Roundtable Forum
Our 19th Year
March 2016

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Disestablishment of VB-8 and VS-8
Pacific Air Bases
Norman "Dusty" Kleiss turns 100
Midway Island - Bing videos
Enlisted Pilots
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Month of March had some interesting submissions.  But first birthday wishes to Dusty Kleiss who turned 100 in March.  All here on the RoundTable wish you the best.

We had some questions on Enlisted Pilots and aircraft losses for the US forces present at Midway.  We have a continuing discussion on what happened to both VB-8 and VS-8 after the Hornet was lost and also some videos on Midway Island that are both informative and revealing on the current conditions on Midway.

Last we have a request from Ed Fox for all Able Bodied Men that participated in the Battle of Midway to report for duty on Sand Island for the 75 year anniversary of the Battle.


Disestablishment of VB-8 and VS-8

From George Kernahan:

The original VB8 and VS8 were part of the Hornet Air Group and presumably ceased to exist as organisations when the carrier was sunk.

A new VB8 was commissioned on 1 May 1943 at Alameda, as part of the new Air Group 1. Also commissioned the same day, as part of the same air group, was a new VB5. On 16 July 1943 VB5 and VB8 were combined as VB1.

When Air Group 8 was commissioned on 1 June 1943, it had two bombing squadrons, VB27 and VB28. On 16 July 1943 they were combined as VB8.

Hope this helps,
George Kernahan

From Richard Douglass:

Years ago I did some research on navy patrol squadrons. What I found was that the navy often kept a squadron officially on the books, even though the squadron no longer existed as an operational unit.
For instance, VPB-144, flying Lockheed PV-2s in the Pacific at the end of WWII, was demobilized in late 1945, its assets dispersed and its personnel sent home. But the squadron still officially existed on paper.

In 1947 new Lockheed P2V-2 Neptunes began coming off the assembly line in Burbank, and new squadrons were needed to fly them. CDR Tomas F. Pollock, of 1941/42 Patrol Wing-10 fame, was assigned as the first CO of a new squadron, soon to become the still active VP-4. When CDR Pollock arrived to assume command, he found a file cabinet of VPB-144 records, and an enlisted man and junior officer who had kept the squadron “alive” since the end of the war. So official navy records will indicate that VP-4 was a continuation of VPB-144, even though no actual squadron existed from the end of 1945 until mid 1947.

I was told it was done this way because to create a new aircraft squadron the navy had to go to Congress to get approval, a long, laborious and sometimes contentious political process. But if the squadron still existed, even if only on paper, the navy had merely to assign new aircraft and personnel to it, and voila, a new squadron with no muss, no fuss. One can easily see the benefit to the navy of keeping squadrons on the books instead of officially disestablishing them.

Dozens of patrol squadrons, and almost certainly other types of squadrons as well, were created this way in the late 1940s and 1950s. And people trying to verify squadron histories often get tricked by this and think their squadron has a continuous history going back much farther than it actual does. I believe that the only patrol squadron with a continuous operational history dating to before WWII is VP-46. And only a few, probably less than ten, of any type of navy aircraft squadrons can claim such a lineage.

All this is not to avoid answering the question of specifically what happened to VB-6 and VB-8, because I do not know with any certainty. I would guess that the squadrons were never disestablished, but the files of the squadrons in question were quietly shipped off to storage somewhere in case needed in the future. And they may still be buried somewhere in a warehouse along with the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Richard Douglass
Ex VP-4

From Barrett Tillman:

Thank you--goes in The Keep File.

The inactive VP squadron reminds me of the air task groups established during Korea. In order to stay within congressional boundaries, the navy did some innovative book keeping by transferring active and reserve squadrons to ATGs (at least 2 of 'em) that deployed, and returned the squadrons to parent organizations afterward.


From Bill Vickrey:

I must assume that the squadrons of the HORNET Air Group were – at least – temporarily disbanded following the loss of HORNET in October, 1942.

The pilots and air crewmen were scattered all over...a few of them went to CVE’s in the Atlantic. Ray Davis (VS-6) succeeded Dick Best as CO of VB-6. When ENTERPRISE was damaged, he took VB-6 ashore as part of The Cactus Air Force. I had a delightful dinner with Best and Davis one evening. Best was Naval Academy of 1932 and Davis was 1933. They spent the evening talking about the many people both of them knew....I did not have a tape recorder but I was spell bound. One of Dicks’ favorite stories had to do with the Midshipman who was getting his physical when the doctor asked him “do you smoke” and the answer was “yes.” The doctor then told the Midshipman “if you will quit smoking I will guarantee that you will go up several numbers.” As the midshipman was walking away the doctor asked him where he was standing in his class and the answer was “number one.” (I took this with “a grain of salt”). Of all the Midway pilots I knew I was – perhaps – as close personally to Dick and Ray as to any one and spent many nights getting free lodging in their homes. Dick and my wife formed a mutual admiration society.

As an aside, some of SARATOGA pilots – who were on YORKTOWN at Midway – went back aboard the SARA. Bill Esders and Harry Corl (VT-3) did so and Bert Earnest – VT-8 detached - also went aboard her. He got his third Navy Cross flying from SARATOGA. Harry Corl was KIA on 01 July 1942.

I spent a little time going over my “Ray Davis” file and noted that – during WW II – he served aboard HORNET, ENTERPRISE, the new YORKTOWN, BON HOMME RICHARD and RANDOLPH. He was CAG on one or more of these. Don Kirkpatrick (VS-8 at Midway) served under him on one or more of these carriers. Following WW II he was XO of the new HORNET. Somehow Ray missed getting a Navy Cross at Midway...he did get a DFC.


From Barrett Tillman:

I just received a review copy from my UK publisher (Osprey) of the Skyraider squadrons in Korea. Found two BOM names: Clayton Fisher flew from Essex in 1951 and Howard Ady led an air group from Boxer. What a career: PBYs to ADs to F4Ds!



From Bill Vickery:

When I first started corresponding with Captain Tex Biard (1988) all his letters to me had to be cleared by Naval Intelligence. Tex’s letter dated 22 May 1988 was stamped:


Followed by an initial.

Without going through my three inch file on Tex, I think this was the last letter I received from him which was cleared by Naval Intelligence.

Later on I corresponded with Captain Gill Slonim and two other intelligence officers who were on Rochefort’s staff on 04 June 1942 and this mandate did not apply. My surmise was that it was discontinued later in 1988.

When I first started my Midway research either the Navy Department or the National Archives – I did not check it out – sent me tapes of their entire file on Midway and much of the material was stamped SECRET.

From Greg Finnegan:

Interesting! After my father died in autumn, 1980, a year or two later I met w/ ‘Boulder Boy’ Capt. Roger Pineau. At that point—which was before 1988, but after Jasper Holmes published DOUBLE-EDGED SECRETS--Pineau still cleared his writings & talks with whomever could OK them. Apologies if I’ve said this before, as I likely have: My father (who was medically retired in 1953,) spent a total of ~6 months on temporary uniformed duty in DC in 1969-70, doing oral histories for the then NHD, plus the Nebraska Ave. communications folks, DIA, and CIA. About the latter 3, all I know is that they were done. As for the then-Naval History Division ones, 9.5 of the 11 volumes of transcripts were sufficiently highly classified that NHD could not hold them! They wound up at NSA, where they remain. With my support, Eliott Carlson was able to shake loose some, but far from all, of what NSA holds, via FOIA. But apart from JOE ROQUEFORT’S WAR, the only book or article I know that uses Joe Finnegan’s oral history is Capt. Packard’s centennial history of ONI—but it may draw only from the unclassified portions and was in any case done by/for ONI. I was struck when I read Prados’ COMBINED FLEET DECODED that every reference to my father was as “Joe,” never as “Joseph.” When I checked his end-notes, this proved to be because each reference was taken from others’ oral histories, which, being done for USNA or USNI, weren’t classified. In re Gil (one-ell) Slonim, when I met him circa 1998, he mentioned that he had not agreed to be a source for what had been published about FRUPac, because he wanted to write his own version. Alas, he died before doing so. But he must have talked to Capt. Pineau, since 2 stories Slonim told me about my father appear in Pineau’s handwriting in his papers in the Boulder archive.

Greg Finnegan

Pacific Air Bases

From Bill Vickery:

I found this exhibit to be very interesting and very educational.  I had no idea there had ever been an air field on French Frigate Shoals. 

I had contact with a few PBY fliers who flew from Johnstone Island during the Battle of Midway. The XO at Johnstone was Roland Dale a Naval Academy classmate of Dick Best’s. I had a good bit of correspondence with him.

When I was on Midway in 1992, the field was fully functional and was long enough to handle anything which flew. It was designated as an emergency landing strip for space shuttles. At that time, Midway was still under control of the Navy but had less than a dozen Navy personnel there. A Lieutenant Commander occupied the Commanding Officer’s quarters. It was in the process of being removed from Navy control and there were several hundred workers – mostly from third world countries – on Midway at the time. We ate at their chow hall and everything was so spicy I could hardly stomach it.

We were there on a Historical Research Project with 14 Battle of Midway veterans - and me - along with some Park Service personnel from the Arizona Memorial. We were interviewed and filmed and a documentary was made...and it was actually shown on TV.



From Ed Fox:

Please ask the BOM survivors, able bodied “only,” to step up to the gangplank and make yourself known – CONTACT:
                                    Miss Ann Bell Visitors Services Manger
                                   Marine National Monuments of the Pacific
                                   Office Phone 808 792 9484
Receive information regarding the 75th BOM Anniversary on Sand.
Edgar Fox MIL Ret
Midway - Iwo - Korea

Last surviving American dive bomber pilot from battle of Midway turns 100

From Fran Kraus:

Midway Island - Bing videos

From Fran Kraus:

Enlisted pilots

From Kenneth Washam:

Reading number of books about BOM and other air battles, there were a number of enlisted Navy/Marine pilots (NAP) mention . I have never found a book at discuss the relations of officers and enlisted pilots, if there was any problems between ranks. Would like to have heard from their point of view and stories as enlisted pilots. If there are books available, please list couple.

Kenneth Washam

I also Admired those guys who rode in back seat!

Editors Note: That is an excellent thought. I'm not sure there are any specific books written on the subject but maybe some passages in some books dealing with the relationships.  Perhaps someone on the RoundTable remembers a book or article written on the subject.  As far as I remember reading there wasn't much issue between ranks.  But then again there was not the number of enlisted pilots in the US forces as other countries.  Most US pilots were officers.

Announcements and Questions

War and Remembrance

From Chuck Wohlrab:

I have an off topic question regarding the War and Remembrance mini-series. The USS Northampton in the Midway episode (and later) was clearly a US destroyer, but which one? It appears to have been made up from a Forrest Sherman class. Also, as a follow-up, does anyone know what submarine was used? She was still in late-war rig, and she could at least cruise on the surface.  I know it's a long shot, but we seem to have a number of Navy vets and historians in the group that someone may know.

Thanks, Chuck Wohlrab

US Aircraft Losses at Battle of Midway

From Janez Pirnat:

I'm interested in a total US aircrat losses due to the WW2 Midway battle. According to the Shattered Sword the toal number is 146. Through different evaluation (Shattered Sword, Lundstrum's First team, your and other web pages) I alway come to the same conclussions: Midway losses: 36; USS Hornet 32; USS Enterprise 31; USS Yorktown 31, making all together 130 aircraft lost. Where have additional 16 aircraft disappeared? I assume them to be heavily damaged (beyond repair) aircraft on board Uss Enterpise and USS Hornet that were later judged as losses, but I cannot prove it. Am I right? I would be most grateful for any precise answer or additional link for this explanation.

Cheers, Janez Pirnat

Editors Note:  I believe the additional losses might have been on the Yorktown. But I'm not sure. I just remember that there were some aircraft trapped on the Yorktown when she was disabled by the second attack and went down with her on the 7th. They may be the missing 16 aircraft. I'll look through my papers and post a note on the newsletter and see if anyone has a more definitive answer.

From Janez Pirnat:

I do not think so this because in all versions of USS Yorktown report after the battle there is the same number of total losses (31) - most likely they have included those trapped below. The meaning of the report is to be an accurate one. However I still wonder if there is an info how many aircraft damaged beyond repair were simply pushed into the sea from Enterprise and Yorktown during the battle when Yorktown fliers had to land either on Hornet on Enterprise, or on a way home or even after arrival to Pearl' Do you think there is an info on this?

Cheers, Janez Pirnat.

2016 Yorktown CV-5 Reunion

From John Mattson:

Anyone have any more information on the CV-5 Event in Charleston April 2016?

Editors Note:  The announcement originally appears in the January issue of the RoundTable.  Unfortunately I don't have any further info.  I'm sure if you send an email to the Reunion Chairman listed in the article he'd reply with any information you need.  Here is his email: