Midway. On June 4, 1942, Lt. Ware and his men joined other US Navy flyers in devastating attacks against three Japanese carriers. In less than five minutes, the enemy ships were ablaze and would later sink.
Lt. Ware and his section were low on fuel and ammunition when they encountered a new wave of Japanese Zeroes protecting a fourth carrier. Without hesitation, Lt. Ware ordered his men to engage the enemy.
The US Navy aviators had destroyed the heart of the Imperial Japanese Navy, reversing the course of the war in the Pacific. However, the cost was high. Only two of Lt. Ware's section mates returned to the Enterprise. Lt. Ware and his air gunner, ARM1/c William H. Stambaugh, USN, of Paintsville, Kentucky, were never seen again.
For his "extraordinary heroism and courageous devotion to duty" in pressing home his attack on the Japanese fleet in the face of fierce fighter opposition and formidable antiaircraft fire, Lt. Ware was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy's second highest decoration.
In April 1945, Lt. Ware was honored again. At the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Staten Island, New York, his mother, Arva Zena Ware, of Athens, Tennessee, launched the Gearing Class destroyer USS Charles R. Ware (DD-865), which was to serve at sea in the US Navy for the next 29 years.
In June 2002, with funds raised by former officers and crewmen of the ship, a permanent monument to Lt. Ware and Airman Stambaugh was dedicated in Veterans Memorial Park in Athens. The McMinn County Living Heritage Museum in Athens has become the permanent repository of Ware memorabilia and is home to an impressive collection of artifacts and mementos that belonged to the men who served on the USS Ware.<