Roundtable Forum
Our 16th Year
1 September 2013

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Radio Communications
Question on Communications
Interview with Craig Symonds
Review of Midway Submerged
Bomb Damage - IJN Carriers
Pilots Compass headings
Rear Seat Gunners
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

I would like to welcome everyone to the third issue of the New Battle of Midway Roundtable.  First up I'd like to point everyone to the interview with Craig Symonds author of The Battle of Midway by Oxford University Press.  As his excellent book is going to print in paperback.  I recommend it to anyone that has not already read it.  You will find it an easy read and most enjoyable.

We also have some further discussion of the Radio Communications on the morning of June 4th including more on Waldron breaking radio silence in an attempt to get Ring to follow him to the Japanese fleet.  We also have a new member that asks more questions on radio communications during the battle.

Couple more things.  I put together a bomb damage page for IJN carriers at Midway.  The research has been sitting around in my stuff in some cases for years.  Now I put a visual representation to the research.  If you have comments on my analysis please let me know. 

A review of Midway Submerged is included and a question that has been bothering me for years, why didn't any pilot report Compass headings in any report when they all had one in their cockpit?

Also I did not get to finish my article on Nagumo's curious turn North East but given the content of next month's newsletter it is probably more relevant next month.  This was due in great part to my preparing the Q&A for Mr. Symonds who was kind enough to answer my questions.

And finally Mr. Ron Russell ask us to recognize the contribution rear seat gunners made to the battle often without much credit.

Radio Communications during the morning of June 4th

From Al Kernan
AOM 3/c at Midway, in VT-6 on Enterprise

Reading over the last excellent issue of bomrt I was struck once more by how much we need a study of the communications on June 4.  As I understand it the overall plan was for Midway to communicate with Pearl and Pearl to retransmit to the fleet which was to keep radio silence until the battle joined.  It obviously didn't work.  It may well be that communications were as primitive as overall carrier tactics.

Al Kernan


Al, nice to hear from you. 

About ship-shore communications during the BOM: your understanding is fundamentally correct.  NavCommSta Hono (NPN) served as the hub of radio communications.  Anything destined for the fleet (that is, the ships and the embarked squadrons on the CVs) was sent to NPN, which in turn would transmit it via the general all-ships fleet broadcast ("F" or Fox broadcast).  Each ship or command (i.e. CTF 16 or 17, etc.) copied all message headers plus the text of any message on which it was an addressee. Messages were encrypted, but that didn't slow the process very much.

You say that radio silence "obviously didn't work," but in fact, it did.  The fleet--again, that means the ships--did maintain radio silence throughout the battle (one exception, see below). The only radio transmissions (other than the low-power TBS radio used among task groups) were from the aircraft, starting with the PBYs on June 3rd.  Waldron did indeed break radio silence to the extent that the attack squadrons weren't supposed to be transmitting while seeking the enemy, but we know that Waldron's circumstances were abnormal.  With his age and experience, he knew full well the hazard of using his radio, but his judgment at the time was that the risk was warranted.  Officers, especially unit leaders, make those kinds of tough calls all the time.

That said, you're right, communications were primitive in early 1942. Everyone had a lot to learn about technology and procedure.  Neither would get really good until the BOM was just a memory, but before the war ended, both were indeed really good.

The one exception above, about transmissions from the ships: that was when Miles Browning made an ill-advised transmission from Enterprise when he heard what he thought was McClusky's planes over Kido Butai (it was Gray's fighters).  "Attack, repeat, attack!" he hollered on the fighters' frequency.  Fortunately, no one, including the Japanese, copied that blunder.

Best always,
--Ron Russell



You are obviously way ahead of me and explain many of my questions.  But I was not clear enough about what I think of as the communication problems.  Chiefly, between the reception of the pby sighting around 0530--which was picked up directly, not transmitted from cincpac--Fletcher and Spruance had no reports on kb until Gray's transmission at 1000.  During that time many groups had sighted kb but sent no intelligence.   Nothing was being sent from Midway to cincpac or they were not sending it to the fleet.  On Waldron and radio silence I think you cut him too much slack.  Though of course kb did not pick up the Waldron/Ring exchange.  At that last fatal meeting on the bridge of the Hornet, with the strike turning up on deck, the navigator and probably the radio officer were present.  Both must have weighed in and radio silence must have been mentioned.  I think now Waldron was something of a rogue, more than the responsible, steady officer we have imaged since.  If so, he was pissed off at being squashed on fighter protection and on the 245 course at the bridge meeting.  The longer he sat in the cockpit droning down 265 the angrier he got and likely decided he was right, by God.  He forgot all his training, broke radio silence, disobeyed his commanding officer's direct order and flew off to glory.

Strangely enough a man who was in communications at Pearl on June 4 lives near me.  He remembers nothing unusual on June 4 and thinks the communicators congratulated themselves on an effective operation.   

Alvin kernan



Remember again that we're talking June 1942, not August 1945.  There were no sighting reports sent from the various squadrons (other than the PBYs) because, odd though it seems now, that simple protocol had yet to be established.  The intent then was that the PBYs would find and report the enemy, and the attack squadrons would attack.  Period.  So no one in the attack squadrons sent back any intel on enemy fleet locations because they weren't expected to--the assumption was that the PBYs had taken care of all that.

You say that you believe I'm cutting Waldron too much room.  With respect, I suggest you are not cutting him enough.  You're forgetting that he was a bona fide expert on the TBD.  He had been given a course on the Hornet that guaranteed his planes could not possibly return to the flight deck--the range was much too great carrying a torpedo.  Waldron knew that staying with Ring was going to send him and all his men into the water, no matter what.  On the other hand, flying to the known enemy position would afford an opportunity to both attack and, if they survived, get back on board. We know that's a fact because 4 of your squadron's planes did it.

So Waldron made a command decision to fly a course that he knew would bring enemy contact and a chance for his planes and personnel to survive the mission, neither of which he'd have with Ring.  Yes, he defied his c.o. in the midst of a battle--seldom a good idea--but the circumstances were compelling and unique.

Then, of course, there's this problem. If Waldron had stayed with Ring.......

1.  VT-6 would not have seen the Japanese signaling smoke generated during VT-8's attack, which means they never see KB and never attack themselves.  The course they were flying would have caused them to miss the target had they not seen all that extra smoke.

2.  Next, the fight with VT-6 generated another volume of smoke that Lloyd Childers in VT-3 spotted.  Lloyd pointed it out to his pilot Harry Corl, Corl pointed it out to Massey, and VT-3 altered course to attack.  Without that smoke (which ultimately came about from Waldron's decision to defy Ring) VT-3 would have continued on their own errant course, missing the battle.

3.  That means that VB-3 would also miss the battle, because they turned toward KB only after seeing VT-3 do it.  The result of that is that no one attacks the Soryu.

4.  All of that means that McClusky's 2 squadrons arrive over KB after no VT attacks and without VB-3 being present.  The entire Japanese CAP has nothing to do except deal with McClusky, which they could do rather well because no VT attacks have pulled them down from their high-altitude stacking.  Even Thach's fighters are absent, since they were also following VT-3.

5.  The bottom line here is that Soryu definitely escapes attack, and Kaga and Akagi have a good chance of escaping with little, maybe no damage.  THAT's what you get if Waldron doesn't do exactly what he did.

I've had people try to pick the above sequence apart, but it doesn't work.  VT-6, VT-3, VB-3, and VF-3 all entered the battle over KB solely because of the sighting of cruiser and destroyer signalling smoke that only happened because Waldron unexpectedly showed up. That's really not arguable.  You may not respect Waldron for disobeying his commander, but had he not done so, we then have a very different BOM and a very different WW2 in the Pacific thereafter, both infinitely worse than what actually happened.

Best always,



I do forget how simple our procedures were in 1942 compared to 1945, by which time the navy really had worked out procedures for carrier warfare.  I still think the pby's should have stayed with kb and broadcast positio changes for the benefit of their own Midway attackers.  Apparently they just continued flying the 4 to 600 mile searches they had begun, probably with the thought of finding additional japanese ships.  as to Waldron, I have no doubt he was a hero who had a lot to do with saving the battle.  I dedicated my book about the Midway torpedo squadrons to him and would again.  But I still think that given the rigor with which he had been trained to command obedience that breaking off from 265 must have been difficult for him.  I have wondered too why nimitz did not give him the medal of honor instead of the same navy cross he gave Ring.  My guess is that too much emphasis on Waldron would have exposed command problems for the navy.  Certainly Spruance and Nimitz knew that things had gone badly awry on the Hornet.  How much more about the battle we know than before bomrt.


Editors Note:  Mr. Kernan & Mr. Russell both have good points.

My recollections are that the Army and for that matter the Navy and Marines on Midway did not know the American Carriers were even in the area.  I think the commanders of the air groups on Midway believed they were on their own even if those in charge actually knew the truth, and then I've never seen any info to support they were told much.  So there was really little need to report contact with the Japanese fleet as Midway already knew where they were.  Thus I don't believe any solid contact reports were sent by the 4 groups that attacked the Japanese fleet.  Not sure what the B-17s reported but again I don't recall them sending a contact message either.

I'll try to find something definitive on all radio reports but not sure it exists.


Thom--excellent point.  It still leaves me wondering why the pby's that sighted kb didn't hang around to report any course changes that might have mattered for the midway attack groups.

Al Kernan


Editors Note: We also must not forget that Leslie of Bombing 3 also broke radio silence shortly after launching to warn his other pilots when he found out the electronic arming switch released his bomb instead of arming it.  Yet nobody is criticizing him for the breach.  The down side of him maintaining radio silence would possibly have been all his squadron releasing their bombs or at least the majority and subsequently he's faced with returning to Yorktown and rearming.  Soryu escapes destruction and now you have two fully armed Japanese dive bomber squadrons attacking instead of just one plus more fighter escort.  And another torpedo squadron to add to the afternoon attack.  Different than Waldron's breach?  Perhaps.  But Waldron could have also just altered course without even trying to convince Ring.  As it turned out Waldron breaking radio silence had no real affect on the battle but might have insured the destruction of Hiryu had Ring listened yet Leslie's did greatly affect the battle.  Was that the criteria under which we judge Waldron different than Leslie?  Maybe.

Questions on Radio Communications during the Battle of Midway.

I am new to this forum so I apologize if this topic has already been discussed and for the length of my question.

After reading a number of accounts of the battle for Midway atoll, I am stuck by the failures in communicating information from air scouts to task force and other unit commanders, especially on the U.S. side.  This brings to light questions about apparent shortcomings:

1. Why was Midway-based information on 1st Kido Butai (1KB) so sporadic and almost non-existent after the initial and excellent 4 June early morning PBY sightings?  Could base commander Cyril Simard (approx. 41 PBYs) have focused additional patrol planes on 1KB throughout 4 June, 1942 with specific orders to MAINTAIN surveillance and blast out CONTINUOUS radio transmissions on enemy position, course, speed, etc.?  Same question in spades for Chester Nimitz, in overall operational control, as such a continual info stream would undoubtedly have proven golden to Fletcher and Spruance.

2. Similarly, accounts I have read to date (Symonds, Parshall & Tully, plus others) seem to suggest that John Waldron, Gene Lindsey, Lance Massey, and other air unit leaders, or their designees, did not start squawking out 1KB location, etc. as soon as it was visually identified and did not CONTINUE to communicate at least until enemy opposition was encountered. Hornet air group radios were apparently on the same frequency as Torpedo Eight; we are left to wonder if a fuller, more detailed Waldron radio report pin pointing 1KB location asVT-8 was about to attack might have brought the rest of the Hornet air group into the fight.

Admittedly, Fletcher and Spruance were black-shoe, non-aviators; however, such astute commanders could not have been ignorant of the crucial need for timely, continual reconnaissance of 1KB.  Granted, radio communications were often unreliable, or totally non-operational, and TF 16 & 17 carriers needed to keep radio silence.  However, these detriments only serve to underline the profound need to establish and enforce rigorous communications protocol throughout the entire force.  Could the senior leadership, both aviator and non-aviator, have overlooked so vital a requirement for success in battle?  And could implementing and rigorously adhering to such a protocol/doctrine have saved CV-5?

It is possible that I may have misinterpreted some of the above cited author’s information; if so I apologize and hope that my questions are not too far off the mark.

Thank you,
Ray Rossa


Editors Note: First let me welcome new Member Ray Rossa to the Roundtable. He asks some good questions that are relevant to the current discussion.  To answer some of your questions you might review the past newsletter and the continuation of the discussion above.  But here are the short answers.  #1.  Nimitz new from intelligence that the KB were most likely to launch the morning strike from sector 325 but to simply put the majority or all patrol planes in one sector was risking what inevitably happened to the Japanese.  Expecting them to behave as you planned.  He could not risk abandoning all other patrol vectors as the KB could have altered course.  #2.  I believe all three torpedo squadrons did radio a contact report.  Waldron certainly did.  But Stan Ring did not answer and never heard it.  Same with Lindsey.  But no answer from McClusky.  Massey did alter course when he spotted the smoke and then report the contact.  Bombing 3 did hear it as did Fighting 3.  But both were following Torpedo 3 so were in close proximity.  Ironically of all the radio chatter the only one that did get picked up from the morning strike by the carriers was from Gray's Fighting 6.

Interview with Craig Symonds author of The Battle of Midway.

Last month I received a message from Oxford University Press that is publishing the paperback edition of the book asking to do a Q&A with Mr. Symonds about his book.  I included quite a few questions and offered him the opportunity to answer those he found interesting.  Here is the interview for the Roundtable members before it goes to press anywhere else.

There have been many books written on the Battle of Midway over the years. What prompted you to make the decision to write this book on the battle?

My editor at Oxford University Press, Tim Bent, urged me to take it on. Oxford has a series on “Pivotal Moments in American History” and Tim thought that Midway belonged on that list. I certainly did not disagree with him, but I told him that there were already several fine books on the battle—notably Walter Lord’s and Gordon Prange’s—plus an excellent recent book (by Anthony Tully and Jon Parshall) on the Japanese side of the battle.

Tim, however, wanted a book on Midway in the Oxford series, and he wanted one that would appeal to a broad general audience—an audience that, 70 years after the fact, did not know a lot about Midway and its importance. I am afraid that I also succumbed to his blatant flattery when he told me that however many books there were on Midway, none of them were written by me! There is no limit to an author’s willingness to be flattered.

Research is a key to writing any good history. More and more information has surfaced over the years. What information had come to light that provided you with a unique take on the battle? Or to put it another way, did any research lead to significant new information that could add to other views of the battle?

I think of all the sources I consulted, the oral histories left behind by the participants made the greatest impression on me and significantly influenced my narrative. When I read the transcripts of those oral histories I felt like I was in communication with the men who were there. Individually, each of them offers only a small glimpse into the overall story, but collectively they merge to form a dramatic narrative. In addition to the oral histories in the Naval Institute’s Collection, I found a rich trove of interviews at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, that I do not believe anyone else had researched. While I am at it, let me put in a plug for this museum which, because of its out-of-the-way location, too often gets overlooked. It is worth a visit.

In your introduction you reference other works and other comments made on the battle. Most prevalent has been the idea that this battle was won because of some “incredible” luck or the result of a “Miracle.” You make the argument that the battle was less a result of good fortune and more a result of the men and leaders present at the time. Could you elaborate a little?

Sure. I do not mean to discredit the idea that luck and fortune—even Providence—played a role in the battle. But I did want to emphasize that it was not ALL luck and chance. By asserting that the American victory at Midway was all, or even predominately, the result of luck, it demeans the bold decisions and brave actions of the participants. To some extent it was the Japanese, and especially Mitsuo Fuchida in his widely-read and influential book, who argued that the outcome of the battle was due to luck. He emphasizes how amazing it was that the one search plane assigned to the sector where the American carriers lurked was the very one that had engine trouble; he emphasizes the curious timing of the early arrival of the American torpedo planes that brought the Japanese CAP down to low levels; he writes about Nagumo’s fateful decision to delay a launch until he rearmed his strike planes; he notes the timing of the arrival of the Enterprise and Yorktown bombers. Those events allowed Fuchida to claim that the Americans did not BEAT the Japanese, they were just lucky! Parshall and Tully have shown how Fuchida was simply wrong on many of these issues, and I tried to show in my book how some of those events (the engine trouble on the search plane, for example) were actually strokes of luck for the Japanese. Luck plays a role in all battles, but in the end, it is the men who win and lose them.

When researching particular parts of the battle, and trying to answer some of the mysteries, did you find answers? Did you find that your research led you to other questions you didn’t expect, and if so, did you find answers to those, or do some of them remain unresolved?

Well, I found answers, to be sure, and I suggested what they are in my book. Whether they are the FINAL answer is another question. I suppose that to some extent there will always be issues that are left unresolved. Reading ahead in your list of questions, I see that you are going to ask about the “Flight to Nowhere,” and although I offer what I think it a credible and responsible historical conclusion about that it in my book, there is, and always will be, a veil of uncertainty about what happened to the Air Group from the USS Hornet that morning . Researching this book was a real adventure for me because I found that one issue often led to another, and I felt like I was following a trail of clues. This is the way it is supposed to work, of course, but it was especially true in this project.

One aspect of the battle has been endlessly debated, and is referred to as “The Flight to Nowhere.” You make a convincing argument for the final and best analysis of the mystery. Plus you also had many actual participants that were on that flight support your conclusions. Can we ever be sure that this will conclude the mystery or are there still unresolved aspects that we will never know, for instance where all the After Action reports went?

Well, first, I am gratified that you find my explanation convincing. I actually resisted the argument that I eventually presented in the book. Indeed, I fought pretty hard against it. I simply could not imagine why Mitscher would conceal the actual events, and how so many men would conspire to keep them secret for so long. And of course, there were always some who insisted until the day they died (Clay Fisher, for one) that the Hornet Air Group did NOT go on a “Flight to Nowhere.” I set out at first to argue that Fisher was right, but in the end, I was compelled by the evidence to conclude otherwise. Mitscher, I think, did what he believed was best for the country and for the service: first by seeking to find and destroy the supposed “second” group of Japanese carriers, and then by concealing events that would have cast the Navy in a poor light. As I say in the book, it is hard to argue, even now, that he made the wrong decision.

As for the missing After Action Reports, one possibility is that Mitscher simply told the Squadron Commanders not to submit one; that he debriefed each of them orally, and then wrote—or ordered his staff to write—the only report we have from the Hornet. The other possibility is that the reports were submitted and that Mitscher had them destroyed, but that seems much less likely to me.

What was the hardest part of writing the book? Many of the key participants were not around any more. Did other people help in your research? Were other authors who did interview key witnesses helpful?

This is really two questions. Let me answer them one at a time:

The hardest part of the book was solving the puzzles you refer to above. This was much harder than doing the research or writing the book itself.

As to receiving help from others: I am very beholden to both those who went before me and to those still working in the field. Both Walter Lord and Gordon Prange left copies of all their interviews in their papers (Lord’s are at the Naval History and Heritage Command Library in the Washington Navy Yard; and Prange’s are in the Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland). In addition to interviews of American participants, they each commissioned Japanese-speaking researchers to interview the Japanese participants and then to transcribe those interviews into English. Those interviews, too, are in their papers.

In addition, contemporary scholars were very generous with their time and expertise. Two in particular, both of whom are acknowledged in the book, went well beyond normal collegiality and read the entire manuscript, offered insights and suggestions, and led me to sources I would otherwise have missed. These two worthies are John B. Lundstrom and Jonathan Parshall. I owe them much.

As I said before, many of the veterans of the battle are not around anymore to interview, but there are some still with us. Did any of them help shed light on missing facts?

I must acknowledge that among the very first people I talked to after my editor at Oxford proposed this project were William Hauser and John “Jack” Crawford, both veterans of Midway and avid champions of its memory. They actually came to see me at the Naval Academy where I was teaching, and urged me to do the book. Bill was on the cruiser Nashville up near the Aleutians, and Jack was on the Yorktown when it went down. (I tell the story of Jack’s role on the Yorktown in the book.) Other veterans, including Dusty Kleiss, provided information by e-mail. I had a very pleasant and lengthy lunch with Donald “Mac” Showers, who worked in Hypo during the battle and who helped me understand some of the details (and the tedium) of code breaking. Most of my “interviews,” however, were second hand in that I depended on the oral histories and typed interviews now in various archives.

One part of the book I found particularly interesting was the story of what happened to key participants after the battle. Why was that inclusion important to you?

I’m glad you liked that. Many others have told me much the same thing. Since I argue in the book that “people make history,” it seemed only right to follow those people—or at least some of them—into their lives after the battle to see what became of them. I was astonished to learn that Miles Browning, who was about as humorless a person as anyone, turned out to be the grandfather of a famous comedian. (If you don’t know who it is, buy the book! For that matter, buy it anyway.)

The book is more than just a history of what happened at Midway. The first part of the book, nearly a third, you go into detail about events beforehand, including naval doctrine, and earlier carrier battles. Why did you do this?

No historical event exists in a vacuum, and it is always necessary to provide context and background, but I agree that this book provides more than usual. Still, I felt it was essential to provide this background to put the battle in its full doctrinal, strategic, and technological context. A complete account of the Battle of the Coral Sea, for example, explains the impact of that experience on Fletcher, Browning and Oscar (Pete) Pederson, among others. It also allowed me to introduce many of the characters early, to explain the role of swiftly changing technologies, and to explore the culture of each side that influenced the decision-making.

Intelligence played a key if not decisive role in the battle. How much was it an intelligence victory as well as a military victory?

For a while after the battle, the role of code-breaking remained a secret. Then when it was revealed, there was a tendency to exaggerate the role it played. From playing no role, it went (in some accounts) to explaining everything. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. While Joe Rochefort and his colleagues were absolutely essential to American victory, they did not provide Nimitz or anyone else with a complete blueprint of Japanese plans. That matters as we assess the battle, because if Nimitz had only small bits of intelligence available to him, his decision to act boldly takes on new importance. Rochefort could have been wrong, and another admiral besides Nimitz might have played it safe and waited to see. In the end, therefore, it was BOTH an intelligence victory AND a military victory.

Technology played a significant part as well. How much of the victory might be attributed to the technological advantage of things like radar?

The Japanese had a few technological advantages of their own: the longer range of their panes (mainly due to less armor), and especially their torpedoes—which actually worked! But the American possession of radar trumped them both. Being able to see the Japanese planes en route allowed the Americans time to prepare. If the Japanese had been able to do that at 10:20 on the morning June 4, the outcome might have been altogether different.

The book was almost exclusively from the American perspective. Was there any reason you approached the subject from the American side rather than both sides?

I have two responses to this. The first is that I did try to include a lot of information about the Japanese: their culture, the political infighting among the various groups in the government and in the Navy, the personalities of the leading decision makers, and the emergence of their technology. Still, I focused more on the American side of the story because I felt the Japanese story had been told so well by Anthony Tully and Jonathan Parshall and did not think there was much that I could add to it. What I did include about the Japanese I included because I thought it was necessary to the narrative.

Why were some promoted and others not after the battle? Mitscher had already been selected for promotion to Rear Admiral. Did his performance at Midway affect his later assignments, and why was Joe Rochefort shelved afterward?

Spruance became Nimitz’s chief of staff after the battle, and almost certainly discussed the battle, and Mitscher’s role in it, with Nimitz privately. There is no evidence of this, but it is hardly likely in a close six month relationship between two men who literally lived together under the same roof, that the topic never came up. And Spruance knew that there was something fishy about Mitscher’s After Action report. He as much as said so in his own report. It is not impossible that Spruance or Nimitz, of both of them, actually confronted Mitscher about it afterward. In any case, they apparently agreed that there was nothing to be gained by dirtying the Navy’s laundry in public. But Nimitz did move Mitscher to a shore command, one that was not a step up from a carrier group commander. It was a kind of exile and it lasted for six months. After that “time out” Mitscher was restored to a sea command with the creation of the Fast Carrier Task Force under Spruance (TF 58).

Rochefort is a different story. He had never been popular in Washington where the Redmond brothers resented his independence and unwillingness to be a team player. Their views influenced Ernest King as well, and after Midway Rochefort was transferred to other duties. There has been a lot of discussion about Rochefort’s not getting the Distinguished Service Medal that Nimitz recommended for him. King disapproved the recommendation on the somewhat specious grounds that it was inappropriate to give one man a decoration to honor a whole command. Only years later, under President Reagan, did Rochefort’s descendants receive the medal.


Thank you Mr. Symonds for the great Interview.

Book Review: Midway Submerged
iUniverse Inc. October 2011 - 256 pages

Midway Submerged as you might discern from the title is about the submarine operations during the Battle of Midway.  But it is a lot more.  Mr. Allen is a volunteer museum Historian and Webmaster at the USS Batfish museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  He has written a previous book on the Batfish's war patrols so is not new to publishing and so is a quite enjoyable read.

The book goes into detail about both the US and Japanese operations and the pre-war doctrine that both Japanese and US Submarines were operating under.  He goes into quite a bit of detail about why the Japanese submarines failed, with the exception of I-168, but more importantly why the US submarines succeeded in their mission despite hardly participating at all.

A few facts I did not know came to light in the book including the discovery of the Invasion force leaving port and on it's way to Midway by the USS Cuttlefish around May 28-30th which was monitored by the Japanese but was not revealed to Nagumo.  Even more curious is the fact that the Japanese picked up the long detailed urgent message by Cuttlefish on May 31st after it lost contact and the increasing number of messages from US Submarines marked urgent around this time.  All of which were ignored by the Japanese!

At times the book does get a bit dry as Mr. Allen explains all the Japanese Scouting lines for their submarines as well as when and where they were.  But I cannot fault the book for that.  It was part of the battle and important to understand why the Japanese failed with their submarines at Midway.

On the other hand he makes a compelling argument that Nimitz deployed his submarines correctly around Midway.  His plan was for them to oppose the invasion fleet if the carrier battle didn't turn out well.  To this end they could not be deployed to intercept the carrier fleet as many in the Navy wanted or they would be out of position or just too far away to attack the invasion force should it be necessary.

A good read and a good addition to anyone's Midway Library.

Bomb Damage of Japanese Carriers at Midway

I added a link on the home page under 'The Battle' labeled 'Bomb Damage - IJN Carriers'.  The page includes color drawings of where all the bombs landed on the Japanese carriers and who was credited with the hit, if it could be determined.  By no means conclusive but best estimate according to many sources that often conflict at times.  Also I would like to point out that John Prashal's excellent book The Shattered Sword provided a quick reference point with detailed pictures of bomb locations.

Bomb Damage - IJN Carriers

Pilot's Compass Headings - were any reported or recorded?

One of the many things that are missing from the battle is a true direction any of the flights from the carriers headed out from on the morning of June 4th by the pilots themselves.  While we have reports from the carriers that has proven to be somewhat suspect in the case of Hornet's air group I don't remember seeing any reports of compass headings being recorded by the pilots.  Also many reported heading on course that was plotted in the carriers command center but in the case of McClusky they headed considerably south of where the Japanese carriers were.  McClusky states that they determined the maximum distance the Japanese fleet could travel given the contact report from the PBY at 5:30am, which proved to be their only report.  If they did not find the KB at that point then they would turn North as that would be the only direction they could possibly be.

According to Hornet's report they headed out on course 240 which would have been almost a perfect intercept but we all know that they did not find KB and only Waldron did after deviating from the starting course.  Interestingly enough if you plot the 5:30am reported position from Hornet when they launched a course of approximately 265 would lead Hornet's air group to exactly that position.  Did Hornet's air command think the KB would still be there?

Yorktown's air group took a slightly different course that split the difference between the course the air groups from Enterprise's and Hornet took but still slightly to the North of KB.

Much was owed to Waldron actually finding the KB and attacking.  However this leaves me with a question that maybe someone in the group would have an answer. 

Did any pilots report the compass heading they took in official after action reports they submitted.  Two reasons I ask that come to mind.  All aircraft had a compass in the cockpit.   So by simply glancing down at some point one would assume they'd note a compass heading in some report.  And second, if one is going to navigate to point in the ocean and get back to the ship one has to plot where that ship might be when returning and that would indicate an outbound course.

So did any pilots report an outbound heading other than in memoirs published in some cases many years after the fact?  Or am I missing something somewhere?

Rear Seat Gunners

The subject is the rear seat radiomen-gunners (RGs) of the Midway era, particularly the SBD and TBD aircrewmen that we've known so well on the Roundtable and otherwise. I've always felt they were in a class by themselves in terms of the hazards they faced in combat.

Of course, they shared the same flying hazards as their pilots, but in my opinion their situation transcended even what their pilots faced in the air, because of one major contrast between the two: during the air battle, there was absolutely nothing between the RG and the enemy fighter pilot attacking from behind except air -- the two literally had face-to-face eye contact. Each was looking straight down the other's guns, and the Zero was vastly more heavily armed.

On the other hand, many or most of the American pilots at Midway had an armor plate behind their seat, which would at least stop the Japanese 7.7 mm machine gun rounds. But a 7.7 mm bullet was about like that of a big-game hunting rifle, and there was nothing to stop them from hitting a radioman-gunner beyond the attacker's poor aim.

One is reminded of the 19th century land battles in which rows of infantry simply lined up shoulder to shoulder and fired their rifles at a similar row of opposing infantry in plain sight across too little distance. They, and the aerial gunners of the 20th century had to know that many of them were going to get hit and probably killed. It had to be a supremely terrifying way to go into battle. Yet, virtually all of the RGs did so willingly, even some with amazing gusto, as the case of our own Richard Woodson who volunteered for BOM flights that he wasn't assigned. He and others like him were a breed apart, in my view.

--Ron Russell


Editors Note: If you haven't read the excellent article in Naval History magazine about three of our own members you can read it online. 

Rear Seat Gunners at Midway