Murray seventh-grader Jillian Brenner’s story of a World War II Navy squadron that went down during the Battle of Midway in 1942 was a top winner at the Minnesota History Day competition in May and earned her a spot at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in June, where she received the Salute to Courage Award and a trip to the World War II Museum in New Orleans for her project.
Twelve-year-old Brenner of Como Park is the second student from Murray to go to the national competition since the school began participating in the research competition nearly a decade ago. Page Norman, an eighth-grader at the time, advanced to Washington, D.C., in 2007.
Brenner’s project addressed the 2015 History Day theme Leadership and Legacy. Her project told the story of Torpedo Squadron 8, whose first combat mission was during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. The 15 Douglas TBD Devastator planes were all shot down during an unescorted torpedo attack on Japanese aircraft carriers. Only one member of the squadron survived. Despite the outcome of the attack, the pilots did successfully stall Japanese planes, Brenner said.
Brenner has a keen interest in World War II, she said, because her grandfather, who died before she was born, was a veteran of that war. Her dad knows a lot about the war and helped her find her topic, she said.
Brenner and her mom attended the national event with Brenner’s history teacher, Carrie Newman.
National History Day is an interdisciplinary research project for students in grades 6-12. Students can choose to write a paper or create an exhibit, documentary, performance or website. The Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota sponsor the competitions in Minnesota.
Students at Murray begin with a school competition in early spring. Winners there advance to a regional competition, and regional winners advance to the state competition held each May at the University of Minnesota. The state competition winners advance to the national one in Washington, held each year in June.