Roundtable Forum
Our 17th Year
June 2014

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Pacific Payback
Midway Radio Broadcast
Clay Fisher and the smoke from Midway
Link to Faces of the Battle of Midway
Reply to Two Midway Aviators
RoundTable Notes and Announcements.
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

June 4th, 2014 marks the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway.  Special thanks to those members who fought in the battle and continue to share experiances and memories.  We are all forever grateful.

This month Mr. Steve Moore gives us a special treat, his new book entitled Pacific Payback.  Although I have not finished it yet I find the first few chapters I managed to sneak in very good and look forward to a few free evenings I can sit down and read the rest.  The book is about the Enterprise dive bombing squadrons during the early days of the war.  The chapters on Midway include both Yorktown and Hornet's dive bombing squadrons as well.

Mr. Ron Russell sends us his analysis of the Smoke seen by Clay Fisher enroute to attack the Japanese fleet on the morning of the battle.  Previously researched in 2007 he had never added it on the RoundTable web site.  It is a welcome addition.  Thank you very much.

'Duke' Brooks has a radio show and on June 4th he interviewed Jon Parshall, Barrett Tillman, and Tom Cleaver.  His topic The Battle of Midway.  He did the program with just Jon Parshall last year and it was great.  This year was just as good if not better.  For those that did not get to listen to it live you can find a link to the entire broadcast below.

Although not directly linked to the Battle of Midway comments on MacArthur in the previous issue sparked some addtional comments this month.  I included them in the newsletter as MacArthur's actions early in the war influenced the course of the first year of the war somewhat and so in a small way might have led to the showdown at Midway.

And so much more.  Enjoy.

Pacific Payback

From:  Steve Moore

Just wanted to alert you to a new book on the Battle of Midway. It largely centers on Scouting Six and Bombing Six on the Enterprise through the first six months of the Pacific War, but also covers the Hornet and Yorktown Dauntless squadrons extensively at Midway.  Based on dozens of first-hand accounts and interviews.

Editors Note:  Mr. Moore sent me this note on June 4th indicating that the book was available.  I picked up a copy earlier that morning at the local Barnes and Noble store on the way to work.  Naturally delighted to see another book on the early carrier squadrons and especially Midway I sent back a note asking him how he came to write the book.
Mr. Moore's Reply:

In short, it's a story that I've wanted to work on for years.  The Battle of Midway and Pacific carrier operations have always been a keen interest of mine. Two of my greatest inspirations for finding a love for history came from reading Walter Lord's "Day of Infamy" and "Incredible Victory" at a young age.  His style of presenting history from the eyes of some many different participants brought the action to life for me.

My first book in 1996 was "The Buzzard Brigade," the history of Torpedo Squadron Ten in the Pacific.  It was co-authored with VT-10 vet Robert Gruebel and CAF historian Bill Shinneman.  Upon completing it, I was interested in pursuing another book on carrier dive-bomber crews but learned that others were working on similar topics. Long story short, I ended up writing non-fiction books on the early Texas Rangers (in which my ancestors served) and four books on World War II submarine crews.

A few years ago, I decided I still wanted to write about the early Pacific Dauntless crews. Better late than never, I figured.  Ron Russell of the Midway Roundtable helped answer some of my early questions and put me in touch with Dusty Kleiss of Scouting Six.  Dusty shared his memoirs and kindly answered many of my questions during several calls.  My research eventually shaped up into a lengthy account of the first six months of the Pacific SBD units.  As I began working with my editor at NAL Caliber/Penguin, it was obvious the book was far too long for what they could use.  So, it has ended up focusing primarily on VS-6 and VB-6 during the first months of war.  Once the book reaches Midway, it opens up to include all of the dive-bomber crews from Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet.

Other historians who helped me with details, contacts, various papers, etc. for Pacific Payback include Barrett Tillman, James Sawruk, and John Lundstrom.  I was able to interview a number of the Dauntless veterans of early 1942, including: Kleiss, Edward R. Anderson, Oral Moore, Ray Johnston, Jack Leaming, Achilles Georgiou, Hal Buell, Fred Bergeron, and others.  Because of how late I started my research on this Midway book, there were obviously few veterans still living to contact.  Many of their families, however, kindly shared letters, diaries, and memoirs that helped paint the picture of who these heroes were.

Mark Horan, a friend and fellow historian who has spent a great amount of time interviewing Midway veterans, kindly allowed me to dig through his archival material.  During the 1980s and 1990s, Mark corresponded with and interviewed a large number of Midway veterans from Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet.  These first-hand accounts added tremendously to the research I was working on. I also researched the various first-hand accounts collected by Walter Lord from his work on "Incredible Victory."

The result, I hope, is an interesting account of the early island raids and the historic Battle of Midway seen through the eyes of many of the pilots and radiomen/gunner who helped win that pivotal carrier conflict.  I didn't mean to go on so long here, but I wanted to try to answer your question as best I could. Feel free to contact me with any other questions regarding Pacific Payback.

Best regards,
Steve Moore
Editors Note:  This book is really a nice addition to anyone's library.  I unfortunately found myself with considerable work this month and could not read much of the book.   The few chapters I managed to get in are well written and researched and paint a very vivid picture of the Enterprise Dive Bomber squadrons in the early part of the war.  I was going to write a review of the book but will put that off till I've finished it.  However based on the few chapters read so far it is compelling reading.  It is unfortunate the book had to be edited to just include the Enterprise Dive Bomber squadrons in the early part of the war as I'm sure the other squadrons would have made an interesting read as well.  Well done, Mr. Moore.

Battle of Midway Radio broadcast on-air w/Parshall, Tillman and Cleaver

From:  Sherwood "Duke" Brooks

In June of '13, I was honored to interview Jon Parshall on my program, "Radio Free America."
On Wednesday, June 4th, the 72nd anniversary of the Battle, I will be joined again on-air by Jon Parshall, plus Barrett Tillman, whose most recent book is, "USMC Fighter Squadrons of WW2," and Thomas Cleaver, author of "Fabled Fifteen."

I have been a student of the Battle since 1968, but these three guys are, of course, in a class by themselves when it comes to understanding Midway.  I would be very honored if you would be kind enough to post the link on the Roundtable site.  Thank you very much for keeping this pivotal battle alive.  There are still lessons to be learned from it.

Sherwood "Duke" Brooks,
Editors Note:  The link was posted at the top of the RoundTable web site a few days before the broadcast but in case anyone missed it here is a link to the broadcast recording.  Well worth the listen again this year.

Radio Free America w/ Duke Brooks: Battle of Midway special!

Clay Fisher and the smoke from Midway

From Ron Russell:
In the May newsletter, longtime Roundtable member Scott Kair suggests an in-depth navigational study of the facts surrounding Clay Fisher's recollection of seeing smoke from Midway's burning oil tank, and how that might support either course 240 or 265 for the Hornet Air Group on the morning of 4 June '42.

By coincidence, I did such a study back in 2007 although I never published it on the Roundtable.  But Scott's message sent me digging deep into the files and I came up with that old study and its accompanying chart.  Here it is, and while it doesn't definitively answer the "240 or 265" question--which I continue to believe will never happen--it does provide a lot of detail on what Fisher's perspective must have been.

--Ron Russell

Viewing the smoke from Midway
(See accompanying chart.)
--RR 1/23/2007


            There are two widely accepted versions regarding the flight of the USS Hornet air group (HAG) at the start of the Battle of Midway.  The traditional account is that the HAG flew more or less the same base course as the Enterprise air group, to the southwest on approximately 240 degrees true (d.t.).  The alternate version is that the HAG flew west on course 265 d.t.  Both versions have solid support from HAG veterans who flew the mission and recall specific details that support their views.

            The specific detail for Clay Fisher is Midway’s rising column of black smoke, from the bombed fuel tank.  Fisher flew an SBD in the group commander’s section during that mission.  He reports that, while flying at approximately 14,000 ft., he could see the smoke column about 90 minutes after he launched.  The smoke initially appeared at a bearing of about 10 o’clock from his heading.  The smoke remained visible as it trailed past his left wing (“9 o’clock”) and disappeared at roughly the 8 o’clock position.

            Other sources state that the HAG’s SBDs flew at approx. 20,000 ft. rather than 14,000.  For that reason, the following data includes calculations using both altitudes.

            This study seeks to determine if (a) Fisher’s recollections are plausible when compared to known facts, and (b) if the resulting data can help determine which version of the HAG’s course is more likely to be factual.

Facts and Assumptions

  • Midway is at 28-5-31N, 177-4-20W.
  • The Hornet’s position at the time of launch was 31-10-0N, 176-25-0W (estimated from chart included in ship’s official after-action report).
  • Distance between above two points is 216 miles.  Obtained from lat/long calculator,
  • SBDs either flew at approx 14,000 ft. or 20,000 ft.
  • SBDs’ average speed was only 115 mph (100 kts) for the first 30 minutes due to climbing.
  • SBDs’ average speed after 30 minutes was 161 mph (140 kts).
  • The distance to the horizon at 14,000 ft. is 136 miles.  (Dm = 1.1515 x sq. rt. of alt. in ft.)
  • The distance to the horizon at 20,000 ft. is 163 miles.  (Dm = 1.1515 x sq. rt. of alt. in ft.)
  • Scale on the accompanying chart is 1 inch = 46.0 miles (determined by measuring from the launch point to Midway).  One of the small blue squares is a quarter inch, one inch = 46 mi.
  • Ens. Fisher saw Midway’s smoke initially at 10 o’clock (relative position) and maintained its view until it disappeared at approximately 8 o’clock.
  • One hour on the relative position “clock” = 30 degrees of azimuth.  (300 x 12 hours = 360)  Therefore, “10 o’clock” is 3000 relative to the aircraft’s heading, “9 o’clock” is 2700, and “8 o’clock” is 2400.

Measurements and Observations from the Chart

  1. On course 240 d.t., the relative bearing to Midway would have been 3000 (“10 o’clock”) at Point A, which measures about 46 miles from launch.  At 115 mph average, the SBDs would have reached Point A approx. 24 minutes from starting out on their base course.  Distance to Midway at Point A is 190 miles, 54 miles beyond the horizon at 14,000 ft., 27 miles beyond the horizon at 20,000 ft.


  1. On course 240 d.t., a relative bearing to Midway of 2700 (“9 o’clock”) would have been reached at Point B, which is another 98 miles from Point A.  SBDs would have taken another 37 minutes to get there at 161 mph average, for a total elapsed time of 61 minutes.  Distance to Midway at Point B is 163 miles, 27 miles beyond the horizon at 14,000 ft.  At 20,000 ft., the atoll itself could have been visible on the horizon.


  1. On course 240 d.t., a relative bearing to Midway of 2400 (“8 o’clock”) would have been reached at Point C, which is another 98 miles from Point B.  SBDs would have taken another 37 minutes to get there at 161 mph average, for a total elapsed time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.  Distance to Midway at Point C is 191 miles, or 55 miles beyond the horizon at 14,000 ft., 28 miles beyond the horizon at 20,000 ft.


  1. On course 265 d.t., a relative bearing to Midway of 3000 (“10 o’clock”) is not possible.  That point would have been well beyond (east of) the Hornet at the time of launch.  Relative to base course 2650, Midway bore about 2880 at the time of launch, about half way between “9” and “10” o’clock.”


  1. On course 265 d.t., a relative bearing to Midway of 2700 (“9 o’clock”) would have been reached at Point D, which is approx. 69 miles from the point of launch.  The SBDs would have reached there in approx 36 minutes.  The distance to Midway at Point D is 207 miles, or 71 miles beyond the horizon at 14,000 ft., or 44 miles beyond at 20,000 ft.


  1. On course 265 d.t., a relative bearing to Midway of 2400 (“8 o’clock”) would have been reached at Point E, which is also the crossing point of the enemy’s estimated track.  The distance to Midway from that point would have been about 239 miles, 103 miles beyond the horizon at 14,000 ft., 76 miles beyond at 20,000 ft.

Summary and Conclusion

            At 14,000 feet on course 240 d.t., Midway would have been beyond the horizon at all times, but a tall rising column of smoke could have been visible some distance beyond the horizon.  Consequently, it seems smoke may or may not have been visible at 8 o’clock (Point A) and 10 o’clock (Point C), which were about 50 miles beyond the horizon.  But it probably could have been seen at 9 o’clock (Point B), only about 25 miles beyond the horizon.  If flying at 20,000 ft., the smoke should have been visible at all points; 8, 9, and 10 o’clock.  The atoll itself might have been seen at 9 o’clock.


            On course 265 d.t., the first view of the smoke would have to have been very close to 9 o’clock.  Any sharper angle, i.e. 10 or 11 o’clock would have been impossible because of Midway’s relative angle to course 265 d.t. at the time of launch.  Moreover, the great distances to Midway at the 9 and 8 o’clock positions on course 265 would seem to make any view of the smoke unlikely.


Fisher reported first noticing the smoke about 90 minutes after launch.  Point A on course 240 would have been reached only about 25 to 30 minutes after leaving the vicinity of the Hornet, however Ens. Fisher’s aircraft was among the first planes off the deck shortly after 0700 Midway time, and the last one didn’t get airborne until about 0800.  Therefore, including the forming up delay of nearly 60 minutes, another 30 minutes until first sighting the smoke is consistent with Fisher’s recollection.


The conclusion is that, based on Fisher’s recollections regarding his view of the smoke and his elapsed flight time before seeing it, and assuming those recollections are accurate, course 240 d.t. is quite likely while course 265 d.t. does not seem possible.  The one weakness in Fisher’s recollections is flying at 14,000 ft. instead of 20,000 ft.  His closest approach to Midway appears to be about 160 to 170 miles at Point B.  One can only conclude that Midway might have been visible at that altitude and distance, but at 20,000 ft. it seems likely that the smoke and perhaps Midway itself would indeed have been quite visible.


If one accepts that the smoke seen by Fisher was indeed from Midway's burning oil tank, then the only possible scenario that's consistent with his recollections is the HAG on course 240, with Fisher flying at 20,000 ft. That's the only set of facts that makes the smoke visible to the pilot at all three points of references: 8, 9, and 10 o'clock relative to his heading. Smoke could not possibly be visible at the 8 o'clock position on course 265, which defaults one's conclusion to course 240.


But even that isn't the perfect answer, as Fisher steadfastly maintained that the group commander's section (him, Ring, and one other wingman) were flying at 14,000 ft., not 20,000. Yet VB8 squadron-mate Roy Gee told us that his squadron flew at 20,000, and we know that Ring's section flew above all the rest.


What does all this leave us with? Little more than we started with. No matter how solid the facts stack up for course 240 as related by Fisher, you simply cannot discount the mountain of evidence and veteran testimonials that argues for course 265. So for yet another time, possibly not the last, I'm left with the belief that this matter is one of Midway's puzzles that will never be solved.

--Ron Russell


From Scott Kair

John Mattson’s questions about Gen. Douglas MacArthur demonstrates that MacArthur is still a controversial figure. Thomas Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who entitled his book on the Iraq war Fiasco, named MacArthur the worst American general ever in an article in “Foreign Policy” magazine. The article, unfortunately, has a paywall.

Ricks did sit for an interview for the NPR “Fresh Air” show about his latest book, The Generals, and the topic of MacArthur came up. Summary and transcript are here:

An interesting and more complete look at MacArthur’s role in World War II can be found in William B. Hopkins, The Pacific War: The Strategies, Politics and Players that Won the War, published in Minneapolis in 2008. MacArthur does not come out very well at all, and it leaves the reader amazed that he was not publicly fired on any of multiple occasions. The author, it should be noted, was a Marine in the Pacific in WWII, and recalled to duty to serve under MacArthur’s command during the Korean War, and was a veteran of the Chosin Reservoir campaign. More importantly, readers should be aware that the author served as a Democratic state legislator in Virginia for several years, since it is no secret that elements of the GOP tried to recruit MacArthur to run against FDR in 1944. Given MacArthur’s indisputably enormous ego and serial insubordination, though, an agenda may not have been necessary. In contrast, Nimitz comes out as the genuine force behind winning the war against Japan, which shouldn’t surprise Roundtable subscribers.

I’ve not yet obtained a copy, but another potential source on MacArthur’s Pacific War is by the Australian Peter Charlton, entitled The Unnecessary War: Island Campaigns in the Southwest Pacific, 1944-45.

There is also William Manchester’s early biography, American Caesar, which is a balanced and less critical biography of the general.

In any case, it is always helpful to keep in mind Ron Russell’s dictum to revise our understanding of past events only when sufficient evidence warrants doing so.

Scott Kair

From Barrett Tillman

When MacArthur allowed his air force to be destroyed on the ground several hours after Pearl Harbor, why did he escape the ax in contrast to Kimmel & Short? I've always figured it was DC politics.  Remember that he was a former army chief of staff (1930-35) and therefore was Connected (which in DC = Protected).  There's more to the story, though, mainly turning upon Mac's egregious chief of staff, Richard Sutherland.  He guarded the Mac portals like Ceberus at the gate of Hades.  He was so jealous of anyone getting face time with The General that he largely prevented the air commander, Lewis Brereton, from discussing things with the CinC. (BTW, LB was a USNA grad who lateraled to the Army and thence to the Air Corps.)  I think that Rich Frank's excellent Mac bio contains details.

Barrett sends

From Chuck Wohlrab:

I would like to respond to John Mattson's comments on MacArthur on 8 Dec.

I am currently reading Rising Sun, Falling Skies The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II by Jeffrey R. Cox. This account actually starts with the downing of an RAF Catalina on 7 December, almost a day before the attack at Pearl, and gives a lot of background material on what was happening in the Philippines in general, and to the Asiatic Fleet in particular in the build up to describing the DEI Campaign. In Chapter 3, the author goes into quite a bit of detail on MacArthur's behavior from 3 AM, when the HQ received the alert of the attack on Pearl, until Noon, when MacArthur finally emerged from his bedroom, after being incommunicado all morning. He speculates, based on information from William Manchester's work and Samuel Elliot Morrison, that MacArthur has something of a nervous breakdown, because he had convinced himself that the Japanese could not possibly attack before April 1942. The author makes a pretty good case.

Here is a timeline of what happened in the Philippines that morning:

0310 - MacArthur's HQ received the Pearl Harbor alert. RADM Hart is notified.
0330 - BG Sutherland phones GEN MacArthur's penthouse.
0340 - RADM Hart issues a war warning to the Asiatic Fleet.
0430 - P-40 squadrons are warned and readied for flight. The radar at Iba Field detects intruders flying into Philippines airspace and six P-40s are sent to intercept. Intercept is unsuccessful.
0500 - BG Brereton, Commander of the Far East Air Force attempts to see MacArthur but is turned away by BG Sutherland, saying that MacA is unavailable. Excuses were that he was in conference with RADM Hart (untrue), or his senior generals (not documented), or President Quezon. Brereton was trying to obtain permission to attack the Formosa airfields.
0710 - USS Preston, an AVD at Malalang, is attacked by Claudes and Kates from IJMS Ryujo. Two PBYs of VP 10 are strafed and destroyed.
0715 BG Brereton returns and is rebuffed again.
0800, 0815 - Repeated calls from BG Brereton are rebuffed and he was ordered NOT to do anything.
0925 - Reports of air attacks on Camp John Hay, near Baguio. arrive.
1000 - Brereton rebuffed again by Sutherland. MacA is still not talking.
1015 - MacA finally calls Brereton to authorize attacks after a reconnaissance mission.

So, where was MacArthur for 7 hours that he could not be contacted? Definitely not leading his forces. It sounds like he lost it, and his CofS Sutherland covered for him.

Chuck Wohlrab

Link to Faces of the Battle of Midway

From John Greaves:

Here is an interesting link here for the Roundtable Newsletter -

It's from the Naval Aviation Museum, and shows the photos of some of the participants of the Battle of Midway.

All the best,
John Greaves

Reply to Two Midway Aviators

From Barrett Tillman:

Marion's F4F-3 at BOM took some hits but it was not "too damaged to fly again."  He and Bill Humberd later scrambled in response to the false alarm generated by inbound CV8 SBDs.  Marion flew his Wildcat and Humberd took a (relatively?) undamaged F2A, as his plane was badly shot about.

RoundTable Notes and Announcements.

From Willie Lumpkin:

Don't know what all these terms mean, but this may be of help to those who do.

U.S. Naval Observatory
Astronomical Applications Department

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Midway Island (longitude W177.3, latitude N28.2):

        4 June 1942           Universal Time - 11h           

        Begin civil twilight      05:26                 
        Sunrise                   05:52                 
        Sun transit               12:47                 
        Sunset                    19:43                 
        End civil twilight        20:10                 

        Moonset                   10:50 on preceding day
        Moonrise                  00:17                 
        Moon transit              06:02                 
        Moonset                   11:51                 
        Moonrise                  00:58 on following day


Phase of the Moon on 4 June:   waning gibbous with 60% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated.

Last quarter Moon on 5 June 1942 at 10:26 (Universal Time - 11h).

Willie Lumpkin

From Norm Camou:

An interesting story.

From James Sontag:

Do we know the tail numbers of the Zero's on the carriers during the Midway operation? Also, do we know which Japanese pilots shot down an American aircraft, of the aircraft attacking the carriers?

James Sontag

From Ron Martell:

The Battle of Midway Showcase from the Navy History and Heritage site. This is the URL
Also I am finishing my book about the Pacific War, which covers the history before the Pearl Harbor attack and ending with Admiral Yamamoto's death. I am trying to find any source that sets out a radio broadcast in Japan following the battle. Are you aware of any source? Thanks for your help and thank you for the Forum. It is  truly remarkable.

Ron Martell

Editors Note:  Thank Mr. Russell for the site and for developing and keeping the RoundTable web site going.  He deserves the credit.  I will try to carry on his tradition and standards.  If anyone is aware of a radion broadcast please forward the information to the RoundTable and I'll make sure it gets to Mr. Martell.  My own recollections are that there was indeed a broadcast in Japan after the battle but most of the 'victory' was reporting the capture of the Aleutian Islands with little mention of Midway except as a diversion.  Not sure if an actual recording survived the war.