Roundtable Forum
Our 17th Year
August 2014

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Stanhope Ring and the westbound course
Communication at Midway
Absence of Army Aircorp fighters at Midway.
Three short notes on recent posts
Question about the Battle of Midway Ervin Wendt
Battle of Midway Vets Honored on Carrier
RoundTable Notes of Interest
Otis Kight
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Labor day weekend is the official end to the summer.  Seems it comes all too quickly.  August is often a busy month and was no exception this year.  The RoundTable had several good submissions starting off with Ron Russell and John Rasor adding more facts that may lead to a conclusion, someday, that Ring lead Hornet's Air Group too far west on the morning of June 4th thus missing the Japanese fleet.   I remember reading as far back as 'Incredible Victory' that Ring lead his group to where the Japanese fleet was reported by the PBY's while McClusky lead the Enterprise Air Group to the point where the Japanese fleet could be given they kept on course and proceeded at speed.  When both arrived at the point where they thought the Japanese fleet should be McClusky only had one way to turn and that would be North while Ring faced a dilemma of having to turn North or South to find the Japanese fleet.  Both proceeded a bit further west past the inctercept point just to cover the possibility that the Japanese fleet turned away from the American carriers before continuing their search.  As it turned out McClusky, while not being perfect and with a stroke of luck, found his strategy to work while Ring as we know did not.

We also have two rather lengthy email exchanges in this month's newsletter, one started by Mr. Bill Vickery about Communications at Midway and the other a request for information about a Torpedo Eight Veteran.  Normally the requests for information fall into the normal ask and reply but this one did get interesting so I included it as an interesting read.  Plus it resulted in a news event on the USS Midway which the link is included later in the newsletter.

And I am also sorry to report one of our very active RoundTable members, Otis Kight, has passed on.  My thoughts are at the end of this newsletter.  I didn't know him other than through the RoundTable but did have a couple emails from him offering information about a question or two or volunteering to attend a Midway celebration of some kind.  Anyone with any memories of Otis Kight or any comments for that matter are welcome to send them in.  I'll include them in next month's issue.

Stanhope Ring and the westbound course

From: Ron Russell

Scott Smith's contribution to the July newsletter very nicely supplements the discussion about Clay Fisher's view of Midway's smoke and its relationship to the course 265 issue.  Scott also brings us back to postulations on the Roundtable in prior years as to whether the westbound course taken by Ring was deliberate or a combination of navigational and compass errors.  We know from testimony by multiple HAG pilots that Ring was not a competent navigator.  Did he actually think he was flying TF-16's planned course?

While we can't know that to the exclusion of any doubt, we have an abundance of evidence suggesting that Ring went west deliberately.  First, there's the well-documented argument on the Hornet's bridge before launch, in which Mitscher, Ring, the ship's air officer, and the four squadron commanders debated the course to fly--Waldron in particular did not want to go in the direction dictated by Ring (which most likely came from Mitscher).  Then there is Walter Rodee's interview with Bowen Weisheit, in which Rodee stated that the given course was "about 265...almost due west." (Last Flight of C. Markland Kelly, p. 88.)  And we can add to that the report from VB-8 pilot and Roundtable member Roy Gee who told us that while waiting in the ready room, the pilots all independently plotted a proposed course to intersect the carriers reported by Ady.  When the order came down from Ring, they were all surprised at how divergent it was from what they had calculated.

From all of that, it's tough to conclude that Ring thought he was going southwest when he went west.  But like so many other facets of the BOM, all we can do here is come up with conclusions.

--Ron Russell

Communication at Midway

From: Bill Vickrey

I have visited with, talked to or communicated with a majority of carrier pilots and rear seat men who were living up to fifteen years ago.
You have noted that Lieutenant Commander Max Leslie (VB-3) had some on the air conversation with Lieutenant Commander Lance Massey (VT-3). Neither Harry Corl nor Bill Esders (surviving VT-3 pilots) noted this in their after action narratives. Over the years, Commander Esders became a very close friend. I spent many hours with him and I do not recall him telling me that he heard this radio communications.
The “official” report of VB-3 was made by Lieutenant D. W. Shumway as Lieutenant Commander Max Leslie had ditched and was picked up by a cruiser. However, Leslie did make a report and gave it to Lieutenant Commander Oscar Pederson who was CAG on YORKTOWN. During his later years, Rear Admiral Pederson lived some 50-60 miles from us and my wife and I visited him several times. I asked him why he had kept Leslie’s report and he said “Leslie gave it to me – I did not know what to do with it - so I kept it.” On one visit he handed me a large stack of his papers and said “these are yours.” I did not keep them but copied them and sent the originals back to Admiral Pederson. Amongst those papers was an eight page Midway action report signed by M. F. Leslie. He made two attempts to contact Lieutenant Commander Massey and one attempt to contact Lieutenant Hart (XO of VT-3) but got no response. Finally he said “I then asked Lieut-Comdr. Massey (the Squadron Commander), in code, if he had sighted the enemy bearing approximately dead ahead distance 35-40 miles.” He then penciled in this comment “I did not get a reply. At about 1205 my radioman sighted the enemy.” Further, Leslie said “In a few minutes I heard considerable discussion over the radio regarding VT-3 being attacked by fighters. Subsequent reports emphatically verified this. On account of scattered low flying clouds and being at an altitude of 16,000 feet I lost track of Lt-Comdr. MASSEY.” Leslie made one more attempt to contact Massey but to no avail. Shumway said – in his report – that he heard Leslie trying to get in touch with Massey and Shumway reported one radio message from Massey to Thach which said “ComTorpron Three called ComFitron Three and frantically informed him that there were fighters attacking his squadron.”
Now let me add an enigma. I am attaching a report written by ARM3c Leroy Quillen a rear seat man in Bombing 8. I had no contact with Quillen but knew his pilot – Commander K. B. White – quite well. K. B.  did not recall hearing the message(s) Quillen reported as having picked up. My question is “how did Quillen (in Bombing 8) pick up this communication from Torpedo 8 with the two squadrons being so far apart?” A part of what he heard seemed to be “cockpit to cockpit” but perhaps some of what he heard was on the air. No one I have talked to recalled hearing Waldron’s messages. I can understand that he had no qualms about not maintaining radio silence at this point. Atmospheric conditions sometimes cause fluky type communications.

Qyillen's Report
Bill Vickrey

Editor's Note:  Thanks for the note.  On a related topic I had the cousin of the Rear Seat Man who flew with Leslie that day contact me last year.  He was interested in obtaining a copy of the article that appeared in Naval History Magazine last year on the Rear Seat Men at Midway.  He wanted a copy so his cousin could read it.  I found one for him  He said his cousin knew the men in the article.  His cousin is still doing well but does not want to talk with anyone any longer on the Midway Battle as apparently he was badly misquoted a couple times in the past and doesn't trust many to give him a fair shake.  So he's pretty much retired from speaking on Midway which is too bad but I respect it.  Both he and his brother were in the battle both as rear seat men I believe.  Kind of irks me now that I can't remember his name.  But I know he's a RoundTable member and I think I should be able to track him down later.

Also if you have the wherewithal I'd like to see the report Leslie wrote on the battle.  I have to say my curiosity usually gets the best of me on things like that.  I have a report Nimitz sent to King after the battle that I bought years ago just to read it.  Wasn't much that hasn't been written in other places but still interesting to read the original thoughts at the time.

Anyway take care and thanks again for the note.

From Bill Vickery:

According to my records, Leslie’s rear seat man at Midway was ARM1/c William E. Gallagher. The best I can tell he stayed in the Navy and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer (CREL)---but I cannot validate this. I have been to several YORKTOWN (CV-5) reunions but, of course, VB-3 was a SARATOGA squadron thus the Air Group members at those reunions were YORKTOWNers. I have had no contact with Gallagher – and I certainly do not push people who don’t want to make contact. I do not find another Gallagher in my list of rear seat men at Midway – but that does not mean Gallagher’s brother was not there – it just means he was not recorded as flying – especially on 04 June. The flight crews are sometimes murky after the 4th.
Two brothers – Dallas and Fred Bergeron – were rear seat men in VB-3. I had contact – some years ago – with a Dentist who said he was a friend of one of the brothers and was seeking information on his behalf but he offered no information in return. Dallas Bergeron flew with Ensign “Bud” Merrill whom I knew quite well and was still living – in a nursing home – some eighteen months ago when I last had contact with his wife.  The only two VB-3 rear seat men I had contact with were Charles Brassell and Joe Godfery – I had a lot of input from Joe who retired as a Lieutenant Commander.
So far as I know, Captain “Dusty” Kleiss is the only surviving pilot who flew off carriers at Midway. Up until 3-4 months ago I got emails from him very often but have not heard from him lately.
My long term email communications with Ron Gretz has dried up. Has Ron passed away – or do you know.

From Barrett Tillman:

Ron was having medical and internet problems fairly recently.  Far as I know, he's doing better.

Editor's Note:

Mr. Vickrey,

Thanks for the memory jolt.  It's coming back to me (hazy as it is) now thanks to you.  The two brothers were Dallas and Fred Bergeron.  I believe Fred's cousin was the one who contacted me and asked for the Naval History article.  I know I wanted to add Fred Bergeron as an 'honorary member' of the RoundTable but I believe Fred declined.  He said Fred wrote a number of stories about the battle for his children.  I remember that as we got into a little discussion as my father also wrote a book of stories for us kids about his experiences before and during the war.  But since Fred didn't want any more trouble so to speak he said he would hold on to them.  He said if such a time comes when his cousin is gone and he feels enough time has passed he would forward them to me.  I asked about Fred's brother but he said he died quite young but I'm not sure when.  Didn't think it was during the war though.  I know he forwarded me a link on a documentary his father was asked to consult on about the battle but I'm not sure if that was the one that he felt misquoted on or not.  At any rate at some point he stopped talking to anyone about his participation in the battle except his children.  I asked about doing an interview with him and would give him full editorial control so no information would be included that he was not satisfied with and he could tell his story as he saw fit and he asked but said Fred didn't really trust anyone any longer on the matter and 'retired from doing interviews'.

As for him saying he flew with Leslie as a back seat man I might have misunderstood that he meant in the squadron, not in the same Dauntless. 


From Bill Vickery:

There were some 16.5 million of us in uniform in WW II and only about one million of us are still alive – according to the Veterans Administration and the World War II memorial. Midway was real early in the war thus this percentage would not hold for them. I cannot make a good guess as to how many Midway veterans I have been in contact with over the past nearly thirty years but ‘tis several hundred and maybe pushing a thousand. I have spoken at a number of WW II reunions including the 6th Defense Battalion, VP-44 and several more.
Someday, I may make a list of those Men of Midway I have known...maybe. Naval Academy graduates have been most helpful. One of the first Midway celebrations I attended was at the Naval Academy when the class of 1926 met to honor the men of their class who served at Midway. My host was Admiral Jim Russell who was then president of that class and the only four star admiral from their class. I am attaching a list of the members of that class who were at Midway – excluding most of those who were in the Aleutians. Admiral Russell commanded a PBY squadron in the Aleutians. I have put two asterisks by those with whom I have made personal contact and a single asterisk by those with whom I have had mail or telephone contact. Many of these noted as Rear Admirals were of the “tombstone” variety.

From Barrett Tillman:

Rich Frank was with the VA for much/most of his career.  I think he determined that the 16 or 16.5 million figure was exaggerated by a million or more because, for whatever damn reason, the US Govt declared that WW II lasted through 1946.

Editor's Note:

The Gentleman that contacted me was John Landry.  He is a cousin of Fred and Dallas Bergeron and has been a RoundTable member since 2006.  Here is the important parts of our email exchange from him about Fred Bergeron.  As for comment about him being the rear seat man to Leslie he never claimed it to be so I'm not sure where I scraped that up from in my previous emails to you.


     Mr.Walla, I sent a copy of the magazine along with a copy of your email to Fred.  Fred is somewhat reluctant to be interviewed because he was badly miss quoted when interviewed at the Nimitz Museum of the War in the Pacific here in Texas.  I've asked if I could send you his email address.  I'll let you know what he says.

    Unfortunately, Dallas died at a young age and is no longer with us.  Fred was very active until recently, but he is still very sharp.  In fact, he was flown to California and interviewed there when Hollywood was planning to make the film about the war in the Pacific.  Later the Navy's part in the war was abandoned and only the Marines' battles were featured.  Fred said he understood and didn't mind since the Marines had the worst of it in the Pacific war.

    Thanks for the work you do with the BOM newsletter.

    Best regards,

    John Landry


Mr. Walla, I heard from Fred, and he said he's been interviewed a number of times and would prefer not to be interviewed again.  He did say that he knew all of the people mentioned in the Rear Seat Gunners article.  He also referred to an interview conducted when he was on a BOM program at the museum in New Orleans and seems to especially favor that one.  Fred is a delightful old gentleman, and I wish you could talk to him, but he is suspicious of people who want to interview him after one especially bad experience.

He's written about his time in the Navy for his children, and I've collected these stories.  When he is no longer with us, I'll send them to you for the newsletter if you like.  Or I can write an article for the BOM newsletter about the two brothers, how they grew up and what little I know of their Navy experiences.  This assumes his family agrees and that he doesn't outlive me.

Fred had a very eventful career after the Navy.  On leaving the Navy, he attended the University of Texas on the GI bill and received a degree in Electrical Engineering.  He then went to work for ALCOA and spent his whole work life with the company.  He moved up in the company, and his last years with ALCOA he was, if I understand correctly, the overall director of ALCOA's facilities in Texas.  He retired at the age of sixty and has been retired for some time now.  Fred never mentions it, but he was awarded a "University of Texas Engineering Graduate of the Year award" of which he is especially proud. As I said, he never calls attention to it, but I've seen several pictures of the event, and the award is in a prominent place in his home.  As you can see, Fred doesn't like to brag about what he's accomplished in life.

Fred told me one story about his time at ALCOA.  The company furnished him a plane with two pilots to fly to the different Texas plants, and he never told the pilots of his time flying in the Navy.  He laughed about several times when conditions were poor the pilots were especially concerned to have smooth landings because of him. He said if they knew how many dangerous carrier landing he had made, including one deck barrier crash with guns hitting his head, they would have been a bit less concerned.  Apparently, he never did tell them of his war experiences.  It's just in the past seven or eight years that he's talked easily about his time in the Navy.


John Landry


From Barrett Tillman:

Another fine issue, as normal.
Coupla thoughts:
Ref. FDR approving the Yamamoto hit.  Very unlikely.  There are two books on the Yamamoto mission by different authors named Davis.  Burke Davis' 1960s offering, Get Yamamoto, referenced some concern at PacFlt level, IIRC, that a muckraker like columnist Drew Pearson might make something of the concept of assassinating an enemy leader.  I knew the three US principals in the mission--John Mitchell, Tom Lanphier and Rex Barber--and I can state fershure that none had any trouble with the phrase "strategic assassination."  Only much later in the current PC era did "The A Word" seem to emerge as a concern.  At the time certainly very very (very) few American citizens lamented Yamamoto's demise, by whatever means.
The other book is Lightning Strike by Donald Davis.  I'm mentioned in the text owing to my unwitting role in the Lanphier-Barber flail about USAF victory credits which were revised in the 1970s.

BTW: Rex did it.  End of discussion.
Altitude & oxygen:
I vaguely recall from my USN & USAF physiology briefings that typically oxygen is 50% of the sealevel density at 18,000 ft.  WW I pilots often flew 2-hour patrols at or above 15k and came down "feeling just great."  Of course they didn't know about the effects of hypoxia, which today are amply demonstrated in the altitude chamber.  It affects different people to varying degrees.  In the Luke AFB chamber I played patty-cake with a major who ran out of breath before I did, but it turned out he was a smoker.

Just FWIW.

Absence of Army Aircorp fighters at Midway.

From Mike Simanis

I have always wondered at the lack of Army Aircorp fighters at Midway, and have not seen the topic explored in any of the BOM books.  The army had a presence with B26s and B17s, why no fighters to protect these assets, as they did in the Phillipines and later at Guadalcanal.


Editor's Note:  As far as I know there was simply no transport available at the time to get fighters to Midway in time.  Also Midway was a Naval base so Army fighters would not normally be stationed there.  The B-17's had the range to fly to Midway on their own as did the B-26's so they could be deployed rather quickly when Nimitz committed his plan.  Also Army fighters did not have the range to escort the bombers and would be mostly used for base defense which again was a Navy problem.  The B-17's were sent to bolster the PBY's search areas and to possibly attack the Japanese fleet should opportunity present itself, which as it turned out, did present itself.  Also if the B-17's had to run they again had the range to fly back to Pearl.  The Army fighters once there had no way out.

Three short notes on recent posts

From John M. Rasor:

Big juicy BZ on new forum site.

I used to post around 2010, when RR had the helm. Lived in California then; living in Northern NJ now. Anyhow...

Japanese estimate of situation 8 May 1942, end of Battle of Coral Sea

BOM Newsletters, January and May 2014.

What did the situation look like to Admiral Inouye on the evening of 8 May 1942?

He knew he'd lost 1 light carrier (Shoho), had fleet carrier Shokaku heavily damaged and retiring from the battle area, and had lost roughly half the air group from his other fleet carrier, the undamaged Zuikaku. She alone, plus land-based air, would have to cover the invasion at Port Moresby. In Japanese eyes, Carrier Division 5 had been reduced to 30% strength: 1 usable deck for only about 40 serviceable aircraft remaining of the nearly 130 brought to the Coral Sea.

Inouye thought he'd had sunk US carriers Yorktown (did not), and Lexington (he did), but knew that Enterprise and Hornet could be in the area. Those two did actually arrive a few days after the Battle of Coral Sea. Japan could not send any more fleet carriers to the Southwest Pacific: the remaining 4 were earmarked for Midway.

So what did Adm Inouye see? Certain: his carrier strength reduced by 70%. His invasion force fully intact, but depending on half a carrier plus land-based fighters and medium bombers from Rabaul for air cover. Also certain: Allied land-based air, including fighters and heavy bombers. Uncertain: could 2 more US carriers be coming? Even one full strength US carrier would be a major problem for Zuikaku.

Conclusion: get out of Dodge, come back with Carrier Divisions 1 and 2 after Midway. That's what he decided; to me, Inouye's decision does not seem “inexplicable”.

Could Fisher see burning Midway oil tank smoke while flying course 265 from Hornet?

BOM Newsletters 2004-09; 2009-42; April, May, June, July 2014.

Calculations on how far he could see, given his altitude of 14,000 or 20,000 feet, and given the fact that a Midway oil tank smoke column would give him extra range to see, are complicated by the scattered clouds between him and the island. Even a small percentage cloud cover would make it very difficult to see anything but a very tall smoke cloud. From an aircraft, that small percentage of cloud cover would begin to look like a solid deck of clouds as aircrew look into the distance, effectively reducing the altitude of the smoke and the aircraft by the altitude of the clouds.

But Clayton Fisher reports (Newsletters 2004-09, 2009-42) unlimited visibility. Clouds are then out of the picture, for at least part of the flight. We know there was some cloud cover nearer TF-16 and Kido Butai.

What was the true bearing of the moon at 0816 4 June 1942?

BOM Newsletter 2004-02, 2004-04; June 2014. Perhaps of interest to Willie Lumpkin.

Weisheit says moon straight out of Gay's windshield argues for HAG's course 265 true, with Waldron leading Gay and the rest off at 234 or thereabouts (Newsletters 2004-02, 2004-04).

In the table below, “Moon azimuth” means which direction the moon is from the aircraft: east (90°), west (270°), or something in between, like southwest (225°). Moon altitude means how high over the horizon the moon is.

Gay, Sole Survivor, p. 115, reports the moon “dead center in windshield on this flight, which could have been the case only on a southwesterly [225°] course.” The moon was just before last quarter on 4 June, 1942. Sun and moon positions table for midmorning that day (true azimuth):

Time, AM (+12)

Sun azimuth

Sun altitude

Moon azimuth

Moon altitude





























On the morning of 4 June, the moon was southwest in a daylight sky, moving west toward its setting. The sun was almost due east at 8:30AM, moving southeast and climbing as the morning wore on. See calculator at . These figures make course 234 quite plausible. Waldron's turn at 0816 puts the moon's azimuth smack dab at 234.

Question about the Battle of Midway Ervin Wendt

From Margaret Riggs:

I am seeking information about the type of aircraft he flew and why he was awarded the purple heart.  I need this for an introduction at a function in his honor and the honor of other men who fought in the Battle of Midway.

Editor's Note:  This email inquiry starts a long coorespondence that sometimes happens on particularly interesting questions.  Also this inquiry turned out to be for the reunion on the USS Midway on August 28th which I didn't know at the time.  Later down the page is a link to the news article on the reunion.  For those that haven't heard the USS Midway museum is putting together a Battle of Midway display that should be open in the near future.  On to the exchange.  Enjoy.

To Margaret Riggs:

I'll have to do some research on him and how he received the purple heart.  We don't have anything in our archives.  But I have a number of people that might have the info and I'll contact them and get back to you.  When do you need the info?  I can't promise a quick turnaround but should have something in the next few days.

From Margaret Riggs:

The presentation is Aug 28th but we need info by at least 1 week before that so if we could have it by Wed the 20th that would be great.  We know he attended the reunion in 2005 but haven't found much about him other wise.  

Editor's Note:
First research I find him in a veterans picture from our own Roundtable Archives as a member of Torpedo Eight.  Unfortunately that picture from 2005 did not survive the transfer from the previous host of the RoundTable to myself last year although I am unsure of the reason it was not included in the website he handed over to me.  Here is the link to the archived page:  Little down the page you'll see his name and a link to the picture even though it doesn't go anywhere any longer.  

Since all 15 aircraft from the Hornet's compliment of Torpedo Eight and 5 out of the 6 from Torpedo Eight's Midway detachment were lost and we know the names of the three survivors, Gay, Earnest, and Ferrier, it is safe to say he didn't fly at Midway, at least with Torpedo Eight.  He was an AMM1 or (Aviation Machinist's Mate) as near as I can tell at the time of Midway and would have been a rear seat gunner in all likelihood, although he was listed as an AOM (Aviation Ordinance Man) later at the Battle of Eastern Solomons.  He might have been a bombardier of one of the Devastator's and that could explain his surviving as none of the bombardier's were on the mission on the morning of June 4th.  They were left behind on Hornet on the morning of the mission.  However that is unlikely as I don't see his name on that list and it really doesn't fit his rank.

After Midway Torpedo Eight was assigned to the USS Saratoga and fought in battles around Guadalcanal and he did serve and fight in those battles.  He made an attack on the Ryujo during the Battle of Eastern Solomons in August of 1942.  Since it is unlikely he received a Purple Heart for action at Midway he probably received it for the battles around Guadalcanal.  But there is no mention of him getting wounded during that battle.  After Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese Submarine Torpedo Eight was transferred to Guadalcanal and fought there until November of 1942 from Henderson Field.  Since he was never a RoundTable member but was at the 63rd reunion of the Battle of Midway as a member of Torpedo Eight I am hard pressed to say he was with the squadron in the Battle of Midway.  Still don't have a total picture yet.  It appears that he might have been with the detachment that stayed behind at San Diego.  The 6 aircraft that flew out to Midway to participate in the Battle on June 4th were all volunteers.  The rest stayed behind and were loaded on Saratoga when she departed for the Battle of Midway but got there just few days late arriving on the 7th.  So technically he could have been a veteran of the battle as it was not 'officially' over till the 6th or 7th depending on who you talk to and who is making the decision.  I'm waiting for replies from the previous Host of the RoundTable and some other members.  Thanks for your patience and we should have an answer by the 20th.

From Margaret Riggs:

Wow.  This is truly awesome.  Thanks so much for this.  I also had wondered what his role in the actual Battle of Midway was.  He and several others we are honoring served in VT-8 at that time.  I assumed he had some role in preparing or guiding the aircraft but did not actually fly in one of them.  Therefore your information is very helpful.  As you may know the museum is developing an exhibit to honor the Battle of Midway, as a way of explaining why the USS Midway was named, and because so many of our visitors wrongly assume the ship was part of that historic battle.  We decided to tell the story as a way of remembering and honoring our "fore-bearers" and the ones who began the proud legacy she honors.

I would also appreciate hearing what you know about Charles E. "Chuck' Monroe who also attended the 2005 dinner and was apparently an Aviation Radioman First Class and turret gunner in one of VT-8's Avengers - I am assuming this was either very late in the Battle of Midway  or during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Margaret Riggs
Midway Volunteer

From Ron Russell:
Thom, here's the photo....(attached)  Link to Photo
I looked through both the Mark Horan and Sawachi casualty lists for the BOM and the name "Wendt" did not appear with a search on any page.  To my knowledge, there are no better-documented sources for BOM casualties than those two.  If a name doesn't appear there, we pretty much have to conclude that the guy was not KIA, MIA, or WIA at Midway.

If he received a purple heart for service with VT-8, it would seem to have to have been awarded for something post-BOM.  If he was with the Hawaii detachment that went on to Guadalcanal, that would be a likely possibility.  But I'm only guessing there.  While I'm at it then, my best guess is no PH for the BOM.  There is simply no evidence of it in the written record.

I wonder if the family could acquire a copy of his personnel record?  That's commonly done.  No, I'm unaware of the process.


Editor's Note:
Mr. Russell,
As far as I can tell he with Torpedo Eight at the Battle of Eastern Solomons and then on Guadalcanal after Saratoga was torpedoed.  I assume he received a purple heart sometime during that campaign.  The unfortunate thing is that I don't have a list of pilots and crewman that stayed behind at Pearl Harbor when the 6 TBF volunteers flew to Midway.  Since he was with Torpedo Eight on the Saratoga at the Battle of Eastern Solomons the best I can tell is that he might have been with the men that stayed behind and were loaded on Saratoga when she departed for Midway.  Probably closest I can put him to the battle proper, but then again no solid evidence.  I'll ask her if she can contact the family for more info.  Also her last email seems to indicate he might have been onboard Hornet as a crewman servicing VT8 rather than flying at the time.  Changes things considerably and also might make some sense as he was a turret gunner at Eastern Solomons.  May have been reassigned.  I'll see if I can dig up a list of aviation mechanics on Hornet at the time.  He did change from AMM to AOM by Eastern Solomons.  Thanks again.  And thanks for the photo.

From Ron Russell:


Bingo!  Found him.  He was wounded on Guadalcanal on 13 Oct '42 while with VT8 there.  Extensive references re Ervin "Judge" Wendt in A Dawn Like Thunder by Robert Mrazek.  Tell your contact to buy the book and check the index.


Editor's Note: Mr. Russell,

Thanks much.  I just got home and was going to start going through some books.  Your memory better than mine.  As for whether he was at the Battle of Midway in any capacity that remains a question I have yet to solve.  I think the family would be the best source of info on that.  I'll send your note on to her so at least she has the info on the Purple Heart and continue digging on his presence during the actual battle itself unlikely as that may be finding anything definitive at this point.

From Ron Russell:

For me, it does not remain a question. The fact that he was with LT Harold Larsen on Guadalcanal suggests that he most likely was also with Larsen in Hawaii during the BOM, with the detachment that did not participate in the BOM at all.

It's not totally impossible that he was with Waldron's portion of the squadron at Midway, then wound up with Larsen after one or more out-of-the-ordinary transfers. That would put him aboard the Hornet in a non-flying role during the BOM. But that's not likely -- barely within the realm of possibility. The entire thrust of A Dawn Like Thunder is that the VT-8 personnel on Guadalcanal were Larsen's guys, meaning they were with him in Hawaii during the BOM. Lacking any evidence otherwise, my conclusion is that's where Wendt was.


Editor's Note:
Mr. Russell,

Thanks for your thoughts as always.  Your conclusion is almost certainly correct.  I cannot see him being referred to in A Dawn Like Thunder as one of the best gunners in the squadron being moved to a non-flying role at Midway if he was with Waldron.  It would not likely be something Waldron would have missed.  I'll send her the info and your conclusion.
Thanks again.

And then my reply to Margaret Riggs:

I did find several facts for you. First Mr. Russell the previous host found the picture from 2005 so including that and also Mr. Russell suggested the best reference is the history of Torpedo Eight A Dawn Like Thunder by Robert Mrazek:

He was wounded on Guadalcanal on 13 Oct '42 while with VT8 there. Extensive references re Ervin "Judge" Wendt in A Dawn Like Thunder by Robert Mrazek.

There are several pages where his contribution to Torpedo Eight is detailed. I just reread those pages and it pretty well lays out his time with Torpedo Eight at least during the Guadalcanal campaign. However the first reference for him is in August after the Battle of Midway. So if he was with Torpedo Eight during the Battle it must have been with the pilots and crewman that stayed behind at Pearl Harbor and thus never got into the battle proper. Also he was reportedly one of the best gunners in the squadron so it is unlikely he served as an aviation mechanic on board Hornet during the Battle.

As for Charles Monroe the book does not mention him nor do I find a reference for him yet. So will see if anyone else remembers him.

Also have you tried contacting the families. Often times they have the best information and even some letters or unpublished stories. I've found most of them are very willing to share information on their fathers participation in the war.

From left to right in the picture: Lee Marona, Bill Tunstall, Ed McKenna, Ervin Wendt, George Bernstein (Roundtable member), Frank Balsley, Chester Zieneski, Eddy Velasquez.
Link to Photo

Battle of Midway Vets Honored on Carrier

From Fran Kraus:

I must thank Fran Kraus for sending the link to the news article on the reunion aboard the USS Midway on August 28th celebrating the men who participated in the Battle.

Here is the end result of the exchange of emails between myself, Margaret Riggs, and Ron Russell on Erwin Wendt!  The article doesn't go into much detail but I'm sure the reunion was far more informative than the short article in the news.  The reunion took place on the USS Midway museum in San Diego, California on August 28th.  Here is a link to the article.

Battle of Midway vets honored

RoundTable Notes of Interest

From Ed Fox

You or a BOM member might enjoy this URL.  A piece of history reclaimed, and well documented!

Restored PBY

Otis Kight

It is with deep regret that I have to report the passing of Otis G. Kight on July 11th, 2014.  Otis Kight was a valued member of the RoundTable since the early days and contributed continuosly over the years.  He even had a chapter in 'No Right to Win' named after one of his quotes.  He served in the Navy for 30 years and retired as a LCDR.  He not only served on Yorktown during the battle but later became a rear seat man in a TBF and served aboard carriers for much of the war.  He served both during the Korean war and the Vietnam war.

There are two pages on the RoundTable for further information.


He also never missed an opportunity to attend any celebration of the Battle of Midway, a Yorktown, or VF-42 reunion.  In fact my last contact with him was for a Battle of Midway Celebration in June of 2013 at the Naval Air Station which I would like to include here for no other reason than his tag line just makes me smile every time I read it.

The request from Jennifer Bailey:

Bailey, Jennifer N AZ2 Naval Station Norfolk

All, Good morning, I am AZ2 Bailey from Naval Station Norfolk. I am reaching out to you for assistance in finding local Battle of Midway veterans. We are planning on doing a celebration here at Naval Station Norfolk on June 7 and were hoping that we might have a local veteran who would like to attend. If you could please pass this along to the veteran or send me contact information so that I may reach out to them it would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.


My email to Mr. Kight:

Mr. Kight USN-Ret,

First let me introduce myself. My name is Thom Walla and I have been a member of the roundtable for going on 8 or 9 years. Recently Mr. Russell decided to step down and asked for someone to run the site and membership. I decided that I would like to contribute in anyway I can and this seems like an opportunity to continue the roundtable and do what I can. That said.

I received a request from Miss Jennifer Bailey from the Naval Station Norfolk Air Operations. They are celebrating the Battle of Midway on June 7 and would like to have a Midway Veteran attend if in the area and are interested. I requested and she confirmed that all transportation and accommodations would be provided. They will send a car and have any other things you might want or need available should you desire it. Of course if you wish to make your own arrangements that is fine too.

I don't know the celebration personally so cannot give you anymore details. However if you are interested let me know and I'll find out more information at which time you can decide if you want to attend or not.

Let me know if you're interested.

Thanks very much.

To which Mr. Kight replied:

Mr Walla- Your e-mail wasn't ignored - both land line AND PC went kaput for almost two weeks. The answer is Yes- I would be privileged. I will furnish my own wheels as it's 29 miles to the NAS Norfolk.

I can be reached at (included his phone number here)

AND-- Welcome aboard- I just got back from the VF-42 Reunion- (Yorktown). There's still three of us able to make it out of the 138 that swam away from CV5.

Can hardly wait to get to be "old" and get all the good stuff!!!

Otis Kight USN Retired


The RoundTable lost a member this year that can truely never be replaced.  He unselfshly gave his time attending events and helping a new generation of people understand exactly how important the Battle of Midway was to our history.  He served his country with honor in times of war and in times of peace.  We all shall forever miss him.

And I'd like to end this months newsletter by borrowing a phrase from Mr. Ron Russell.

"Fair winds and following seas to an honored Midway Veteran".  We are all forever in your debt.