Roundtable Forum
Our 17th Year
April 2014

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
VP23 at Midway
Fishers smoke off Port Wing.
Captain Leslie Gehres
Stanhope Ring's Navy Cross
Lt. James C. Owens
Comments on Yorktown
Easter on Midway
Notes and Announcements
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

When I was growing up and discovered the Battle of Midway and became somewhat obsessed with learning all I could there was precious little in print.  The only two books in print at the time that I could find was Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya and Climax at Midway by Thaddus Tuleja.  After reading those two books I searched for any other books that might have information on Midway.  One volume of Samuel Elliot Morrison's 15 volume work, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Operations as well as some magazines and a few general books in the local library that at least in part had a few chapters on Midway was all I could find.

A few years later two books that changed my life I suppose was Walter Lord's Incredible Victory and Rendezvous at Midway by Pat Frank and Joseph D. Harrington.  After reading these two fine works I sought out any and all information that was published on the Battle of Midway.  At one point I even taught myself how to read Japanese so I could read sources not available in English.  I had the good fortune of meeting George Gay and many of the Doolittle Raiders when they had reunion's in Lincoln, Nebraska.   I was also fortunate enough to find The Battle of Midway RoundTable one day.  Needless to say there is not a lot I have not read on the battle.

However when I was first collecting books, magazines, etc. on the battle it was always such a thrill to find something that I had previously not seen before.  Many more books were printed on Midway over the years and much more information became available when some of the classified documents were declassified.  Each discovery was special.  Why am I telling you this?

Well this month we have a special contribution to the RoundTable by Mr. Gerry Child.  His father Gerald F. Child was a co-pilot of a PBY in VP23 that searched for the Japanese Carriers on the morning of the 4th.  While his PBY was not the first to spot the Japanese Carriers that day they did encounter them later that afternoon.  Mr. Child wrote about his experiences at Midway for a person writing a book on Midway.  Sadly the book was never finished or published and Mr. Child's story remained unknown to this day.   Maybe.

Why do I say maybe.  Well I have researched high and low and cannot find that this story has been published before anywhere.  Not to say it hasn't seen print somewhere but according to his son who provided his fathers story he is unaware if it has been published before.

So a special treat this month.  Ens. Gerald F. Child's story of VP23 and the Battle of Midway.

But that's not all.  We have many other contributions and continuing discussions.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy.

VP23 at Midway

From: Gerry Child

My father was a co-pilot of a PBY attached to VP 23 during the Battle of Midway.  His name was Ens. Gerald F. Child.  He died in 1990.  Prior to his death he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the battle.  Several years before his death he completed a detailed account of his experiences during the battle, and if the Midway Roundtable would like a copy of what he complied I would be happy to provide you with a copy.

As an aside, my grandfather was Warren G. Child and after graduation from the Naval Academy in the 1906 became U S Naval aviator # 29.  His roommate at Annapolis was Ray Spruance.  He attained the rank of Captain and had a distinguished career before he had to leave the Navy for health reasons and died in California before the war began.

Gerry Child
Olympia, WA  
Editors reply: I finished reading the account for the third time and have to say it is very interesting and quite good.  There are a number of things your father brought to light that may or may not have every seen print let alone been known.  I particularly like his account of his meeting with Nimitz as well as his description of the burning Japanese Carriers late in the afternoon on the 4th.  I'll add it to our archives, web pages, and include your notes in our next newsletter.  I do have one question.  At one point he stated that this account was written: 'since your basic subject is the Battle of Midway'.  Was this submitted to someone previously writing a book on Midway or just to his children or close family for a personal reason such as a school report or something?  If you know what the significance of this statement was it would be helpful as an introduction to the account.  Plus I don't want to state that this account was never published before if it was.

Thanks again very much for sharing his personal account of the battle.

Here's the rest of the answer.  Perhaps you know the name Bill Vickery.  In the 80's somehow Mr. Vickery and my father became acquainted relative to a book Bill wanted to write about the roll of Midway based PBY's during the battle.  He came to our home for a few days to interview Dad, and I think Bill recommended that dad put his account on paper both as something he could draw on for for his book and as something for our family.  My dad died in 1990 and about 2000 I called Mr. Vickery to ask if he ever wrote his book.  He said he had not completed it and to my knowledge he died a few years later.  From time to time I look for books about Midway and the battle to see if anything new has been published about the PBY's or by Mr. Vickery, etc. but  I have not found anything in that vein.
I hope this answers your question.  I would like to join the Midway Roundtable so if you can provide to me what I need to do to accomplish that I would appreciate it.
Editors reply: Thanks very much for the answer. I wanted to state that this account has never appeared in print but wanted to make sure before stating it. The background on the reason the story was written is also of interest and I'll include it in the article. Too bad Mr. Vickery never completed his work. It would be of tremendous value to understanding a little known part of the battle. A few years ago there was a book published called 'Midway Submerged' about the submarines at Midway. The role Submarines played at Midway was under appreciated for years as well. Unfortunately the book did not live up to my expectations but nevertheless was interesting despite having very few 1st person accounts in the book.

As for joining the RoundTable consider yourself joined. I'll put your name and email address in our data base. If you want to provide more info about yourself or your father that's fine too. But you'll get the notice on the newsletter each time I publish one which is every month currently.

Thanks again for the update. Maybe someday we'll get a book on the PBY's at Midway.

After I sent my reply to you last night I thought of one possible way my father's story could have  appeared in print.  Several years ago the son of a co-worker of mine was working on a project associated with his eventually becoming  an Eagle Scout.  His project involved gathering the stories of various WWII veterans, both alive and deceased.  He accumulated many, many accounts including my father's.  My recollection was that somehow they were submitted to a specific WWII cite at the Library of Congress.  I'm not sure if that counts relative to your question  but I thought that I'd mention it.
By the way, did you recognize Bill Vickery's name?

Thanks for enrolling me in the Midway Roundtable.

Best wishes,

Editors reply:  Mr. Child. Thank you very much for the story from your father and consider yourself a member of the Midway RoundTable.  Bill Vickery is not a name I am familiar with. Perhaps someone on the RoundTable has heard of him and can provide some information.

Here is the link to the story Ens. Gerald F. Child wrote about his experiances with VP23 at Midway as well as before the war and after Midway.  Hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

With VP23 at Midway

More on Fishers sighting smoke off the Port Wing.

From Tom Fritz:

As a member of the Roundtable for several years, I've come to firmly believe that the "Flight to Nowhere" course had to be 265. The one problem was Clay Fischer's sighting of smoke to the south, which I could not believe originated from burning IJN carriers - the timing of Fischer's sighting and the destruction of the Japanese carriers just doesn't match up.

I remember reading long ago that Japanese destroyers were placed far out from the carriers to warn of incoming enemy aircraft and used smoke and gunfire to alert orbiting Zeroes since the Japanese believed the CAP fighters had a better chance to shoot down enemy aircraft than a destroyer's limited amount of AA fire added to the carrier's protective screen - but I never made the connection between destroyer smoke and Clay Fisher's smoke. After reading the comments from Tom Phillips that the "Outer screen IJN ships changed their fuel-air mixture to generate great gouts of dark smoke to attract the attention of the fighters," I'm convinced that Mr. Phillips has solved the final mystery of the "Flight to Nowhere."

From Ron Russell: 

Nice job on the March newsletter and the website.  The addition of images to the "Midway Library" page is an especially nice enhancement. Everyone should give it another look.

Regarding the smoke seen by Clay Fisher off his port wing, that has to be Midway's buring oil tank (if we momentarily accept course 240 degrees for the HAG). He described the smoke in person to me during a visit to his home in 2005, and its nature was clearly unlike the only other smoke generator in the region at that time, maneurvering and signalling smoke from the Japanese ships. The time was roughly 0830, more or less during the Marine SB2U attacks, causing some to wonder if that's what Fisher had actually seen while on course 265. Not likely. A single column of oily black smoke eminating from a fixed position (Clay's description) isn't consistent with that belched by multiple cruisers and destroyers in a very mobile scenario.

Another problem with the "course 265" theory is that Fisher first saw the smoke at about the 10 o'clock position; impossible on course 265 given where his aircraft would have been at 0830 relative to Midway. That leaves us where we've been from the outset: a basically unassailble first-person argument that Fisher (and therefore the HAG) was on course 240, coupled with the equally unassailable evidence from other first-person sources that argue for course 265. I've long since given up trying to sort that out--it's one of Midway's imponderables that will never be resolved.


Captain Leslie Gehres only non-USNA fast carrier CO

From David Anderson:

I gladly opened my e-mail this morning from the Battle of Midway Forum. There is one small error that I noticed in the e-mail from Barrett Tillman. It states that Captain Leslie Gehres "became the only non-USNA fast carrier CO..." It's a small thing, but Captain (later admiral) Mel Pride was the first commanding officer of the light carrier Belleau Wood, in 1943. Since light carriers were also fast carriers, together with then-Captain Pride's academics, those facts make Barrett Tillman's statement incorrect. Admiral Pride was an enlisted man in the World War, and if my memory and information are correct, he attended M.I.T. and then became a commissioned officer. (I don't believe he finished at M.I.T. with a degree - but I could be wrong.) So here is another fast carrier C.O. without Naval Academy credentials.

I have one further note about what Barrett Tillman wrote. If he had written that Captain Gehres was the first non-academy graduate to command a fleet carrier, that would have been correct. I am sure that Barrett knows this fine point, and probably forgot to include this distinction. Thus, to try to add some levity to the situation, Belleau Wood was fast, but she was not fleet. (Meaning that as a light carrier, she was able to steam about 30 knots, (a fast carrier), but she was not large enough to be classified as a "fleet" carrier.)

I have a question I would like to pose to Barrett about his Enterprise book, and I do not have his e-mail address at hand. Could you send it to me?

David Anderson
Editors reply:  Thanks for the note.  Good to know.  I'll pass on the info to Mr. Tillman.  As for giving out his email address I don't really have his permission nor anyone's on the list for that matter.  I'd gladly pass on your question to him and provide your email address to him.  If he wants to respond directly then you'll have his email.
From Barrett Tillman:

David, glad to be in touch.

Yes, Independence class were fast CVs (capable of 30 kts) but I was unaware of Mel Pride as a BW skipper. Perhaps I was thinking that Gehres was the only big-deck non-USNA captain. And maybe that's wrong too! (In looking online I see that one of his early ships was BB Arizona.)


Note: by "his early ships" I referred to Pride, not Gehres.

Stanhope Ring's Navy Cross

From John Hancock:

Gee! Never knew Stanhope Ring got a medal for losing Hornet’s air group at Midway. I cannot understand how a lost air group could attack sunken carriers on June fourth at Midway. Could it be possible the lost air group from Hornet found the Jap Cruisers on the fifth the Japs had converted to carriers underway overnight? Just asking.

John Hancock
From Ron Russell:

Regarding Tom Phillips' justified curiosity about Ring's Navy Cross, yes, it's rife with errors. Ring never saw a Japanese carrier at Midway, let alone attacked one. He made one bomb run on the Tanikaze on June 5th and one against Mogami-Mikuma on June 6th neither of which hit. He didn't even release his bomb on the 5th because he didn't know how, according to fellow VB-8 pilot Roy Gee, which doesn't do much for the citation's mention of Ring's "determined skill" during the battle. Finally, there was no "Air Group EIGHT (AG-8)" during the BOM because that nomenclature didn't exist then. It was the "Hornet Air Group (HAG)" at Midway, not AG-8 -- the writer was assuming the new protocol, initiated long after the battle and around the time the citation was written.

One could go on at great length about questionable medal awards during the BOM and elsewhere. My number one tooth-gritter in that regard is MacArthur's Medal of Honor for "heroism" at Corregidor. Utterly astounding, but that's another story.

Parshall and Tully's Shattered Sword at page 368 confirms Ring attacked the Mogami and Mikuma on 6 June.


Lt. James C. Owens

From Hal Burrows:

First let me offer my thanks for your keeping the Midway Roundtable viable and making it better and better all the time. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in that momentous battle. I look forward to reading it every month!

In the early 1960’s I served as a junior officer aboard the USS James C. Owens, DD776, a destroyer named for Lt. James C. Owens who was the Executive Officer of VT8. Back then we didn’t have the Roundtable, Google, numerous books, and all the wonderful resources of today, so most of us knew next-to-nothing about Midway and Lt. Owens. I have since read all I can, but I can find very little information about Lt. Owens except the attached sheet (see below) which I found on Google and a few very brief phrases in books such as "A Dawn Like Thunder."

I know he was married when he died, I believe he had no children, and I know that his widow married the first C.O. of our destroyer. But other than that, it’s a blank. If any of your readers have any information about Lt. Owens, I would greatly appreciate hearing from them via the Roundtable or by e-mail, USPS mail, telephone, etc.
Lieutenant Owens was born in Batavia, New York, December 10, 1910. He attended The University of Southern California where he played varsity football and studied Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 1933. On August 1, 1936 he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve at Long Beach, California, and had preliminary flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base there. When appointed an Aviation Cadet in September 1935 he was sent to Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida for flight training. On October 9, 1936 as Aviation Cadet he was ordered to active duty in an air unit attached to the U.S.S. Lexington. He was commissioned Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve, July 1, 1939 and the following December he was detached from the Lexington and ordered to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, for duty.

On February 12, 1940, he was promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade), and on March 4, he transferred to the regular Navy. On January 6, 1942 he was advanced in rank to Lieutenant, which rank he held until his death.

From Pensacola, Lieutenant Owens was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia for duty in connection with fitting out Torpedo Squadron Eight attached to the U.S.S. HORNET, and served as a member and Executive Officer of that Squadron from August 13, 1941 until his death. He was reported missing in action on June 4, 1942, when the plane he was flying was shot down by the enemy in the Battle of Midway, and was offficially presumed dead from June 5, 1943.

Lieutenant Owens was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and following citation:


In addition to the Navy Cross, Lieutenant Owens was awarded a facislmile of , and Ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation received by officers and men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, and was elilgible for the Purple Heart Medal. The American Defense Service Medal, Gleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Meda, and World War II Victory Medal. The U.S.S. JAMES C. OWENS (DD 776), has been named in his honor.

A couple of comments on the post from John Hancock.

From Allen Peisner:

The numbers Mr. Hancock states are off.  We lost the 307 sailors from Yorktown and Hammann, along with 145 aircraft.  I am unsure if he also considers the Japanese losses, estimated at about 2500 in his statement.

The other is the depth of the Yorktown.  He states 640 fathoms.  It was actually more than three miles below the surface. The first time Ballard send his remote underwater vehicle to find it, the light bulbs imploded due to the pressure.  He had never explored that deep before. This was about a mile deeper than the Titanic.

I appreciate any veterans contribution to this roundtable about the battle. However, I believe we should strive for accuracy when the facts are well known.

Allen Peisner
BOM Roundtable member since about 1997
Editors reply:  If leaving the numbers in as written bothers you or anyone else I am glad you took the time to provide us with the correct numbers.  However I left the note as written as the words were heart felt from someone who was there and fought for the Island.

Thank you for your input.

Easter on Midway

Editors note:  Fran Kraus provided us with some pictures on Midway of the markers that celebrate Easter as site of the last religious services for that day.  She originally sent the first picture but after asking if she had a picture of the cross contacted some other Midway Islanders and the following two pictures of the cross came her way.

From Fran Kraus:

There is a HUGE wooden cross there or was. No one knows if it is still maintained or if FWS has let it fall to weather and termites. Why would they maintain it. They want all civilization things gone! Midway is 140 miles from tomorrow and has the last religious services on earth. (No one considers Kure.)

Midway Stone Marker

Midway Cross

 Midway Cross when newer.

RoundTable Notes and Announcements.

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 Linda Smith:

I am running down some stories about Martin E Mahannah. I have read several accounts of the Battle of Midway and there are conflicting stories of his death. They range from him being seen being shot as his parachute floated down and him crashing on the reef to beiing identified and then buried at sea and one that said he was in a grave but unidentified. Can you clear this up? Thank you.

Linda Smith

From Jason A. Beatty:

I was involved in the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway event that occurred on Midway Atoll June 2012. We had two round table veterans join us for this event; Col John F. Miniclier and Sgt Ed Fox.

I am now located on Saipan and interested in making contact with veterans of the Battle of Saipan/Marianas. I assume that there are probably members of the round table who are veterans of the Marianas campaign.

NPS/CNMI will be hosting a Reunion of Honor to commemorative the 70th Anniversary. The event is going to consist of several sub-events spanning over a one week period. All details of the sub-events are still being finalized, but tentatively include a parade, campfire chat, history symposium, ceremony, etc. Ideally, we would like to locate some veterans of the Marianas Campaign that may be interested in attending the event. Please notify your members and have them contact me if they are interested in attending the event.

Thank you,
Jason A. Beatty
Chief Ranger, Protection Division
American Memorial Park, Saipan
War in the Pacific NHP, Guam
Office# (670) 234-7207 ext 2008 Cell# (670) 483-7243