Roundtable Forum
Our 18th Year
April 2015

In this issue.

BOM RoundTable Founder
USN call signs heard by the Japanese
F2 and F4F bad rap
Japanese movies about the Battle of Midway
Morison Volume 4 in Roundtable Library
SB2U-3 Pilot Sumner H. Whitten Interview
Earl Gallaher Interview
Zero Pilot Kaname Harada
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

On Saturday afternoon, April 25th, I received the following email from Bill Price's brother in law Lani Elliott: "I am a brother-in-law of Bill Price. Bill passed away this morning. As of now, services are expected to be for family members only."

I did not know Bill Price all that well.  He had long since passed the duties on to Mr. Ron Russell by the time I joined the RoundTable back in 2006.  We exchanged a few emails in 2013 after I had taken over from Mr. Russell and sent out the first couple newsletters.  He wished me well and was glad someone was carrying on the tradition of the Battle of Midway RoundTable.  Although I did not have much contact with him over the past couple years he did read the newsletter every month.

There is always sadness when someone passes away but even moreso when that person was the reason so many of us connected through a common interest.  The Veterans of the Battle of Midway were brought together in a place where they could discuss events and compare stories.  For the rest of us the RoundTable and veterans provided details of the battle not revealed in history books.  Mr. Russell published a book as a direct result of his involvement in the RoundTable.

When I heard of Mr. Price passing away I sent a note to Mr. Russell to ask him to write something about Bill Price since he might have had more personal contacts with him than I  and he graciously obliged.

I know most of our lives have been touched by the fact that Bill Price took it upon himself to start a conversation with a few Battle of Midway veterans and the share the email exchanges with anyone who showed interest.  He will be missed.

For those who wish to leave a note or memory send them in.  I will publish them on the Current Discussions page where member contributions are posted daily.  You can find a link to the Current Discussions page here.  BOM RoundTable Current Discussions

Battle of Midway RoundTable founder Bill Price passes away.

From Ron Russell:

I was deeply saddened to learn that Bill Price passed away on April 25th. William H. Price was the founder and driving force behind the Battle of Midway Roundtable during its earliest years, and it’s for certain that without his energy and perseverance in those times, we would never have known this remarkable organization and all that it has accomplished.

Bill’s founding of the Roundtable is well documented in Chapter 1 of No Right to Win, but here’s the short version. Having long had an abiding interest in the BOM, he was very surprised to receive a phone call at his office one day from someone identifying himself as “Howard Ady,” a name that Bill instantly recognized as the pilot of the PBY that first spotted the Japanese carriers on June 4th, 1942. The caller turned out to be the pilot’s son, who obligingly introduced Bill to his dad. Bill was delighted to make the acquaintance of an actual BOM veteran, and the two commenced an ongoing email exchange. In time, a few others learned of Bill’s find and asked to be included on the emails. Bill did so, and the Roundtable was born.

For the next several years, Bill served as a relay station by forwarding literally bunches of messages every day to scores of followers. As the word spread, more BOM vets came aboard and the group began to take on a very unique character--one of the singular events in U.S. history was being dissected on a daily basis with the participation of the very men who had made the history!

By 2002, Bill was forwarding email to about 200 Roundtable followers, but late that year he suffered a major illness that ended his ability to handle the burden. I volunteered to take it on rather than just let the Roundtable die, and Bill was happy to continue as a subscriber. The Roundtable then grew exponentially as we transitioned to our own Internet site, ultimately attracting the participation of about 75 BOM veterans and 500 members in over 20 countries.

That’s a remarkable legacy for Bill Price, and he richly deserves all the credit that we can bestow upon him for the Roundtable’s success. Without his zeal for the Midway story at a time when telling it by computer involved a laborious daily chore that few of us would tolerate, that story would be far less known than it is today--especially some of its history-changing revelations that first got their major exposure here.

Editor's Note:   Thank you very much Mr. Russell for the tribute.  Here is a picture of Mr. Price taken in 2007 that Mr. Russell provided.

USN call signs heard by the Japanese

From Ron Russell: 

Ron Martel’s current post includes a quote from Tony Tully and Lu Yu’s NWC article concerning U.S. submarine or carrier call signs allegedly heard by intercept operators in Tanaka’s group as well as aboard Yamato on and shortly before June 4th. The question seems to be, were those indeed transmissions from USN afloat units, and were they indeed the call signs for those units.

The answer has to be a resounding no to both.

First, the Tanaka report, dated May 30th: “At 1130 this ship’s communication unit intercepted enemy submarine’s urgent message to Midway with call sign NERK. Frequency 12,795 kc. The feeling [signal strength] is very strong so it is judged that the submarine is close.” The most glaring problem there is that NERK was a general call sign meaning “All U.S. Navy ships.” It is sent by shore stations when transmitting broadcast traffic to the fleet. There is no imaginable circumstance under which a ship would transmit that call sign as the addressee in a message, and there is absolutely no circumstance under which any ship would identify itself by that call sign.

There is also an issue regarding the time of day of the transmission, which a sub in 1942 had to make while on the surface. Tanaka cites 1130 Tokyo time, which was probably 1330 where he was at the moment. A U.S. sub on the surface in mid-afternoon in the vicinity of Japanese ships including a light carrier? Not!

Next, we have this from the Tully/Yu article: [quote] 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. Combined Fleet had previously ordered Nagumo to reserve half his planes for ship attack, to deal with such contingencies…In the end, Combined Fleet didn’t pass this crucial interception on to Nagumo…One of Combined Fleet’s staff officers later regretted it: “This is one of my big failures.”…As it turned out, Akagi did not intercept the signal, thus depriving Nagumo of another chance of being forewarned. [unquote]

For starters, it would have been nearly impossible for the main body to determine that such a transmission came from a source “near Midway” without RDF triangulation that they obviously couldn’t do. At best, a rotating antenna might have given them a hint as to the general direction from which the signal came, and even that guess could have been 180 degrees wrong--such antennas of that era were effective from two equal lobes, front and back--they could have heard something far to the northwest of them as well as southeast. Yes, there was no likelihood of U.S. transmissions coming from the northwest, but as you’ll, see the same is true from any direction.

The fact is that unless the Japanese were decrypting USN fleet traffic at the time (and they weren’t), there’s no way they could have identified a ship type from its transmitted signals. The only USN call signs available to the Japanese were the unclassified international call signs, publically available worldwide. For that reason they were never used in wartime operations afloat. A ship calling a shore station like Pearl Harbor (NavCommSta Hono, NPM) might initiate contact by sending NPM DE NA (“To Hono from unnamed afloat unit”), with the 2nd character being arbitrary; anything from NA to NZ. Hono would respond, NA DE NPM K (“unnamed afloat unit, go ahead and transmit”). The ship would then send its message, still identifying itself as NA (etc.), and with its actual identity buried in the encrypted text of the message. That leaves no possibility for anyone on the Yamato to identify a particular ship or even ship type by its call sign.

Finally, we are left with the uncompromising prohibition against all radio transmissions from Task Force 16 and 17 except for the very short range TBS tactical radio. We’ve seen abundant speculation over the years about alleged at-sea transmissions from both Kido Butai as well as the U.S. ships involved in the BOM, and none of it holds water (pun intended).

All of this is tangential to the point in the NWC article: that someone on Yamato somehow thought they’d heard a U.S. carrier near Midway and assumed that Kido Butai had heard it too. That’s fine as long as we understand that there’s absolutely nothing that can remotely substantiate it, nor Tanaka’s report of hearing a U.S. submarine. Indeed, the facts require the opposite conclusion with finality.

--Ron Russell

Editor's Note: Mr. Russell, thanks for the great explanation. Far better than I could do.  I have heard people banter about the carrier call signs intercept over the years but have never had any reason to believe there was anything to the claims but it seems it pops up every few years regardless.

However I did have one thought that has persisted over the years. When Nimitz told Halsey to make sure Enterprise and Hornet were spotted in the South Pacific after Coral Sea I remember reading that a couple ships were left in the South Pacific maintaining constant carrier radio chatter to make the Japanese think the two carriers were still in the area.  If true I've often wondered how long the ruse was carried out. All I've ever read was that it was done but not how long they continued to operate. Possible they were still carrying out the misdirection by the time of Midway I suppose as it would make sense. But hard to imagine the communications were strong enough to carry all the way to the Japanese fleet in the North Pacific or if that might have been what they heard IF indeed they did. Still not convinced they did but for arguments sake. Communications sometimes do odd things like Pearl hearing communications from the fleet during Leyte Gulf. Any idea how long the fake communications were carried out or if they even were even put in place?

From Ron Russell:

Regarding deceptive radio transmissions;

The Hornet-Enterprise radio traffic you mention did happen in order to influence the Japanese into making an assumption about the ships’ deployment. Such deceptions were common practice on both sides. Indeed, I recall one instance where a single small ship simulated radio chatter among an entire carrier task group by employing different transmitters and different Morse operators. That’s a further example of why it really wasn’t possible to discern ship types, quantity, or identity.

However, skilled intercept operators could sometimes identify a particular ship by the “fist” or radiotelegraphic sending style of an individual radioman. USN ships sought to minimize that risk through rigid operating standards, and of course, radio silence. The Japanese did the same, but HYPO vet Phil Jacobsen told us that they weren’t as careful as they should have been--he even gave names to certain enemy radiomen whose sending style he repeatedly recognized.

As for various ships or shore stations hearing transmissions from great distances, that’s no problem at all. Radio propagation at shortwave frequencies was well understood by the 1930s. One could buy a Philco console radio with a built-in loop antenna and hear broadcasts from around the world while sitting in one’s living room in Omaha. It all depended upon the frequency, time of day, and the occasional vagaries of atmospheric ionization.


From Lu Yu:

The following is just my own thoughts. I hope Tony agrees.

The most comprehensive Japanese source on Midway is "First Air Fleet Detailed Action Report #6", complied by staff officer Yoshioka shortly after the battle. Its complete version can be found on JACAR (in Japanese). Nagumo Report is the English translation by Office of Naval Intelligence in 1947 and has since been used as a main source for Midway. It can be found on the Internet, such as hyperwar site. "The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway" is the name given by ONI when they did the translation.

On the interception of U.S. carrier call sign, we just translated what is written in Senshi Sosho. This event is also mentioned in many other Japanese books / articles on Midway. As Mr Russell has pointed out in his recent message, it seems that Japanese monitoring or analyzing was wrong. However, even though this was a "wrong" interception, it could have changed the course of battle if Nagumo had known it. He might change the search plan, or wait longer until the order to re-arm for a second attack on Midway. At least, he probably would not estimated that "U.S. carriers will not appear today".

To add to Mr Russell's very insightful message on this event, I'd like mention that such radio detection was not that reliable by itself. A good example is just before the Indian Ocean Raid. From radio detection, the Japanese estimated there was enemy carrier force at 600 nm 350 degrees from Wake on March 10th. Yamamoto judged this force might air raid Tokyo and dispatched CarDiv 5 to attack it. When no enemy was sighted, CarDiv 5 turned back and belatedly reached Staring Bay. The original plan was to leave Staring Bay around March 21st and to attack Ceylon around April 1st. As a result, Nagumo was four days late.

On the blame for Japanese defeat, I don't think Arashi did anything wrong. She performed normally and unintentionally lead McClusky's force to Kido Butai. Naval General Staff's failure to change the code on time was a problem, but such glitches were not uncommon for both sides during the war. It the U.S. code breakers' effort that utilized Japanese problems. And this is, I believe, the most important factor that contributes to U.S. victory at Midway.


F2 and F4F bad rapF2 and F4F bad rap

From John Mattson:

I have commented previously that both the F2 and F4F were in some ways inferior to the Zero, and in some ways superior. True, a lot of pilots lost their lives learning how to use those advantages, and keep clear of the Zero's advantages. This ended up with both getting a somewhat unfair reputation. My father LtCdr E Duran Mattson was quite happy that his F4F took incredible damage at Coral Sea and Midway but brought him back with one confirmed victory. He learned quickly and lived to tell others how to fight. When all is said and done, the fighter victories the first year and a half of the war were won by the F4F which shot down more of them than they did us. The F2 was not as well armed, or capable as the F4. Weakness in the landing gear was what really doomed it on carriers. However many of them ended up in Finland where they were extremely successful against both German and Russian aircraft. The Finnish war is an incredible tale of valor against huge odds. "Why did the Finns achieve so much with the Buffalo?"

Japanese movies about the Battle of Midway

From Chuck Wohlrab:

In response to the questions and comments about Japanese movies about the Battle of Midway:

You are spot on in your description. Storm Over the Pacific (Japanese title: Hawai Middowei daikaikûsen: Taiheiyô no arashi) was released in 1960 in Japan and ran 118 minutes. It was cut down slightly and released in the US as I Bombed Pearl Harbor, and was 98 minutes long. The focus is a B/N from Hiryu and covers the time from December 1941 to June 1942. Interestingly, it seems to be rather loosely based on a Japanese book by Mori, Juzo, a torpedo pilot on Soryu. Mori wrote a book called Torpedo Pilot, and flew one of the B5N torpedo planes from Soryu on 7 December. I suspect the change to Hiryu was made for dramatic reasons and to give a first person account on the strikes against Yorktown.

As far as I have been able to research, Mori's book might have had a small release in the US in the mid 1960s by Ballantine, but that might be bad memory on my part. I thought I saw it at a book fair at that time, but I might be mistaken. It has been listed in some of the books on Pearl Harbor and Midway as a source, but it never made it clear whether it was an English or Japanese text.

Some of the footage from Storm also found its way into Tora Tora Tora as well as Midway, IIRC, and might have made it into the Midway episode of War and Remembrance. The deck and island of the Hiryu was a replica built onto a dock, with replica aircraft as well.

I also have a movie made in Japan about 1965 and imported into the US called Zero Fighters. It is loosely based on the book Samurai, by Sakai, Saburo. He was the highest scoring Japanese naval fighter pilot to survive WWII, with 64 victories. Not a bad movie either.

Chuck Wohlrab

Morison Volume 4 in Roundtable Library

From Ron Russell:

A quick comment on Herb Zinn’s post in the Discussion area, suggesting that Volume 4 of Samuel Eliot Morison’s renowned History of USN Operations in WWII should have been included in our preferred listing in the Roundtable Library. He’s right, I agree totally, and have no excuse. I somehow didn’t think of it at the time.

It’s even more embarrassing to reveal that I have had the entire Morison set for years--you can even see it, with Volume 4 in plain sight, on the back cover of No Right to Win.

It surely deserves a spot on the list somewhere near the top, having been the first and only comprehensive public resource on the BOM for many years, and one that is still respected and often quoted.

My choice would be to put it either before or just after Incredible Victory. Walter Lord tells essentially the same story as Morison but with more detail and more veteran input, both maintain about the same level of respect, and both have about the same limitations resulting from the era in which they were written--before the release of classified information in the 1970s-80s.

You might want to open that up to input from the members.

Ron Russell

Editor's Note: And so we will.  If you would like to chime in and suggest a spot for Morison's 4th Volume in our list of Books on The Battle of Midway send in what rank you would assign to the book and why.  It is certainly the only account of the battle that was available for many years and the first public account of the battle besides 'Victory at Midway' by LtCom. Grifith Bailey Coale USN in 1944 written under wartime conditions and thus suffers at least some degree of censorship.

SB2U-3 Pilot Sumner H. Whitten Interview

From Willie Lumpkin:

Thank you for running this interview. Attached are the photos of my best guess of what Whitten and my uncle (George Lumpkin) and the other Vindicator pilots flew into "The Battle of Midway".  Yes the No. 2 is too big and there's no medical tape on the fuselage, etc.  Number 2 was Fleming's airplane for months prior to the battle and since he was a captain he probably had the pick-o-the-litter i.e. the best fabric!

I also believe that the only paint available at the time was insignia blue, white, and clear (maybe), to modify the roundels so that would explain the tapping and the rudder painting. This is a 1/48 Scale Model that I finished about a year ago, took months doing mostly color research.

Please feel free to nit-pick.

Willie Lumpkin

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Earl Gallaher Interview

Editor's Note: Earl Gallaher, commanding officer of US Navy Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) from USS Enterprise, who participated in the Battle of Midway.  Please note the interview is labeled as June 4 1992 when in fact Admiral Earl Gallaher passed away in 1983.  I believe the author of the site meant the interview was of  the day of the events, June 4 1942, rather than the date of the interview and the date is a mistake.   If you look at his other two interviews posted from the Battle of Midway they are all labeled as June 4 1992 when in fact two of the gentlemen has passed away by then, Clarence Dickinson of US Navy Scouting Squadron Six being the other.  Only Albert "Bert" Earnest, Avenger torpedo bomber pilot, US Navy Squadron VT-8 was still with us in 1992.  Not sure when these interviews by Jim Bresnahan were conducted.  Perhaps he might have references in his book 'Refighting The Pacific War'.

Zero Pilot Kaname Horado

From Bill Vickrey:

Mr. Horado was a Fighter Pilot and an “ace” before and during the early days of World War II. He was shot down and seriously injured at Guadalcanal and never flew in combat again. He is 98 years of age – in failing health but still does a good deal of public speaking warning Japan of the evils of war and urging the conservative movement in Japan to avoid war at all costs.

Here is his recollection of the Battle of Midway as recorded in the NY TIMES.

“Mr. Harada’s talk was filled with vivid descriptions of an era when Imperial Japan briefly ruled the skies over the Pacific. During the Battle of Midway in 1942, he said, he shot down five United States torpedo planes in a single morning while defending the Japanese fleet. He described how he was able to throw off the aim of the American tail gunners by tilting his aircraft to make it drift almost imperceptibly to one side as he closed in for the kill.

He also described his defeats. He said he had to ditch his plane in the sea after Japan lost all four aircraft carriers it sent to Midway, the battle that turned the tide of the war in favor of the United States. Four months later, he was shot down over the island of Guadalcanal. He survived when his plane crashed upside down in the jungle, but his arm was so badly mangled that he never fought again. He spent the rest of the war training pilots back in Japan.”

Bill Vickrey

Editor's Note: Mr brother sent me the article on the same day Mr. Vickrey sent these comments.  Here is a link to the New York Times article:  New York Times Article

Announcements and Questions

June 5 2015 -- 4th Annual Battle of Midway Remembrance at Arizona Capitol Museum

From Barrett Tillman:

From our friend Herb. Denny Wisely is a rara avis--an admiral genuinely interested in history, maybe in part because he's lived so much of it. Just a great guy.


Admiral Hugh Dennis Wisely Marshall Trimble

Press Release on Battle of Midway Remembrance

How Much the of the US Radio Traffic The Japanese were able to Read

From Robert Rheinboldt:

I have wondered for a long time how much of the US radio traffic the Japanese were able to decode and read over the war. I always hear about what the traffic was read and decoded of the German and Japanese but I have never heard anything other than one US Army officer who accidentally gave Rommel information about the British plans in the desert. Thanks for your time.

My father did not join the Navy until October 1942 but he did have some interesting stories about being on Tinian.

Best regards,
Robert Rheinboldt

Burning Mikuma

From Brian Anderson:

The iconic photo of the two VS-8 SBDs approaching the burning Mikuma on the afternoon of 6/6/42 is said to be a still of a 16mm film. If it is has this film ever been tracked down? My take is that is was actually taken by ARM3c John Tereskerz from the SBD-3 flown by Lt(jg) Albert Wood. Its photo no is 80-G-17054. Another photo showing the Mikuma dead in the water taken by John Tereskerz looking backward past the tail of his SBD is no 80-G-17055. Any comments greatly appreciated.

Best Wishes
Brian Anderson

"The Miraculous Torpedo Squadron" by Jūzõ Mori

From John Grist:

I noticed that this month's round table discussion includes a reference to "The Miraculous Torpedo Squadron" by Jūzõ Mori.

Nick Voge recently translated Mori's book into English.

The Amazon Kindle edition was released on February 10 of this year.

It is Mori's personal memoir of his IJN flying career and I found it to be a quick, easy read. Bear in mind it was originally written back in the 1950's so some of the details may not be up to current historical standards. All in all, I think it's a good book for what it is.

Thank you.
John Grist
Amarillo, TX

Available from Amazon here.

BOM related dogtags found

From Barrett Tillman:

The tags belonged to a GI who later was in BOM... a B-17 gunner Who Shot Down Several Japanese Planes at the Battle of Midway.