Roundtable Forum
Our 18th Year
March 2015

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Fighters at Midway
Japanese Movies on The Battle of Midway
PBY Restoration Video
A Question of Estimates
Torpedo 8
Interview with SB2U-3 Pilot
R4D-1s missions to Midway
Comments and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

I would like to thank everyone that contributed to this months discussions.  The Current Discussions page has been a good addition to the site as it allows much more interaction than before. 

This month we have a comparison between some of the aircraft at Midway as well a the pilots, a small look into the men who flew the transport missions to Midway before the battle as well as afterwards, and a new feature I'd like to keep going which is an interview with a Midway Veteran.  The accounts will be links to previous interviews that are published on the internet, not new, so don't expect to find something you probably haven't seen before.  But there are a lot of unpublished accounts appearing as well so maybe one or two might be new to us.  And speaking of which thanks to Amazon Kindle as well as the self publishing business as a whole there are a lot of new self published books starting to show up both in print and electronic only.  I recently picked up a couple of self published books on pilots that fought later in the Pacific War.  More of a personal narrative but interesting nonetheless.

I don't know if we might find any accounts of Midway but one never knows.  If I spot one I'll post it here.

Fighters at Midway

From Bill Vickrey:

There has long been thoughts kicked around and around regarding the superiority of the IJN fighters at Midway compared to the Wildcat and the Buffalo. There is little question that the Zero was superior to any of ours. But what about the comparison between our gallant Marine fighter pilots on Midway and the experienced IJN pilots? Many of the IJN pilots had lots of combat experience in China and during the first six months of World War II. We did have a skirmish or two with a couple of IJN patrol planes but I do not know whether or not any of those pilots were still with VMF-221 at Midway. Really, our Marine pilots had ZERO hours of combat flying.

From the log books I have here are the hours flown by some of our Marine fighter pilots as of 31 May 1942:

William Brooks – 328.3 Hours.
Clayton Canfield – 188.6 Hours.
John Carey – 1,805.1 Hours.
Marion Carl – 1,404.3 Hours.
Darrell Irwin – 756.6 Hours.
Phillip White – 673.8 Hours

I knew Chuck Hughes very well and thought I had his log book but cannot find it. He was pretty junior in flying time.

The Dive Bomber pilots were just as inexperienced as were the fighter pilots. My golfing buddy – Lieutenant Colonel Danny Cummings - had accumulated 266.3 hours by the end of May, 1942. Major Henderson had 2705.6 hours and was likely amongst the most experienced Marine pilots at Midway.

From Andries Visser:

Many thanks for another fascinating issue of the newsletter. The discussion on the merits of the F4F vs the F2A at Midway reminds me of the whole issue of an equally denigrated aircraft, the TBD. I admit that the TBD would have been easy meat for a Zero, but there is a lot in common with the question of the equally denigrated F2A: inexperienced aircrews, bad tactics (no fighter escort, uncoordinated, piecemeal attacks), prepared, experienced Japanese CAPs. I don’t think that, if VT-6, VT-8 and VT-2 were equipped with TBFs, the results would have been much different.

The fickleness of battle is exemplified by the British Fairey Swordfish measured against the TBD. Now, in any book on WW2 aircraft, the Swordfish is lauded as one of the greats, with the attack on Taranto, damaging the Bismarck, etc.

What is significant of all these actions is that the Swordfish did not have to face combat air patrols. The one well-known instance where they did face fighters however, was with the so-called “Channel Dash” of the German warships Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and others. All the Swordfish attacking the ships were shot down, and not one ship received a torpedo hit. The Messerschmitt 109 and Focke Wulf 190 escorts ensured that. Sound familiar?

Imagine if the Royal Navy had flown TBDs and the USN flew Swordfish! The history books would have told us that the TBD was one of the great aircraft of WW2 with the attack on Taranto, damaging the Bismarck, etc.! Indignant literature would have excoriated the USN for attacking the Japs with slow, badly armed “ancient biplanes”.

Andries Visser

Japanese Movies on The Battle of Midway

From Jack Donohue:

Question...are there any Japanese movies available about the battle of Midway?

Jack Donohue

Editor's Note: The only Movie I know of is one called 'Storm over the Pacific'. It was released in 1960 and follows a Hiryu airman from Pearl Harbor through Midway. I believe he was a Navagator/Bombadier in one of the Torpedo planes. The film was shortened and released in the US with subtitles with the title 'I Bombed Pearl Harbor'. Interestingly enough some of the footage was used later in the 1976 movie 'Midway' and Toshiro Mifune who played Yamaguchi in the Japanese movie also played him in Midway. The movie is not available on DVD for US players so you'd have to convert it or get a compatible player. VHS was available in the US but is long out of print so you'd have to pick it up on the secondary market. Amazon has some copies.

PBY Restoration Video

Editor's Note:  A correction and clarification of the video on the restoration of the PBY that appeared in last month's issue is in order.  First, the PBY in the video is not the aircraft that Howard Ady flew in the Battle of Midway.  The gentleman in the video talking about the aircraft is making a comment about 'Strawberry 5' as the PBY finding the Japanese fleet is making a comment more about the PBY in general rather than the aircraft he is sitting in.  Plus the PBY in the video is a PBY-5A and VP-23 flew PBY-5's or flying boats at Midway rather than the amphibian version.  Plus the headline 'Strawberry 5 found' is rather misleading.  First that term was made up for the 1976 Movie Midway and VP-23 never had any such designation or call signs.

From Ron Russell:

The article concerning the PBY-5A in the Februrary issue has some problems.

1. The message from Mr. Chrisman seems to say that a PBY-5A, known in the BOM as "Strawberry 5," has been found and is being restored. That alludes to the plane flown by LT Howard Ady, one of our original BOMRT veterans. For starters, Ady didn't fly the amphib PBY-5A. Ady was in VP-23, and their aircraft were the PBY-5 flying boats, not the -5A model. I could quote you the references, but all that was done on the Roundtable years ago.

2. Next, "Strawberry 5" is a total fabrication in the 1976 "Midway" movie. VP-23 used no such nicknames. They stuck it in the movie so that the voice radio transmissions made from the plane by "Ady" would seem authentic. Even that was fictitious, since the radio messages were sent by Morse, not voice, and not by Ady himself.

3. I would like to see anything further to suggest that the PBY cited by Mr. Chrisman is Ady's aircraft, side number 23-P-5. Of course, if the aircraft in question is actually a -5A, then it's not Ady's. So why does someone think it is?

4. Finally, in that reference you attached in your editor's note, that PBY also has an error. The data says it was built in 1943, but it's showing roundels that became obsolete in May 1942 (the red spot in the white star should be gone). Somebody didn't do their homework there.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw the article as somehow referring to Ady's specific aircraft. In any case, I cringe at any mention of "Strawberry 5" without explaining the origin of the term.

Best regards,
--Ron Russell

Editor's Note: Thanks for your help. Always appreciated. And my fault for not making it perfectly clear what the video was.  The aircraft in the video is not Ady's.  My original assessment of the video when I saw it last year was that the PBY in the video is just a PBY found in South Africa and restored. I believe now that the person restoring it did so with good intentions but more to make it look good than represent the aircraft, thus the roundels. The owner in the video never says it's the actual PBY flown by Ady but makes a reference to the history of PBY's contribution in the Battle of Midway, and why he wanted one for his collection. His reference to 'Strawberry 5' finding the Japanese fleet was more of a passing reference to the PBY in general, not the actual aircraft he's sitting in although that's not perfectly clear in the video.

There is actually a very good article on the actual restoration project of this particular PBY, N427CV, Serial No 11089. I do remember looking this up last year when someone else sent me the link. Should have added this link in last months article as well.  The restoration and history of this PBY is here.
From Chris Bucholtz:

I'm sure you;ve already heard from someone about this, but there are 24 PBYs still airworthy. Wikipedia has a nice chart showing their disposition (along with museum pieces and planes under restoration).

--Chris Bucholtz
From Andries Visser:

The mention of the PBY-5A in South Africa is interesting. I am a South African and the local aero magazines had articles on the restoration of this aircraft, which was painted in the pre-war USN scheme prior to delivery to the USA.

Andries Visser

A Question of Estimates

From Ron Martell:

Thank you for printing the dust cover for Showdown in the Pacific War: Nimitz and Yamamoto. Your kind words are very much appreciated.

Anthony Tully's and Lu Yu's article is fascinating, but I have several questions. Is the "Nagumo Report" the same as "The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway" or Japanese Monograph 93? If not, where can a copy be found? Both state that the enemy had no knowledge of the Kido Butai's location or intentions.

The authors state: "On the night before the battle (4 June, Japan time), Yamato's radio interception unit picked up a U.S. carrier call sign near Midway. . . . It was thought that Akagi, being closer to Midway, should also have intercepted it. In the end, Combined Fleet didn't pass this crucial interception on to Nagumo. . . . Similarly, there is a postwar claim that the carrier Hiryu intercepted the call sign of a U.S. carrier on the same night, but that too was not reported to senior officers."

Is the contention that a U.S. carrier was the source of the call sign or was this a transmission to a carrier from another source using the carrier's call sign? I have seen nothing indicating any of the U. S. ships near Midway broke radio silence. Is there any evidence to support such a claim? On June 3 it is likely Yamamoto's Main Body was 900 miles from Midway, about 600 miles behind Nagumo. Could his flagship have been able to pinpoint this call sign transmission as having originated "near Midway" as opposed to having a radio signal bounce off the ionosphere? If the Hiryu intercepted this call sign, why could the Akagi not do so? Any information about this subject would be appreciated.

One comment: when assessing "blame" for the Japanese defeat, neither Yamamoto nor Nagumo had anything to do with the Naval General Staff's inability to change the JN-25 code on 1 April or 1 May, which Rochefort et al. began decoding sometime in mid-May, nor with the decision of the captain of the destroyer Arashi to rejoin Nagumo's force at high speed creating a bow wave for Wade McClusky to follow to the Kaga and the Akagi. My own view has always been to give credit to the Americans for the victory and not assume that the disaster was the result of blame placed on anyone in the Combined Fleet or the Kido Butai. Assuming the defeat stemmed from Japanese fault robs the Americans of their justifiable credit for heroic success.

Ron Martell

Editor's Note: I have read several times that the Japanese picked up a carrier's call sign sometime during the night of the 4th Japan time but have not had luck finding where I've read it again.  The only radio message I can find that Yamamoto received on the Yamato was the radio transmission from Kwajalein stating that the planned reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor by flying boats had been called off because they could not be refueled as there were American ships at French Frigate Shoals.  Akagi did not pick up the message but Yamamoto assumed they did so did not forward the message on to Nagumo.  Akagi had a rather small island while Yamato had a much higher mast so could pick up messages much easier than Akagi.  Plus the Japanese carriers were considerably further North and East than Yamato.  This message was some days prior to the 4th so I can't see the two being confused but cannot discount it either.

What did happen was that Akagi had to break radio silence on the night of the 3rd, Japan time, to indicate a course change due to heavy fog but again this was a day before the reported American Carrier call sign so hard to think this was confused with the other report either.

Below is a link to The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway.  I think this translation came from Nagumo's official report after the battle and translated after the war.

Torpedo 8 in Feb. 2015 Newsletter

From John M. Rasor:

Hello group!

BOMRT Newsletter, February 2015, Bill Vickrey's letter “Torpedo 8” ( Bill quotes George Gay's conversation with squadron commander John Waldron before VT-8 launched. John said, “I have been trying to convince them the Japs will not be going toward Midway – especially if they find out we are here. The Group Commander [Hornet Air Group Commander Stanhope Ring] is going to take the whole bunch down there. I am going more to the north.”

This sounds like Ring was planning to take the Hornet's air group toward Midway, considerably south of course 240, possibly 210. It also sounds like Waldron was planning to split off to the north, or to starboard, from the group. That would rule out Ring taking course 265.

Editor's Note: Well this has a lot of moving parts and the true course has been a debate for years and continues to this day. One that we'll probably never know for sure. However the evidence suggests that Ring eventually decided on a course a little further to the North than the Enterprise airgroup took. And by further North it appeared to have been even further North than Waldron thought wise. But again we can't know for sure. My own conclusion on this course comes from Gray in Fighting 6 that was assigned to escort the Enterprise airgroup. He said that he spotted two torpedo squadrons and didn't know which one was VT6 and tried to cover both until their courses diverged so widely that he had to choose one and he chose the one going more West than South West. And we know he followed VT8 rather than VT6. Now we don't know for sure if this indicates Ring and the rest of Hornets air group necessarily went West but since Waldron seemed to be on the same course as Ring for at least the first hour then it is a pretty good guess they were on the same course. But way too many contradictions exist for us to know for sure. At this point we can only take what we have as eyewitness accounts and try and sort out the details and make some kind of guess. The book The Last Flight of Lt. Kelly also seems to indicate a more Westerly course as VF8's attempt to get back to Hornet was returning on a Easterly to South Easterly course rather than a North East course. I would say to read Ron Russell's article on the site as he makes the best argument for the Westerly course for Hornet's air group.

Interview with World War II SB2U-3 Pilot Sumner H. Whitten

Editor's Note: There have been quite a few interesting interviews published over the years from participants in the Battle of Midway.  I am going to try and put a link to one up every month if I can find it online.  Thanks to many magazines publishing back issues online now we have far greater access to them.  The interview was originally published in the July 2002 issue of World War II magazine.  As you can tell from the title he few one of the obsolete Vindicators during the battle and was one of the few survivors of this squadron.

First R4D-1s into the Pacific Theatre, just in time for Midway

From Nancy Canavan Heslop:

My father, Des Canavan, and Al Munsch flew the first R4D-1s into the Pacific Theatre, just in time for Midway. Then, just before the battle, Munsch flew tires, more pilots, and a gift from Ade Henderson for her husband Joe (that Des brought from Point Loma on BuNo 3133) on into Midway. –Using BuNo 3133 & 3143 Des and his CO Claude Larkin flew up much-needed water and more ammo...just after.

No awards were given....

Also, I am so grateful for the link to 1942 Missing Marines... Some of my father's dear friends are sadly on that list. His letters home spoke of the personal loss he felt, especially for Joe Henderson and Fletcher "Lance" Locke Brown. Des was Godfather to Lance's son in May, just before he brought out the R4D-1...

I'll attach a couple of documents that speak for themselves.

Photos below from the Bureau of Aeronautics.

10.4.1/ PDF # 018: This was the 2nd request by Claude Larkin for Des and Munsch to receive awards for the work they did in bringing the first R4D-1s first to Ewa Field and then to Midway. I don't know if the original recommendation is yet among Des' papers. But the US Navy in July of 2007 stated the award proposed was for The Legion of Merit. As late as 1946 from Guam, Des wondered what ever happened to such recommendations. Larkin's requests were turned down. "WORKHORSE OF THE PACIFIC". Chapter X: Letters From Des. © 2011, Nancy C. Heslop.

Request Page 1
Request Page 2

Editor's Note:  A little known part of the Battle of Midway was the reinforcement and supply of Midway both before and after the battle.  Here is one small part.  Thank you Nancy for putting some faces and details to the history.

Comments, Questions, and Notes

A Question of Estimates

From Warren Heller:

Just some quick feedback about how much I enjoyed this particular item in this month’s material. I had to read it nonstop, then printed it out to place with my copy of Shattered Sword. Thanks again.

Warren Heller (son of Yorktown CV-5 veteran)

Question on Saratoga

From Joseph Grillo:

Hello from Oklahoma City. One item I have never been able to fully explain. I realize Saratoga was late for the Battle of Midway, buy why? Does anyone in the "organization" of know enough of Sara's tardiness to explain why she spent so much time on the west coast?
Joseph Grillo
Great website!

Editor's Note: I do remember something about waiting for escorts and finding enough of an air group to contribute anything to the battle holding her up. Remember Yorktown had most of her air group during the battle.

Thank you for your reply. Yes, read about waiting for escorts and finding enough of an air group etc. And what was Admiral King and the rest of the brass doing? Ernie was not a man to take no for an answer. One would think he would move heaven and earth to get Sara out there. What I have never been able to find is a first person account from anyone who was actually there.

Thanks again,

Midway films in the Midway Library

From Herb Zinn:

Just an update to your discussion of Midway films in the Midway Library section of the website. Both John Ford productions - The Battle of Midway and Torpedo Squadron 8 - can be viewed AND DOWNLOADED from the Internet Archive at . Just search under videos using each film's title. Your site is excellent. Thanks for doing this.

Herb Zinn
Scottsdale. AZ

The Midway Library

From Herb Zinn:

Missing from the list is Volume 4 of Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison's History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, titled Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions May1942 - August 1942. Although later revelations call into question some of Morison's perspective of the Midway battle, Morison's work is an indispensble part of the record given its purpose and timing in the historical record.

Also, might it be valuable to add a segment on the Art of Midway? There are some wonderful works commemorating the battle by renown artists like Robert Taylor, Wiiliam Phillips, Gil Cohen, B. G. Smith, Stan Stokes, Jack Fellows and others that would add enormously to the appreciation for the battle.

The photographic record of the battle is frozen in time and is well-worn but artists' representation of key events often based on extensive research equivalent to that undertaken by authors is extremely useful. See, e.g., Requiem for Torpedo 8, by Gil Cohen, at

Sites like  include a sampling of these works by aircraft type and artist. There are, of course, other sites, as well, that can be readily located by Googling Battle of Midway Art. Various artists have their own websites, too.

The issue here, of course, is copyright, but given the educational purpose of your site and the positive reflection to be achieved for each artist's featured work - with links to their own websites - one would think their participation could be readily and lawfully obtained.

Again, thank you for an excellent resource.
Herb Zinn
Scottsdale, AZ

Editor's Note: Thank you for all the excellent suggestions. First of all the list of books was put together and ranked by the previous host of the RoundTable and I have not changed that out of respect for his knowledge. I am not sure why he didn't rank Morrison's work but if he didn't think it was in the top 50 then I respect that. In the past few years a few other books have come out on Midway that probably need to be inserted somewhere in the list but my thought has always been to just add them as an addendum rather than try and re-rank the books. Artwork is of course another matter. Many of the artists are or were members of the RoundTable and they have always graciously allowed us to put their work on the site. But a lot of the art has passed on to estates or other entities and it's sometimes hard to attain permission. And some there is no known owner but the prints are for sale from various places so someone owns the prints if nothing else. Kind of a gray area to just put up the artwork on the site and hope for the best. But working on it.

Editor's Note: