Our 20th Year
In this issue.
Dick Best talk on Yorktown (CV10)
PBY Reconnaissance During the Battle
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks
This month I am a little late due to a number of other projects so I apologize for that.
We have a nice note from Ron Russell about the Dauntless that appears on the front cover of his book, No Right to Win. We also have a note about the PBY's communications during the battle. I answered the major points from what I know of the communications but invite anyone to chime in with additional information. We did discuss this previously and there is quite a bit of information in past newsletters as well as articles.
I also have a note from John Landry about the passing of Fred Bergeron. I will include some additional information about him, as well as his brother Dallas, from some of the information that John Landry so graciously lent me to use as a reference. However there is one condition I will abide by in that John has to approve the content. This is more due to the fact that some of the information may be reserved only for his family and I don't want to reveal a bit of information that might be considered private.
What I can tell you about Fred Bergeron is that he, along with his brother Dallas, both flew as rear seat gunners with Bombing Three on the morning of the June 4th attack. I will have more on both brothers as I go through the binder of information he left behind. I hope I can honor him with what I write.
Hope everyone has a great month ahead. Thanks for reading the newsletter.
From Ron Russell:
January 31, 2017
My tribute to John Greaves in the January newsletter mentioned his custom editing of the front cover photo on "No Right to Win," making a flying scale model of an SBD look like the real thing. John Photoshopped the model's spinning prop to appear like a real three-bladed Dauntless prop, rather than the two blades of a model airplane motor. You won't see that photo rendered that way anywhere else.
Interestingly, the unedited original of the photo appears in another BOM book, Peter Smith's massive "Midway: Dauntless Victory." If you have the book, check the pictures next to page 269--there's our familiar model again, as captured during a radio control competition by photographer Ben Lanterman. However, Smith cited the image as a U.S. Navy photo of a real SBD. He'd received a number of pictures from VB-8 veteran Clay Fisher, who'd passed him a copy of Lanterman's great shot without identifying its source. Smith apparently assumed it was a USN photo like others received from Fisher. It's too bad that he didn't examine it more closely before adding it to his book, for it clearly shows the two spinning propeller blades of a flying model airplane.
I'm including two attachments with this message, one showing the model SBD with its owner/builder Kent Walters. The other is the original picture that Ben Lanterman took at the radio control meet. The model is a replica of Enterprise pilot George Goldsmith's 6-B-15, of certain renown in the BOM for landing on the Yorktown after the morning battle on June 4th. A picture of the real 6-B-15 can be seen on page 115 of "A Glorious Page In Our History," March 1998 edition.
From John K. Landry:
January 30th, 2017
I'm Fred's cousin. Bill Vickery and I corresponded about Fred Bergeron sometime ago. I wrote Bill that Fred was in poor health and promised that I would let him know when any additional information concerning Fred occurred
Fred passed away recently at the age of 94, and, despite Fred being extremely reticent about his Navy experiences, a local newspaper was able to quote from a journal he had written in his seventies about what he experienced at the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal and the Doolittle Raid. However, Fred wrote this journal specifically for his children and grandchildren, and it was not to be revealed to anyone else until he was no longer living.
I have a copy of the news article and also a somewhat more detailed report using Fred's journal I wrote for the journalist to use writing his article. I could send the article or the report (or both) if you think it would be of interest to your readers.
John K. Landry
Dick Best talk on Anniversary of Yorktown (CV10) commissioning
From Allan W. Cortese
February 12, 2017
I was on the Yorktown (CV10) during the anniversary of the ship's commissioning. I was in another part of the ship when Dick Best gave his talk. Would it be possible to reproduce his talk if it is still available? I would dearly love to read and store it. Thank you in advance.
Allan W. Cortese
Editor's Note: Despite several days on and off of searching for any recording or transcript I have been unable to locate one. If anyone has a copy or where to look for this I would appreciate it. I have not heard if Dick Best's talk was recorded or transcribed and contacting the museum has proven somewhat difficult to get someone who knows anything about the talk.
PBY Reconnaissance During the Battle
From Randy Golonka
March 3rd, 2017
In my studies of Midway I’ve often wondered about the apparent lack of a continuous information flow from PBY Recon aircraft in contact with the Japanese fleet. Spruance and Fletcher were always straining for more information (passed by the PBY’s to Midway and then to our carriers) on enemy course changes and latest positioning prior to their launching strikes.
I realize PBY’s were having to duck in and out of clouds to avoid the Japanese CAP, but wasn’t it realized beforehand by planners that more PBY’s would need to be pulled from unthreatened sectors once we knew where the enemy carriers were? Once we found the enemy carriers early in the morning (allowing us to launch attack aircraft from Midway) we spent the rest of the day “groping” for their latest position, making it very difficult on deciding when to launch strikes off our carriers at the extreme edges of our aircraft ranges. Were AAC B-17’s also unable to relay enemy position and course data back to Midway to fill in any PBY info gaps?
More by accident than anything else, we put continuous groups of aircraft (from 20,000 feet down to sea-level) from Midway over the enemy fleet, and yet our own carriers were always wondering what the latest enemy course and position data were.
From what I can tell, once PBY's found the enemy, there was an information gap, sparingly filled at various times, that was frustrating to Spruance, Fletcher and the aviators having to plan and fly missions off our carriers against the enemy.
Editor's Note: Well you're not wrong in wondering. This topic has had its share of discussion on the RoundTable. But it's not as easily answered as one might suspect. In 1942 communications was in its infancy and very primitive by comparison to later in the war. And communication between branches even more difficult. First the PBY's all had a search section and despite the fact that one PBY located the Japanese fleet one must remember that it was not exactly known if or how the Japanese carriers would be operating. American carrier doctrine and Japanese carrier doctrine was quite different at this time and there was not enough experience to make a 100% guarantee that we knew how they would operate. And one must also remember that the first sighting only reported two carriers when it was known by most that there would be four. And hanging around and continuing to broadcast a location is a sure fire way to get shot down and reporting these two carriers was not the end of the
mission. There was still quite a bit of ocean left to scout beyond this first contact. The primary mission of the PBY in this section was to scout his assigned area which included beyond the location of the contact to the end point of his search radius and report anything he found. There was no way of anyone knowing if the first carriers were not followed up by two more carriers some miles in the rear. In fact it is likely that this assumption by led directly to the Flight to Nowhere by Hornets strike force. All except Torpedo 8. Every other PBY had the same orders.
The second thing that is not widely known is that all contact reports were sent by the wireless operator. Despite what we see in the movies voice communication back to base was not generally used. And again this is for a variety of reasons but the most important is that it is more reliable or at least was at the time and that you could encode the message where a voice commincation could not be encoded. Plus a wireless signal is generally less likely to have interference, be lost, or break up when the distance is significant.
And finally you had the chain of command that played a role in the communications. Even though the carriers were monitoring the PBY channels the PBY's sent the contact message to Midway, which was then sent it by undersea cable to Pearl Harbor who then transmitted the information in code to the carriers. At times there was a lag in the information getting to the carriers.
Not to say any of this was the best solutions. However one must remember that we were in a war with Japan that nobody had anticipated. That being that the carrier was now the main weapon rather than the battleship and that things happen a whole lot quicker with airplanes than with battleships. While the communications we had in place might be fine for a fleet action where it takes hours for a fleet to move it takes only minutes for airplanes to cover the same distance. That and it might seem obvious how to handle the battle now but it was not so obvious back then.
Announcements and Questions
From Greg Allsop:
February 1, 2017
Can you please share this with the group. I'm planning on attending and it would be cool to have a BOM RoundTable get together if others are interested.
From Andrew S Miller CIV DMA PROD (US)
February 2, 2017
You were tremendously helpful when I produced Destination Point Luck 10 years ago. The Navy is in the process of doing new inteviews with Midway survivors, and I wondered if you had an updated list of who is still around and might be contacted to be an interview subject. Please get back to me or Mr. Snyder who is copied on this note.
Editors Note: Ron Russell was the host of the Midway RoundTable back then and he deserves the credit. So thank you in his behalf. If any veteran on the RoundTable is interested in doing an interview please send a note to me and I'll see that it gets forwarded on to Mr. Miller.
75th Anniversay Celebration - Midway - McClusky
From Barrett Tillman
February 8, 2017
Join the City of Buffalo celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway. Just click on the Word document link below. Forward to any of your correspondents who might be interested.
75th Anniversary Celebration