Roundtable Forum
Our 18th Year
November 2014

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Ensign Gay painting
Lack of Army Planes at Midway
More on Captured Zero
USN War Games
Model Building - Answers
Midway display aboard Hornet CV-12
RoundTable Notes and Announcements
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

As the year winds down I hope everyone has a great holiday season and has time to spend with family and friends.  I am grateful for being able to bring this newsletter to you every month and look forward to next year.  Since taking over the site I have learned a lot from our Veterans and Historians as well as many of our members.  Thank you everyone who reads the newsletter and takes the time to send comments and suggestions as well continue to send historical content on the Battle of Midway.  You are all appreciated very much.

This month we have more on the lack of Army planes at Midway, a lot of responses to John Leyland's model building questions, more on the Captured Zero in the Aleutions, and USN Wargames.  So sit back, grab a beverage of choice and enjoy.

Ensign Gay painting and signed program cover

From Jack Donohue:

I have a framed painting "Go in and get a hit" by James Griffiths depicting Gay's plane attacting a Japanese ship. In addition I have a a signed program cover by George Gay when he attended the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the battle of Midway held in Chicago on June 4 1992 in Chicago. Both the painting and the program cover are in a framed picture.

Any suggestions where I might be able to donate?

Thank you
Jack Donohue

Editor's Response:

Mr. Donohue,

Great items. I would think the Battle of Midway display on the USS Midway might be interested since they are going to have a hologram or something like that of George Gay somewhere in the display. A little while ago one of the people organizing the Battle of Midway celebration on the Midway held every year got in touch with me wanting some information on a couple of VT8 veterans attending the event. I'll send a note to her and see if she'd be interested and get back to you. I'm not sure she works for the museum or was just a volunteer for the event. Want to make sure who I'm sending you off to will actually get the items to the museum.


Margaret Riggs,
Midway Volunteer

I had a person contact me regarding an item he'd like to donate to a museum or display and was wondering if it would find a good place on the Battle of Midway display on the USS Midway. Here is his description. I'm just looking for places for him and thought I'd start with possibly the best spot for the item. I'm not sure you handle such items but if you don't maybe you could put me in touch with who would. I could probably get him to take a picture as well so you might judge if it would work somewhere in the museum.

Thanks very much. 
Thom Walla


Thank you so much for referring this on to us. I am not sure what exhibits will be placed around the new theater where the Battle of Midway presentation will be made, and I am going to forward your email on to Dave Hanson, who is the manager of all our collections. He will know best where to route it with in the museum. Thank you again.

Margaret Riggs
Midway Volunteer

Lack of Army Planes at Midway

From Bill Vickrey:

There were none and I suspect that there were likely several reasons for this:

  • We did not have many at Pearl
  • There was no place to put them on Midway (Eastern Island was overflowing with Navy and Marine Corps aircraft plus seventeen B-17’s and four B-26’s)
  • We had no carrier to transport them (but this is not a valid reason as we took some SBD’s and some F4F’s to Midway in a converted railroad ferry).
There may also be some validity in that the Army Air Corps pilots were not trained in over water flying. Several of the B-17’s followed PBY’s back to Pearl and the one which was lost could not find his way back to Midway. On the flip side, my brother-in-law flew P-40’s over the Mediterranean Sea (BTW he was KIA) and did not seem to have any trouble navigating.



From Chuck Wohlrab:
Regarding Army aircraft at Midway.

In addition to ferry flights like the one that brought VT-8's 6 TBF Avengers to Midway, the aircraft transport USS Kittyhawk brought 16 SBDs and 7 F4F-3s, along with 3" AA guns and a platoon of M3 Stuarts. Conceivably, she could have been used to transport Army fighters as well (the P-40 lacked the range, even with drop tanks to make the 1,300 mile flight).

More on Captured Zero

From Bill Vickrey:

I have a couple of comments – not of much importance.

Mr. Finnegan’s comments were of interest.

I knew two of the junior members of Rochefort’s staff during the Battle of Midway. I spent several hours with Captain “Tex” Biard and a tape recorder. “Tex” was on YORKTOWN at the Battle of the Coral Sea – and was on her for this 101 day cruise. Before that he was with Rochefort and returned to that duty when YORKTOWN came back to Pearl before Midway.

The other member I knew was Captain Gil Slonim. Gil held a “party” in his condo in D. C. in honor of ADMIRAL SPRUANCE – VICTOR AT MIDWAY and graciously invited me to attend. There were several members of his USNA class there including Captain Jim Gray – CO of Fighting Six at Midway. After Midway, Slonim went on Halsey’s staff and I believe spent the rest of the war with him.

Slonim and Biard were out on a point of Oahu on the night of 06 December 1942 listening for the “winds” message. They did not hear it – whether or not it was ever sent is still an unanswered question.

Captain Finnegan is not as well recognized as he should have been. Working all night – I did not look up the date - he and “Ham” Wright broke the IJN “date/time” cipher which enabled Rochefort’s team to determine the exact date and time the IJN carriers would launch their attack on Midway. This was a critically important victory as THE NEXT DAY THE IJN CHANGED THEIR CODE! The result of this was that Rochefort was able to give Nimitz the date and time of the launch. After Howard Ady located the IJN carriers Nimitz told Layton “well, you were only five minutes, five degrees, and five minutes out.”

I also have the ORAL HISTORIES of Captain Rochefort and Captain Dyer.

While not well known, Rochefort was called back to active duty on the staff of Commodore Bates at the Naval War College. The purpose of this group was to study and memorialize the major Naval battles of WW II. Rear Admiral Paul Hartmann was XO of the NAS on Midway during the Battle of Midway. He was also a member of Bates’ team and told me “every time I saw Captain Rachefort come in the door I said ‘were it not for you, I would not be here.’” There were a lot of guys told me the same thing. Of course the honor did not go to Rochefort alone but to his officer and enlisted staff as well.

Please pass this on to Mr. Finnegan along with my email address.

Bill Vickrey

 P. S. – BTW, Steve Jurika retired as a Captain rather than as a Commodore.

Also from Bill Vickrey;

Admiral John Crommelin once told me that he once flew the Zero we captured in the Aleutians. As he took off he rolled it a time or two. The tower operator came on the air and yelled “who is that flying that Zero?” John replied “Captain Crommelin.” The tower operation then responded “is that Captain like in the Marine Corps or the Navy?” to which John replied “Navy” and the tower operator calmly responded “nice flying captain.”

Had you heard this one, Barrett?

From Barrett Tillman:

Haven't heard it but sounds like Uncle John, who was a su-perb aviator.

Editor's Note:  Mr. Vickrey your comments are always important.

USN War Games

From Mike Allen:

Thanks for including my question in the latest newsletter! As I thought about your response I started thinking about the pre-Dec 7 efforts by Adm. Kimmel and his staff. I know there was a lot of speculation about what the Japanese would do and the expectation that there would be hostilities, did Kimmel conduct any table top war gaming to try and prepare?

Mike Allen

From Chuck Wohlrab:

Regarding USN wargames

I am a student of wargaming and an avid gamer. As far as I know, the only gaming done by the USN in the 1940s was at the US Naval War College. Interestingly, while they have tried repeatedly over the years they have not been able to recreate the actual events of the Battle of Midway.

Editor's Note:  Mr. Allen I do not believe Kimmel and his staff did any kind of tabletop wargaming before Pearl Harbor to try and simulate a battle.  In the first place since everyone was convinced the Japanese would most likely attack British or Dutch possessions and bypass the Philippines it would be hard to simulate one battle where the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor as it was outside the range of possibilities in most peoples minds.  The United States did conduct fleet excersises in the 30's with Pearl Harbor as an objective and if I remember correctly the Saratoga did in fact successfully bomb Pearl Harbor.  Yet nobody gave it much thought in 1941 that the Japanese were actually capable of that feat.  Also playing into that line of thinking the Japanese Carriers did not have the range to make it to Hawaii and back and even though refueling at sea was used at the time the US thought it unlikely they would try it.  

My brother and I played the old Midway Game from Avalon Hill when we were kids too many times to count.   And mostly because of what we knew it was nearly impossible to recreate anything close to the historical outcome.  Years later a number of us every year gathered around the date of the battle and replayed a game called Flattop where the two sides were at different locations and the game was moderated by a third party, mostly myself, over the phone.  Again results tended to be very different than the historical outcome.  As the games became more well known we even had college professors from the UNL history department participate in the games.  While the US "Victory at Midway" could never be repeated we did have some very similar outcomes where the exact conditions, objectives, and order of battle was not known to either side, at least perfectly.  Then and only then when one side had an objective the other knew about it unbeknown to the other were we able to at least get closer to the historical outcome.

Model Building - Answers

From William Reece:

This is for John Leyland's questions about Dick Best SBD-3 at Midway. Perhaps you can pass it on or forward me his email and I'll send to him directly.

The SBD-3 is my favorite airplane for as long as I can remember. Along with the B-17F it's an iconic aircraft of World War II. It's been a while since I've built a Dauntless model. Perhaps it's time to take one out of the stash and get to work.

Regarding your questions about Dick Best at Midway I can offer some help to you. I was fortunate enough to speak with LtCdr. Best at Pensacola during the Battle of Midway Symposium in May of 1998. The best advise I can give you is to take a look at Tom Cleaver's model of Mr. Best's airplane at a modeling site called Modeling Madness.

This is the best representation of Mr. Best's airplane you're likely to find. Tom personally knew Dick Best and had several conversations with him.

1. Yes the a/c does have the nose cone painted black with an aluminum color ring at the rear that attaches it to the prop hub.

2. I asked Dick Best and Edwin 'Bud' Kroeger directly about their bombs and the color of them. Probably kept the wing racks. They carried only one, 1000 lb bomb on the centerline rack and crutch and it was a long take off run down the deck of Enterprise and a slow climb to altitude with it. They both said they "never saw a yellow bomb." and when I suggested that perhaps Adm. Halsey had them painted a gray to match the camouflage of the ship Best told me that was indeed a possibility. When I suggested that perhaps Halsey had bull horned down to the deck "Somebody paint those GD yellow bombs gray.", Best chuckled and said that he could just about see Halsey doing that.

Enterprise was very concerned with camouflage and kept the national insignia and canopies of the a/c covered with tarps until flight operations commenced. I painted my bomb a generic 'Navy' gray. Likely it was Non-Specular (flat) Light Gray like the bottom of the Dauntless or perhaps the ship camouflage paint 5-D dark gray or just pre-war Navy gray.

3. Note the placement of the B1 on the fuselage and wings and the twin LSO stripes on the tail fin. The twin stripes denote VB-6. VS-6 had a single stripe.

4. The prop tips were still tricolor per the regulations. Most of these were brand new SBD-3 aircraft. Photos in Lundstrom's The First Team and others of VB-6 at Midway clearly show the tri color prop tips.

5. Pretty sure the front canopy was closed and the rear seat was open.

6. No oxygen mask as Best had removed his to take his squadron down to lower altitude because of oxygen system trouble with a wingman. (No time to look up who).

7. I'm fairly sure that Tom got the center dive brake interior wrong and that is should be NS Light Gray instead of Insignia Red like the other wing dive brakes. There is much debate on that. Do some web research and you may find a definitive answer.

8. The cockpit is Interior Green. FS 34151. I'd add a touch of black to that since the Douglass built aircraft tended to have a little darker Interior Green than FS 34151 comes from the bottle. Make sure to paint the inside of the engine cowling NS Light Gray.

Hope this helps and if you have more questions please feel free to email me directly.



From Barrett Tillman:

I can only offer some opinions v. hard info on the model questions:

Canopies usually open in the dive; concur Jim Murray was facing forward as per his accounts. Moe Vose said that after bombing Shokaku at SC one of his pilots handed him a charred piece of wood. Bit of flight deck that plopped into the wingman's cockpit from Moe's hit!

Almost certainly BOM CV aircrew wore flight jackets. Even with SBD canopies closed it was cold up there, and canopy sections did not always fit tightly. Ours didn't, anyway--the incoming wind rippled the top of my helmet. (Helmets at BOM mostly were khaki cloth from what photos I've seen.)

Tricolor strips on prop tips? Probably. Flying Magazine specials and a couple of pictorials I've helped write show 1942 SBDs and F4Fs with red-yellow-blue tips but I think most of 'em are stateside, if that matters. If I had to guess I'd say that yellow-only became std c. late 42/early 43. Jack Elliot's Monogram modeling volumes may be the ultimate source.

There's a long-ago modeling (?) board discussing yellow bombs. IIRC the theory was that many batches left the ordnance plants with a bright color to be overpainted for local use, especially when mounted externally as in SBDs. Just FWIW.



From Ted Kraver:

Kent Walters who may still be a member of the BOM Roundtable is a master scale model builder of radio control scale models, winning Academy of Model Aeronautics championships with his SBD-3. A picture of his on model is on the cover of our BOM book “No Right to Win” authored by Ron Russell.

You might want to call him at (Number not published here).



From Chuck Wohlrab:

Please pass the following to John Leyland the following links. They are modeling/historical aircraft sites. He can probably find what he needs there:

Also, there is this picture of Marine Dauntlesses at Midway shortly after the battle. As you can see the picture comes from Life Magazine.

The Marines used the standard Navy color scheme.

The last is an aviation art print from my favorite artist - Robert Taylor. It shows the first section of Dick Best's division. Best is in the lead.

Sorry it is so small. Mine is in storage. Copied this off the internet. Taylor is renowned for his accuracy.

Chuck Wohlrab

Midway display aboard Hornet CV-12

From Chris Bucholtz:

A few years ago, I and a group of 11 other modelers put together a 16-plane model display on Midway that was on display in the Doolittle Room (compartment) aboard USS Hornet. We had about 45 days, start to finish, and if you know any serious modelers you know 45 days is often insufficient for planning, let alone completion. Two of my three models in the display - Clayton Fisher's SBD-3 and Tom Cheek's F4F-4 - were built with an assist from the aviators themselves (Tom's way back in 2002, Clay's just before his passing) via the Midway Roundtable.

Here are photos, taken before the lid was put on the case:

I post it now because the display has been taken down because of renovations and repairs to the Doolittle Room. I have no idea when or if the display will be requested back - all the modelers (except for three who live out of the area) have their models back. Hopefully, there will be a call for a re-constituted display. By the time there is, I may have James Muri's B-26-MA-1 finished - this is as far as it is now.

The Roundtable has always been a boon to this modeler - I have nuggets of information stowed away from Doug Davis about his PBY and Lloyd Childers about his TBD that will find their way into this collection eventually. Everyone who's shared their stories has my undying gratitude!

--Chris Bucholtz

Editor's Note:  This note comes as a response to the model building questions from John Leyland.  Of particular interest is the vast number of aircraft that were built for this display.  All interesting in their own right.

RoundTable Notes and Announcements

From Mike Maule:

I'd like to recommend another reference book for the Roundtable. The book is "Midway Submerged: An Analysis of American and Japanese Submarine Operations at the Battle of Midway, June 1942" by Mark W Allen. I bought my copy from Amazon.

It provides some new perspectives on American and Japanese operations, and was a very interesting read. Basically, it emphasizes that the Japanese patrol lines wouldn't have done any good even if they had been on time (since TF 16 & TF-17 had already passed them) and that the American subs were (mostly) placed in defensive positions around Midway to interdict a landing by the Japanese.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested.

Just FYI...I've been studying the Battle of Midway almost 40 years, and following the BOM Roundtable for 7 years.

Thank you for keeping the Roundtable going!

Mike Maule
Editor's Note:   Thank you.  I did a review of this book in the July 2013 issue of the RoundTable.  You can find it here:

From Bill Vickrey:

I have a suggestion. In the email caption you just say MIDWAY ROUND TABLE. It would be helpful if you would caption them as MIDWAY ROUND TABLE – OCTOBER etc. ‘Twould help us story them.
Editor's Note:  I'll see if I can make them a little more consistant as well as sortable.

From Ed Fox:

Each BOM newsletter always seems to be more informative than the last. I appreciate your work and the interested buffs that add great reading.

Thank you.................Semper Fi

Ed Fox USMC RET Midway - Iwo - Korea For those who have fought and died for it, freedom has a taste that the protected will never know.
Editor's Note:  Thank you very much Mr. Fox.  Means a lot coming from you.  Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us and for generations to come.

Editor's Note:   One last thing.  There is a very good site that is devoted to the book 'Shattered Sword' by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully.  If you have not yet discovered this site I hope you will check it out.  Has a lot of good information that is updated frequently.  I believe you will need a Yahoo account to access all the information but I don't believe you need a Yahoo email address specifically.  I think you can register with any email account.