Roundtable Forum
Our 17th Year
December 2013

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Norden Bombsight
More on Nagumo's Turn NE
Rear Seat Gunners
US Bombs at Midway
Interest in The Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

I'd like to take the time to thank all the members for the year 2013.  My experiance carrying on the tradition of The Battle of Midway RoundTable has been humbling to say the least.  First of all I'd like to thank Mr. Ron Russell who saw enough in me to pass the torch.  I am thankful for all his help getting the RoundTable transferred and continuing support and advice as well as his notes of wisdom concerning the battle itself and contributions to the discussions.

I would also like to thank all our members for the notes, questions, discussions, etc. for without you the RoundTable does not exist.

I'd like to thank all the Veterans of the battle here now as members and still willing to share experiances and answer questions now and again.  I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you.

I would also like to thank our Authors that have helped and guided me in the right direction at times.  I appreciate it very much.  And I thought it appropriate to update the authors page and their books by adding pictures of the covers along with updating the links, many of which had failed to go anywhere due to targeted web page addresses changing etc.  Please check it out.  I hope to continue to update other pages as I have the time.

Review Our Authors Page here.

So on to this month's issue.  We have Mr. Al Kernin's comments on the Norden bombsight, more on Nagumo's turn North East, some comments on Rear Seat Gunners, Bombs the US had at Midway, and some stories about how some of our members became interested in the Battle of Midway leading them to eventually become members of the RoundTable.

And I would be remiss if I didn't include my own story in how I came to study The Battle of Midway.

My father was in the Navy during the last two years of the Pacific War aboard a destroyer.  When I was growing up in the 50's and early 60's his Navy buddies would come by now and then and I'd get to listen to stories.  I also would look at the album of pictures my father brought home from the war.  He said he mailed the rolls of film home undeveloped and when he returned he had them developed and put into albums.  In them were picture upon picture of his ship, shipmates, enemy islands, wrecked and abandoned Japanese aircraft, and so on.  But interest in Midway was not peaked until I was visiting my grandparents in the mid 60's and watched a TV show on The Battle of Midway.  A few weeks or months later, hard for a kid to tell the difference, I happened upon a game by Avalon Hill called Midway in a drug store in town.  We lived on a farm so didn't get into town all that often.  At any rate it was $4.98 and it took me a good long while to save up for it.

Click here for larger Image and read 'The Midway Story' by Wade McClusky on the box.

But eventually after scouring ditches and such for bottles to return for 2 cents or anything else that would earn me a cent or two I finally had enough for the game.  I bought it and my little brother and I played the game for hours on end.  I picked up a book from the library, 'Climax at Midway' by Thaddeus Tuleja and read that along with a few other books that had chapters on Midway.  The one interesting thing about the game was that it included a first person account of the battle by Wade McClusky, part of which appeared on the front of the box.  Unfortunately the game was missing the rules as the box was open, no such thing as shrink wrap back then, and so my brother and I had to make up rules ourselves till I could save up the 50 cents for the rulebook in the parts list and mail off for them.  They probably would have sent it no charge if I had explained but I didn't know.

At any rate that started me on the way to my lifelong interest in the battle.  A few years later in 1967 Walter Lord's 'Incredible Victory' was published along with another lessor known book the same year called 'Rendezvous at Midway' by Pat Frank and Joseph D. Harrington.  Reading those two books pretty much cemented my interest in the Battle.

Norden Bombsight

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

Just for the sake of curiosity you might note that the commander of Torpedo 8, John Waldron, had been the naval observer at the norden bombsight factory just before reporting to the squadron while the Hornet was commissioning.  Later on in the war I trained on the bombsight for use in the TBF but desipte several practices never used one in action.  We all thought that the Navy's torpedo planes were useless as high altitude level bombers and that the Navy had the sight only so they could compete with the Army which boasted about dropping bombs in pickle barrels.  

Al Kernan

More on Nagumo's turn North East

From Lu Yu

With full respect to Mr. Russell, I'd like make a few points of my take.

[Quoting Mr. Russel]
"But yes, it's also fair to imagine that KB's course after the turn might have ultimately met the YAG head-on, absent the interference from TF-16's Devastators. But what then? For one thing, the Japanese CAP would have been in far better shape, both in terms of numbers in the air and in altitude stacking--no annoying torpedo planes to suck them downward."

KdB's CAP reached 43 Zeros around 1025 (Shattered Sword p. 154), an absolute maximum on that morning. It was against this strong CAP (well, at least strong in number) that Yorktown and Enterprise squadrons made vital hits. In comparison, at 0917 when KdB made its turn to northeast, the CAP strength was 18. KdB's air defense system was pretty primitive. Basically what they did is to send up more Zeros when an enemy group was sighted (whether the sighting can be made in time is also a big question mark). It was the VT-8 and VT-6 attacks that made the Japanese put up more CAP Zeros. I don't want to expand on KdB's weak air defense here, since Shattered Sword has this topic well covered. As for the altitude, actually it was VT-3 and VF-3 that attracted many Zeros to low altitude, not the VT-8 or VT-6.

[Quoting Mr. Russel]
"And two, where are the Enterprise SBDs in this scenario? Remember that McClusky spotted KB at a time and at a location that was dictated in large measure by the earlier VT attacks. While wildly maneuvering to avoid the dreaded torpedoes during two prolonged episodes, KB made little or no progress along Nagumo's intended track. Where would they have been had nothing interfered with his chosen course and speed for nearly an hour after the turn?"

McClusky found KdB because he sighted (at 0955) and followed Arashi. Arashi started dealing with Nautilus before Nagumo's 0917 turn. So whether or not VT-8 and VT-6 attacked Nagumo will affect McClusky's ultimate finding. KdB's actual position is not important as long as McClusky would sight and follow Arashi.

In general, it is not easy for an attack group to completely miss the enemy in carrier battles of 1942. On the U.S. side, the only exception is the HAG on June 4th, which took a westerly course that lead to "nowhere". Except that, USN SBD squadrons made contact with enemy in every sortie against enemy carriers in 1942 and in most cases achieved hits. (Coral Sea May 7th and 8th, Midway June 4th morning and afternoon, Eastern Solomons August 24th, and Santa Cruz October 26th)


Editor's Response:  I am not entirely sure your last claim is entirely accurate. At Eastern Solomons while it is true the first strike group from Saratoga found the Ryujo the other strike that Fletcher was saving for the main Japanese Carriers and were launched just before the incoming first Japanese strike arrived, never did find the Shokaku and Zuikaku despite them being spotted earlier. I think the communications might have failed if memory serves but still they did not contact the carriers. Also at Santa Cruz of the three strike groups launched by the Enterprise and Hornet only the first one found the Japanese Carrier group. The other two attacked the advance force or not at all. In general you are correct that the SBD's did contact and attack enemy carriers in every battle. However not all the strikes found the Japanese carriers in these battles, only some of them, and at Eastern Solomons they did not contact the main Japanese carriers at all except for the recon aircraft.


Mr. Lu Yu replies:  

At Eastern Solomons, the reserved Enterprise attack group were sent out because of the incoming Japanese attack. When they were launched, Kinkaid gave the target as Ryujo's reported position, some 260 miles away. No report about Shokaku and Zuikaku had been received at that time. This group later returned to Henderson Field or TF-11/16. Technically, it is true that they didn't find enemy, but the reported (the report was also very old) carrier had already sunk and other ships went back to Nagumo's main force. Thanks for pointing out that. 

At Santa Cruz, all three groups made contact with enemy, some with Abe's Vanguard Force. After Midway, the Japanese studied battle experience came up with the idea of a Vanguard Force to extend search radius and absorb attack. However, this is not a problem at Midway. Actually, I chose my words carefully here, "made contact with enemy" doesn't necessarily mean enemy force with carrier(s).


Editor's Reply: Thanks for the reply. Points cleared up. And yes you did say made contact so my error in assuming you meant with the Japanese carriers.


From Chuck Wohlrab:

I take minor issue with Ron Russell's comment that the Enterprise dive bombers would likely have missed KB had it not been for the turn. The Enterprise Dive Bombers may have actually seen them earlier, since their original course was predicated on Nagumo continuing to steam toward Midway. Another possibility is that the destroyer Arashi, which had been detailed to prosecute the attack on Nautilus, prior to the 0917 turn would still have pointed the way. Had they (Enterprise Dive Bombers - Editors Note) been too far North, Arashi would still have pointed the way to KB for the Enterprise dive bombers as she would have been steaming South to catch up instead of Northeast and they would very likely have encountered her.

Rear Seat Gunners

From Tom Galbraith:

In my readings about Midway and the Pacific War, I've run across a few references to the rear seat gun positions in the Dauntless and the other dive and torpedo bombers (both U.S. and Japan), but I haven't found out really how useful these guns were. Were the rear guns fairly effective, or perhaps could the planes have been faster and more maneuverable without them. Are there any references arguing this one way or the other.

Tom Galbraith
Springfield, MO


From Chuck Wohlrab:

In the matter of Dive and Torpedo Bomber rear seat guns, here is a list of Zeroes downed on 4 June over KB and who downed them (if known).

B-26s - 1
VT-6 - 1
VT-8 (Det. 2) - 1
VMSB 241 SBDs - 1
VF-3 (Tom Cheek) - 1
Sometime between 1006 and 1040 - 9

IIRC, VF-3 accounted for a total of 5 Zeroes (3 by Thach, 1 by his wingman and 1 by Cheek), the only fighter squadron to make contact over KB. That means that 8 were shot down by SBDs, TBDs and, in one case, TBFs. I'd say that was pretty good shooting.

The information comes from Appendix 9, Chronology of Japanese Fighter Operations, Shattered Sword, by Parshall and Tully.

US Bombs at Midway

From Chuck Wohlrab:

I believe I read, a long time ago, that some of the 1000 lb bombs carried by Dauntlesses at Midway were, in fact Semi-Armor Piercing Bombs. I am not sure of the source anymore. I also read that onboard the Enterprise class carriers there were 40 - 1,600 lb Armor Piercing bombs. These were primarily for use by the TBDs in a level-bombing mode, but a Dauntless coud (just) make it off the deck with one if her fuel load was reduced. I believe it said the combat radius with the 1,600 pounder was something like 50 miles. I believe the source for that was Peter Smith's Midway, Dauntless Victory.

Interest in The Battle of Midway

Editor's Note: Here are stories from some of our members on how they became interested in The Battle of Midway and eventually finding and becoming members of the RoundTable. Thanks for the notes and Enjoy.

From Chuck Wohlrab:

I've been a member of the BOMRT for several years now, mostly a reader, though I have contributed my meager knowledge to a few discussions.

I have been fascinated by the Pacific war since before I could read. As a young child back in the '50s, I avidly watched Victory at Sea, Navy Log, the Silent Service and all those sorts of shows. I became interested in the Battle of Midway at age 8, in 1960, when the first book I took out of the library was Irving Werstein's The Battle of Midway. It is written for young readers. I was fascinated by the tale of the torpedo bombers and dive bombers engaged in this titanic struggle. The book was great for stimulating young minds, and I soon started looking for anything else on Midway I could read. In 1966 I got a copy of the Avalon Hill wargame Midway, and spent hours refighting the battle.  A friend and I redid the rules pretty quickly. We added DDs, the extra AC and some other stuff as well, including a land portion for fighting the invasion. It was great fun! I still have my copy 40+ years later.

I have been hooked ever since!


From Manel Gil Cano:

Well... to me, I became interested long time ago. I was 13 years old (73 by now), when I saw Delmer Davis movie TASK FORCE ( Gary Cooper...).The movie impressed me so much, and especially the second part filmed in color in Okinawa waters. It was so dramatically real. The years went by and visiting Chicago in 1993 and having a fly to Dallas departing at Midway Airport I saw the Memorial there and so my interest in learning as much as possible on the issue, grew more and more. I asked my aquantences there for bookstores where to find and buy books dealing with The Pacific Campaign and so I could get some very interesting new and second hand books (Lundstrom FIRST TEAM and GUADALCANAL CAMPAIGN. Richard B. Frank GUADALCANAL. Buell THE QUIET WARRIOR. Edward Stanford.THE BIG E. Belote brothers THE TITANS OF THE SEA. Barret Tillman THE DAUNTLESS DIVE BOMBER of WWII and many other books bought here in Barcelona in specialty bookstores. I feel very glad to notice the still growing interest on BOM of the new generations and the good work of the renewed direction. Congratulations.


From Scott Kair:

Fifty years ago our WWII veterans were not rare national treasures, but our fathers, uncles, scoutmasters, teachers and neighbors.

Most were still young then, strong, vibrant and most of all, intent upon building lives for themselves and their families rather than upon examining what had happened 20 years previously. It was their formative experience, though, and the depth of its impact only became apparent when they got together and unwound.

There was an upside to being a shy, quiet child. I got to sit and listen, and fetch beer from the refrigerator for the former Navy sailors and Merchant Mariners who gravitated around my dad's and our kitchen. They were all of the younger cohort of WWII veterans, their earliest opportunity to enlist having come after it was clear that we would win. They tended towards relating episodes that they could laugh over, or fantastic tales of the sea.

One evening, though, I was busier than normal fetching beer, and they also stayed longer.

The tones became hushed, almost whispered, as they discussed what they had pieced together of the early, dark days of the war. The history books didn’t tell the real story; early on the outcome had been in doubt. One of the guys had risen quickly in the ranks, and spent many hours aboard ship and in bars with senior NCO’s who had been through those really awful days. They had related the true facts to him: “We only beat them at Midway through sheer dumb luck,” he pronounced gravely. “All our torpedo planes were shot down along with most of our dive bombers. Just enough broke through to set their carriers on fire and send the rest of their fleet back to Japan. If that hadn’t happened...” he didn’t finish the thought.

I remember his pronouncement clearly because it shocked me to the core. I was in grade school, and to me, Midway was an airport about 100 miles north of where we lived. Obviously, the Japanese had sneaked into Lake Michigan and tried to take Chicago. But that didn’t seem right, either.

The next day I asked my dad about the battle at Midway, and he dug out the world atlas to correct my misimpression. He pointed out what Japan had conquered at the time, and it was clear even to my young mind that there was nothing between Midway and Hawaii, and then nothing between Hawaii and California.

A few years later Dad brought home a newly published copy of Lord’s Incredible Victory and let me read it when he finished it. I couldn’t put it down, and then read it again. I had picked up the general progression of the war from my own reading and from listening during the beer calls, but Lord made it clear that it all hinged upon the dramatic and unlikely events of that fateful morning.

Dad and the rest of the young men who gathered at our kitchen table are all gone now, but they awakened in me a lifelong interest in America’s most decisive, and improbable, naval battle.


Editor's Note: Thank you all for sharing your stories. I hope everyone enjoyed the stories of fellow members. Everyone have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.