Roundtable Forum
Our 17th Year
March 2014

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Midway Island Video
Five Came Back
A few notes from Barrett Tillman
Fisher's Smoke off the Port Wing
RIng's Navy Cross
Ceremony for George T Lumpkin, USMCR
New Midway Museum
Yorktown CV-5 Reunion
RoundTable Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

My appologies for being a bit late for the March issue.  I was waiting for a submission that I thought was important enough to delay this months newsletter a bit.  But it did not arrive so we will have to wait till next month.

I went through the Midway Library and updated the page to show images of the books as well as correct some links much like I did for our authors page a couple months ago.  I did not add any new books or movies but there are a couple more books that have come out the past couple years that are not on the list.  Not going to rate them but will add them in the new section.  Take a look and comments are always welcome.

We had a number of comments about Ron Russell's link about how Midway Island has been nearly destroyed in the past few years since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have taken over.  None more heart wrenching than one coming from a Veteran of the Battle Mr. John Hancock.

We have a number of interesting links and comments this month as well as some questions that were submitted that some of you might provide answers.  Hope you all enjoy the issue.

Midway Island Video

From: John Hancock
BOM vet, Sea 2/c, 2nd Div, USS Yorktown

Thousands gave their lives to stop the Japanese on this Island and surrounding waters and started our country on the long bloody path to cutting off the Japanese snake head which took many thousand more bloodied and killed Americans.  This is our Government and our funds at work folks.  My first ship U.S.S. Yorktown rests 640 fathoms (1 fathom = 6ft.) down 150 miles northeast of this Island containing some of my best friends.  Crap like this leaves me with a sick feeling in my gut.  Makes you wonder if our Country gives a crap.  Please forward to your Congressman even if they too don’t care.

Go to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, Vol. 195, no. 4 April, 1999 pages 84 through 103, The article Return to The Battle of Midway.

My personal opinion is it is way past time to get up our collected behinds and vote.  Old Ross Perot(sic) said one thing I agree with “Time to take the shovel and clean out the barn”.  It isn’t too late to save the greatest country on earth!  If not for yourself consider your Prodigy.  You are welcome to use the following E-Mail address and become a volunteer member.  To do so would be a great remembrance to some great and silenced Americans who rest on this Island and at the bottom of the surrounding waters.

John Hancock

Editor's Note: I did not receive an email referred above to become a volunteer but did request one to include in the next issue. I also could not find a link for National Geographic past issues to include. I am not sure they publish past issues online but will continue to look.

Five Came Back

From: Scott Kair

The NPR program “Fresh Air” ran an interview with Mark Harris, a journalist who wrote Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.  The book details the stories of five motion picture directors who enlisted in our armed forces during the war.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that John Ford and the two films he shot about the Battle were prominently featured in the interview.

Harris raised a couple of points that were new to me.  One was that Ford was not told why he was going to Midway Island or what to expect once he got there.  The other was that he apprehended quickly the significance of our victory in the Battle, did his own editing of the footage, and pushed to release it for boosting the public’s morale as quickly as possible.  Harris also confirmed what we could have reasonably suspected about his other film about the battle, featuring VT8, in that finding out that all but one of the aviators his crew had spent time with had been killed effected him deeply.

The recording of the interview is at:

The transcript is at:

There were some points of dubious accuracy, but overall the show might be of interest to the group, and it was heartening that the Battle is still remembered.

Scott Kair

A few notes from Barrett Tillman

From: Barrett Tillman

Thoroughly enjoy the current newsletter--so much to digest!

A couple of thoughts:

Click-click ref. Roger Thomas' assessment of factors affecting flight deck ops, especially landing intervals. The only thing I would add is elevator speed. I don't have the figures at hand (I cited them in the CV6 book) but the Yorktowns' elevators were significantly faster than the Lexingtons. That was especially important in cycling CAPs, as at E Sols and Santa Cruz.

Don Boyer raises a good point ref. Mitscher's rep, starting with Taylor's worshipful "The Magnificent Mitscher." I've always wondered why USNIP keeps reprinting a 1950s bio notably lacking in objectivity. But since MM burned his papers, it's unlikely we'll ever see a more balanced treatment.

Nimitz can be faulted in his handling of two officers I know of, one negatively (not standing up for Joe Rochefort) and one positively (giving Leslie Gehres a pass.) The latter is rarely commented upon, but Gehres' marginal performance at FAW-4 in the Aleutians should have beached him. Instead he became the only non-USNA fast carrier CO, to the enormous regret of CV-13. Joe Springer's "Inferno" is excellent, though I don't recall if it explains how/why a marginal officer got so critical a command. Sounds/smells like some BuPers backchannel doings. We can only assume that Nimitz refused to Just Say No.


Fisher's Smoke off the Port Wing - Flight To Nowhere

From:  Tom Phillips LCDR USN (Ret)

Having learned from various treatises about how the Japanese communicated between ships and fighters defending those ships, perhaps I have a thought which would explain Fisher’s sighting of smoke “from Midway.”

Perhaps the smoke was NOT from Midway at all. Did he say he sighted the islands or the smoke from the islands?

Outer screen IJN ships changed their fuel-air mixture to generate great gouts of dark smoke to attract the attention of the fighters, which apparently did not all have radios. I would think such a signal would be somewhat sustained and not a discreet puff and would be sustained until the fighters responded (the fighters were all over the place having been busy fending off a series of attaks from the island.

Is is not likely that the smoke columns seen by Fisher off his left wing was smoke from the Kido Butai screening ships’s signals, and not smoke from Midway island? On the 265-degree course, It would have been in the right direction, the right distance. In the retrospect, perhaps Fisher “assumed” the smoke he saw (from several ships on the northeast side of the Kido Butai - the side nearest the HAG and the side being attacked by Waldron and/or Massey) was from the island of Midway – especially since the HAG pilots might not have known how the Japanese signalled their fighters (again not realizing they did it differently than the USN), so just “assuming” the columns of smoke were from the enbattled island (which they knew were under attack), not even having knowledge of any other plausible reason for columns of black smoke.

Tom Phillips

Editor's Note:  This is one of the mysteries of Midway that has been a topic of controversy for many years.  Clay Fisher always claimed that the smoke was from Midway and I have little room to claim he was wrong as he was there and a very good aviator.  However recent analysis of the battle and Hornet's bombing and scouting squadrons flight path makes it hard to see how the smoke could have been from Midway.  I have had the same thought that the smoke might have been from Kido Butai's sceening vessels signaling incoming attacks or quite possibly from a burning carrier.  But we may never know exactly what Clay Fisher saw.  Only he saw it and reported what he thought he saw.  To review Clay Fisher's story of the battle from his perspective read The RoundTable back issue from 2004 here.   For an update on the RoundTable's book on The Flight to Nowhere read Update on The Flight to Nowhere.

Is this the correct citation for Ring's Navy Cross?

From:  Tom Phillips LCDR USN (Ret)

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Stanhope Cotton Ring, Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Combat Plane and Group Commander of Air Group EIGHT (AG-8), embarked from the U.S.S. HORNET (CV-8), during the Battle of Midway on 6 June 1942. Commander Ring led his carrier air group against enemy cruisers and destroyers, coolly and methodically, in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire. Without regard for his own safety, he drove home a successful attack on the enemy carriers. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 308 (November 1942)
Born: October 13, 1902 at Norfolk, Virginia
Home Town: Coronado, California

Is it a transcription typo that he drove home a successful attack on the enemy carriers? Cruisers, right?

Tom Phillips


Editors Note: This was briefly discussed in a past issue of the RoundTable.  Click on the following link to the 30 October 2009 Issue Number: 2009-42  to read the response there.  Basically yes the phrase 'enemy carriers' is somewhat of a problem given that the previous sentence only mentions cruisers and destroyers.

Ceremony for George T Lumpkin, USMCR

From: Billy Lumpkin

A Midway Veteran was honored March 15th at the county airport (their idea) with a flag pole and commemorative plaque.  Thought this might be of interest.

To view the photos and newspaper clippings click on the following links.

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4
Photo 5

New Midway Museum

From: Fran Kraus

New Midway Museum exhibit to showcase historic Battle of Midway during WWII

SAN DIEGO - The Battle of Midway, considered the turning point of World War II, will be showcased at one of San Diego's most popular tourist attractions, the USS Midway Museum.

"We are striving to take history out of the books and immerse our visitors," said Scott McGaugh, the Midway Museum's marketing and history director.

Construction on a 90-seat, state-of-the-art theater will soon get underway after crews finish the demolition work needed to make room for the exhibit, which aside from a 14-minute film will also have a hi-tech twist.

"We will have a hologram in front of the screen describing the action on the screen from those who lived it," McGaugh said.

The hologram will be of naval aviator George Gay, the only survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8 who was shot down during the battle but survived by clinging to a life vest until he was rescued.

The battle around Midway Island in the Pacific took place six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aircraft carrier USS Midway is named for the battle and was commissioned in 1945.

The exhibit is slated to open in December as the museum marks its 10th anniversary this June.

Midway Museum article

Yorktown CV-5 Reunion

From: Warren Heller

If you would be kind enough to announce that the annual reunion of Yorktown veterans, their families, friends and other interested parties will be held in Washington, DC from April 30 through May 4, 2014. For a list of activities, special access events and registration form, please contact  Deadline for reduced rates at the Crystal City Double Tree Hotel and reunion activities is March 31.

By the way, the commentary in this month’s issue was particularly compelling. The film about FWS’ “conservation efforts” at Midway was heart wrenching.


Editor's Note: I am sorry that I did not see the note about the deadline for reduced rate registration until putting the newsletter together a few days ago. My appologies to Mr. Heller.

RoundTable Questions.

Editor's Note: A few questions from our members and other people that contact the RoundTable looking for answers. Anyone that has information can chime in and we'll publish the answers next issue.

From:  Mac McCaffrey

How did we learn about the executions of the aircrew and were there any of the Japanese involved punished after the war?
From:  Joseph Levine

I’m trying to find someone who might have known my father during the war. His name was Irving Levine.  He served as an officer on the USS Yorktown from November 1940 to June 1942.  He would have come on as an Ensign, I believe.  I am not sure of his rank at the time of Midway.  Reviewing old records, he was listed as having duties as Division Officer, Battery Officer and Watch Officer (Deck).  His Battlestations were 5”/38 AA 1.1” AA (I’m not sure where during Midway).  I recall him talking of having been the Assistant Navigator the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.  If anyone remembers him, I would love to hear from you. Thanks.

I am attaching a picture of him that was reported to have been from ~1941, at which time he was a Lt. j.g.  Click Here to view the Photo

Editor's Note: And we always have a few questions from our younger generation for their school projects. Name and contact information withheld as they are usually underage.

Hello, I have a question about the battle of midway for homework... I did some research about how the battle of midway started but I don't get it.  Its complicated.  Can you please tell me how the battle of midway started and what caused it?  Thank you for your help and reply.

Editor's Reply: The entire story is rather long.  But briefly.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor they found out that none of the American Carriers were in port that day so they missed perhaps their best chance to destroy them.  As the first 6 months of the war wore on Yamamoto, the commander and chief of the Japanese Navy, was more and more convinced that in order to end the war favorably in Japan's favor he must destroy the rest of the American Fleet before the new ships the US was building arrived sometime in 1943.  So he decided to try and attack a base the Americans would certainly fight for.  That base was Midway Island.  The reason it was important is that it was only about 1100 miles from Pearl Harbor and acted as a kind of lookout for the main Naval Base for the US Pacific Fleet.  Figuring that the US carriers would defend Midway it would be the perfect way to draw them out and destroy them.  The US up until that point was not going to risk their carriers unless the area the Japanese attacked was worth it.  To that end he was correct.  What he didn't realize is that the United States Navy had broken the Japanese Naval Code and could read their messages.  So Admiral Nimitz set up an ambush north east of Midway and waited for the Japanese fleet to arrive.

The battle started because of the reasons above.  What caused it was Yamamoto's desire to draw out the American Carriers and destroy them.  Attacking Midway Islands was the way of doing just that.

Sorry I can't be more in depth but the reality is that it was a very complicated situation in the spring and summer of 1942.  To a great degree Jimmy Doolittle's raid maybe had the most influence on the battle.  Before the raid the Japanese high command was not wanting to go with Yamamoto's plan to attack Midway.  After the Doolittle raid they decided that they would approve Yamamoto's plan.

Hope this helps and again sorry I can't be more in depth but I am traveling so I do not have a lot of time to explain it in more detail.

Thank You very much!  That was very easy to understand, you made it easier.  I learned these things in school but you explained it better.  Any way thanks, I will surely use this for my Battle of Midway project!! THANK YOU

Editor's Note: We are always glad to help the younger generation understand the importance of this battle and its importance in history.