Roundtable Forum
Our 20th Year
March 2017

In this issue.

Why the Transport Group was Spotted
Effect of Midway on Mitscher's career.
Dick Best talk on Yorktown (CV10)
PBY Reconnaissance During the Battle
MAG22 XOs report
The Battle of Midway Weather
Tom Provost Navy plane
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

The month of March was really busy and interesting.  First up we have a great article from Ron Russell whose contributions are always appreciated.  From his book No Right to Win he gives us a story about how the Japanese Transport fleet was spotted due to some 'special .50 cal bullets' the crew just couldn't wait to try out.  If you have not read his book yet I cannot express how the stories in the book really detail some of the lessor known events at Midway directly from our Veterans who were there.

We continue some of the discussion on the PBY's Reconnaissance during the battle, a link to how the weather might have influenced the battle, and a series of questions on what effect if any did Midway have on Marc Mitscher's career.  We also have someone that was kind enough to send us a complete copy of Mag22 XO's report.  The one we had on the website was badly cropped when copied so was not complete.  Now we have a complete copy.

And last we have what is turning out to be an interesting discussion on Tom Provost's F4F at Midway.  Due to the length of the discussion and how late it started in March I'll have to continue it in April.  But hunting down video in what appears to be his aircraft along with his squadron mates in VF6 sometime before Midway flying off the Enterprise.  I can't determine if it is him in every shot of the Wildcat or not and maybe we will never know for sure but the second video certainly contains some shots of what appears to be his plane.

The film is not conclusive by any means.  These clips from the film could have been shot at any time even on board another sister carrier. Certainly the Hornet's color footage is well known and much of what you see is probably from that.  Still some of the black and white shots might be his aircraft.  Again without any kind of documentation we may not know.  The footage of him sitting in #17 before takeoff is probably the best shot.  But I can't determine if it is him as the film is not detailed enough to ascertain positive identification.  Perhaps the original film would be better although at this time it might also be deteriorated.

At any rate certainly an interesting topic.  Enjoy.

Why the Transport Group was Spotted

From Ron Russell:
April 1, 2017

During my time as veterans coordinator for the annual BOM commemoration in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of a strong friendship with Bob Swan, who had been the navigator on Jack Reid’s VP-44 Catalina that made the first sighting of Admiral Tanaka’s transport group heading for Midway. But making that sighting was an unlikely occurrence that only happened because of a series of circumstances that (like much of the BOM) were quite out of the ordinary. The full details appear in chapter 7 of "No Right to Win," but here's a short version. It started with a B-17 crewman giving Bob a few “special” .50 cal. bullets for the PBY’s guns that supposedly would help them defend against Japanese marauders flying out of Wake Island. Whether there was anything special about those bullets remains debatable, but the young airmen were eager to try them out on an enemy plane.

They took off on the morning of June 3rd, with an extra 150 gallons of gas that they weren’t supposed to have, and proceeded on their assigned mission. When they got to the limit of their search area without sighting anything, the crew talked it over—they had extra gas and those “special” bullets that they wanted to use on a Japanese patrol bomber. They decided to continue beyond their search area, and within an hour they spotted several transports on a heading toward Midway. Reid sent his memorable “MAIN BODY” message, and the rest is history.

An interesting outcome of Reid flying well beyond his PBY's normal search limit (50 miles farther according to Swan) was the Japanese high command assuming that Tanaka was 50 miles out of position on the morning of June 3rd, resulting in the Americans spotting the invasion far sooner than expected. Bob says that Tanaka was subsequently court-martialed for the apparent error. Whether that actually happened might be subject to verification--perhaps Jon Parshall has a resource on that. In any event, the fortuitous spotting of Tanaka's ships occurred when it did largely because Swan had acquired some supposedly marvelous bullets that would make short work of a Japanese patrol bomber, and Reid agreed to aggressively search for one to try them on!

That's the kind of tale, embellished or not, that you'll only find on the BOMRT.

Bob Swan continued in patrol aircraft for the remainder of the war and stayed in the Naval Reserve after its conclusion, retiring as a commander. He joined the Roundtable shortly after Bill Price got it going in the late 1990s, and contributed significantly to its success over the years. I've attached a photo of him from the 2005 BOM event in San Francisco. He was a truly great guy whose friendship I cherished.

Ron Russell

Editor's Note: The Court Marshall of Tanaka after Midway is certainly an interesting subject. I have never heard anything about this but it could be true. But if so no further action was taken. He served as commander of several naval battles in and around Guadalcanal but was later relieved of command in late 1942 and sent to Singapore. The excuse given that the wounds he received when his flagship destroyer was sunk was extensive enough to warrant a rest. In 1943 he was sent to shore duty in Burma and never returned to sea duty again. Much of this was due to outspoken criticism of the Japanese Naval command and how they handled the Guadalcanal campaign.

Effect of Midway on Mitscher's career.

From Scott Sabol
March 27, 2017

The following are thoughts about the effect in the short term that Midway seems to have had on Adm. Mitscher's career.  Wonder if anyone else has thought about it.
Thoughts on Midway and the “Flight to Nowhere”.

The Battle of Midway had definite effects on the careers of many of the commanding officers involved. Consider Adm. Marc Mitscher. Many accounts of Marc Mitscher in WW2 histories and in the short bios of him in WW2 books describe him as a "premier carrier commander. (1) However:

1) At the Battle of Midway, the Hornet (which he commanded) had a 50% attrition rate from the morning strike against the Japanese. The torpedo squadron was totally annihilated (15 A/C), the fighter escort lost all ten aircraft, one dive bomber squadron ran for Midway (where 11 of 14 made it safely), and only the scout-bomber squadron, the CHAG and his wingman, and 3 aircraft from the dive bomber squadron returned. It appears the Hornet air group took a "flight to nowhere", except for the torpedo squadron, totally missing any sight of Japanese ships.

2) On subsequent strikes, only about 4-5 bombs hit anything. Nimitz and Spruance were reportedly annoyed at the Hornet's performance overall.

If Mitscher was so knowledgeable about carrier operations, after Midway (he'd been promoted to Rear Admiral at the time of departure for Midway) why was he sidelined? He doesn't reappear until April 1943 as COMAIRSOLS (Commander Air Solomons), after the fight for Guadalcanal was over . He doesn't get a sea-going command until January 1944, as COMAIR 5th Fleet, under Spruance. (2)

Did Nimitz and Spruance think he had disobeyed orders to "attack the enemy carriers when definitely found" that Fletcher issued? (3) Spruance believed the intelligence that the four Japanese carriers were on one group. (4)

Consider, Adm. Thomas Kinkaid was a Cruiser commander (5), and had never commanded a mixed carrier-centric task force. (The same for Spruance at Midway, but Halsey recommended him.) Mitscher could have been placed in charge of the carriers before the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942 rather than Kinkaid.

Was the Hornet's poor performance at Midway the reason for his being sidelined?

1) The World Almanac of World War 2. Ed. Brig. General Peter Young. Page 573.
2) Ibid.
3) The Barrier and the Javelin. H.P. Willmott. Page 374.
4) Ibid.. Page 400.
5) Ibid. Page 339.

Editor's Note:  As stated prior to Midway Mitscher had been promoted to Rear Admiral.  But this was due to him being assigned to command Patrol Wing 2.  A position he held till December of 1942.  So Midway did not seem to affect his next assignment at all.  Plus it explains why he was not give command of the carriers in late 1942.

In December 1942 he was assigned command of the air fleet at Noumea.  One could wonder if this was somehow tied to the Midway performance but really there were no US carriers operating in the Pacific except Saratoga.  The British even lent the HMS Victorious to the US at this time due to the shortage of flight decks.

In April of 1943 Mitscher was transferred to Guadalcanal and was Commander of the air fleet Solomon Islands, a position he maintained until assuming command of Carrier Division 3 and eventually given operational control of all of the Fast Carriers for the duration of the war.

So I'm not sure Midway hurt him at all but one could make the claim that it certainly didn't help.

Dick Best talk on Yorktown (CV 10)

From Bill Vickrey
March 7, 2017

I too was on CV 10 when Dick Best – and other Midway survivors were present. I have some videos of the talks some of the survivors made and I likely have Dick’s as he and I were very close. I will send it along ---if I can find it. I know I have a very lengthy one of the chat between Roy Robinson and George Gay. Robbie was the AP (later Commander) who pulled George out of the Pacific.


Editor's Note:  That would be great.  I'm sure many members would be interested in watching the video.  Thank you so much.

PBY Reconnaissance During the Battle

Editor's Note:  Continuing discussion from last months issue.  February Issue.

From Warren Gerald Child:
March 7, 1017

Thank you for your continued and excellent diligence regarding furthering information and dialogue about the Battle of Midway. Concerning Randy Golonka's question about PBY recon during the battle, I can't help but to refer him to my father's account of his experience as a PBY co-pilot during the battle. In it he addresses being vectored to the position of the Jap carriers and reporting back their position and movements. In particular he notes how he and his pilot, Swede Thusen heard no orders to leave the theater and thus chose to remain and follow instructions accordingly. I hope his account will help respond to Randy's questions.

As an aside, last month I once again visited the Palm Springs Air Museum. What a great museum and wonderful testimony to America's naval and air commitment during WWII. I strongly encourage all of your members to visit this outstanding museum whenever they happen to visit Palm Springs. It will be time well spent.

Best regards,
Gerry Child

Editor's Note:  Mr. Golonka, One of our members read your question on the current newsletter and suggested that your read his fathers account. He flew one of the PBY's on the morning of June 4th in search of the Japanese fleet. I found that this story is not accessible from the main menu as it appeared in a newsletter some time ago and I never put a direct link on the site. Fixing that today. But here is the link. May answer some of your questions.

With VP23 at Midway

From Randy Golonka:
March 8, 2017

Thanks for the link you sent, it was a very interesting read. It had great detail about the execution of PBY scouting during Midway but unfortunately doesn’t address the actual scouting plan, to not only including finding the enemy, but maintaining continuous contact and reporting their changing position and course. It may very well be that with the passing of our Midway heroes, this level of detail is no longer available.

Thanks for all your help,
Randy Golonka

Editor's Note: Yes his account is very interesting. I'll see if I have anything from Howard Ady in past RoundTable newsletters. He was the pilot of the PBY that actually found the Japanese fleet and was a founding member of The RoundTable. There may be something in the archives where he talks about the plan. But basically from my recollection the PBY's each had a vector and assigned section to scout. They would fly out on the vector to the end of their assigned range and report any ships encountered. They were specifically not to remain over the spotted fleet and maintain contact. That was not doctrine at the time. They were to continue on their assigned section after reporting. Now they did have some latitude and Ady did turn his PBY around to have another look at the Japanese fleet after spotting it the first time. But after making several contact reports he continued on his way to search the rest of his sector. It's just the way that things were done at the time. Later in the war we developed slightly better tactics and more inter service cooperation. But I believe in 1942 even as late as the Battle of Santa Cruz PBY contacts were reported but they did not maintain contact with the spotted fleet. This led to a strike against the Japanese fleet launched the day before the battle that missed the Japanese fleet entirely because they spotted the PBY and figured they were discovered and reversed course to make sure the American strike did not hit them when they didn't have any idea where the US carriers were.  Since the PBY did not maintain contact with the Japanese fleet the US strike did not know they reversed course and so missed them.

From Randy Golonka:
March 9, 2017

Thanks again for the reply, and your comment about our doctrine makes perfect sense for that time. Midway was only our 2nd carrier vs. carrier battle and coming so close after Coral Sea we perhaps hadn’t had time to make doctrinal corrections to our scouting plans. It’s still pretty amazing that “common sense” didn’t raise its head among the planners and the realization dawn that once Japanese carriers were found we needed to hang on to them and maintain the position information flow up the chain.

But, as an Army veteran of 28 years, I’ve seen many of the same type things happen in places such as Desert Storm and Somalia, so doctrinally, it would sometimes appear we haven’t always gotten smarter because people still make errors of judgement. Take care and thanks again for your patience with my persistence.

MAG22 XOs report

From Duncan Munro
March 31, 2017

I have attached a copy of the XO's report (in PDF format) that has all the full pages with no cut offs, as requested in the Roundtable Forum Jan 2017.


MAG22 XOs report

Editor's Note:  Thank you very much for the full report.  I have updated the pdf on the After Actions Report link as well.  Appreciate your sending this to me.

The Battle of Midway Weather - Aerology and Naval Warfare

From Barrett Tillman:
March 10, 2017

Just found this WLFSE (while looking for something else).

Editor's Note:  An extensive study of the weather during the Battle of Midway published in 1944 and declassified sometime after the war.

Tom Provost Navy plane

Editor's Note:  This conversation is a lengthy one so I'm going to preface it by saying we're still in the process of determining if the film (second link) is of Tom Provost's plane or not.  The video is very interesting detailing some carrier operations in early 1942 as well as some others from later in the war.  The first link he sent me seems to be FM2's from Escort carriers in 1944 but the second one may well be Tom Provost's aircraft landing on the Enterprise.  This conversation is quite extensive and I'll publish more of the discussion in next month's newsletter when I get more time to put it together in a more readable format.  But here is what started the conversation and so we'll start here.  First a brief on Tom Provost and his contribution to the Battle of Midway.

From Glen Pierce
March 25, 2017

About 6 years ago, I email chatted with Roger Mehle Jr.  He is the son of Roger Mehle Sr. who was the leader of the Enterprise #6 CAP. Tom Provost was part of his team of 8 guys.

He said that the CAP guys were assigned their own planes. Provost had plane #17. Halford #12. The 2 of them are credited with shooting down the Japanese leader of 18 (??) bombers that struck the Yorktown.  Lt Kobayashi was shot down by these 2 guys.

So the video shows both plane numbers landing back to back. Someone said the planes are the older F planes. F4F I think. Anyway, maybe you and your fellows will see some more clues.  Maybe the deck shows something??  Maybe it is the Enterprise?

I think in late 1942, Provost came back to Pennsacola as a trainer. Then at some point went on the Wasp.  He received 4 air metals.  He received the last one directly from President Truman and James Forrestal, I think in late 1945 or early 1946.  There was something secret about it.  It might have something to do with the Doolittle raid.  Provost was flying CAP for the Enterprise that April 18, 1942 day.  He aided in sinking the 2 japanese spy ships before Doolittle took off.  So I bet that was hush hush until the war was over.

Thanks for anything you can do.

Question. At the 1 minute and 20 second video mark, i see planes #12 and #17 landing. I think they are F4f's from 1941 or 1942 from the Enterprise. I think #17 is my relative Tom Provost and #12 his wingman James Halford.  What do you think of that video spot?

Glen Pierce

Editor's Note:  These are FM-2's from later in the war.  Four guns and drop tanks.  Wildcats started using drop tanks in October of 1942 at or sometime before The Battle of Santa Cruz. While they might very well be the aircraft flown by Tom Provost later in the war it is unlikely they'd have the same numbers as the ones on Enterprise.  Plus the deck markings are not correct for Enterprise.  The markings are too close to the edge of the deck.  Escort carriers decks were quite a bit more narrow than Enterprise but the landing markings are consistantly the same distance apart.

And the Wildcats in 1942 did not have the tail markings for the most part.  The distinct triangle mark on the tail of the aircraft signifies the aircraft belonged to VC-71 from the Hoggatt Bay CVE 75. The picture of Roger Mehle posing beside his aircraft says ca 1942 or 43.  1943 is very likely and the aircraft again might be a FM rather than a F4F.  There is a distinct start of what appears to be a triangle just above the 13 on the rudder.  Again used later in the war as a squadron marking.  The triangle would be squadron VC-4 from the Escort Carrier White Plains CVE 66 if this is indeed a triangle. It very well may be something else.

After much discussion he sent me the second link.  This video shows what appears to be Enterprise and the narrator does identify the carrier as Enterprise.  This looks more like the 1942 Enterprise and F4F's.

From Glen Pierce
April 4, 2017

A 2nd video showing WW2 Navy F4F's in 1942.  Tom's #17 F4F may be in this video.

Here are the spots to check out.
00:30 shows Tom's plane #17 rough landing.
11:39 photo of Tom, in rear row at far left.
14:22 shows planes #14 Howard Grimmell and #15 Frank Quady air mates.
14:56 #17 Tom17 for many seconds. He sits in the plane. This is the best video piece yet.
15:27 VF-6 flying CAP (combat air patrol).

Glen Pierce

Copied from that 2nd video.  Glen Pierce

Editors Note:  Obviously this is important to the family as I received a nice note from Wyline Provost Baumann forwarded to me from Glen Pierce.  "Please tell 'your Navy guys' thanks from our whole family. We have very little actual knowledge of all this."  And his other Daughter Mrs. Susan Provost Endry who was 5 when Tom was killed laboriously maintained a scrapbook for her Dad #1.

There is a lot more to this story and I'll continue it in the next newsletter after editing the conversations.  But if anyone has an opinion on the video or any information on whether this could be his aircraft please chime in.  I cannot say for certain that any aircraft is identified as to who was flying it. But if the aircraft numbers are any indication it could be, at least in the second video.  I'm sure the family would appreciate any information we can gather on their father.  Thanks in advance to anyone that can contribute anything to the discussion.  I'll try to start posting updates in the current discussions as I get the story together in a more readable format and then in full in the next newsletter.

Announcements and Questions

75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway

Editor's Note:  I am getting quite a few requests for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Midway.  I'm passing on the requests here for anyone interested in attending or any Veteran that might be in the area that is interested in attending one of the commemorations.  If any veteran is up to travel and they'd like to attend can contact me and I'll put you in touch with the appropriate people.  All of them are offering travel and accommodations for any veteran of the battle.  For anyone else interested these events are normally worth attending and supporting the people involved with keeping the Battle of Midway's importance alive.

From Fred Weber:
March 15, 2017

Dear Roundtable Facilitator,

I am part of a working group to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the BOM here in Chicago, to be held at Midway Airport, under the SBD Dauntless that hangs at the entrance to Terminal A and also has a prominent Battle of Midway exhibition.

Since the last of forum posts are from 2011, I am assuming that we have very few living veterans of the BOM that are contributing or following, but I am reaching out to you to see if there may be a few that are able and willing to travel to Chicago or if you can point me in a direction to search. Having read the 65th anniversary events postings, the largest contingent seemed to be in San Francisco and San Diego. I think we have a budget to fly an appropriate speaker to Chicago, with a travel companion, if we can locate someone.

The event is on Tuesday, June 6th. Any help you can provide would be most appreciated.

Fred Weber
US Naval Academy Alumni Association - Chicago Chapter President
Navy League Chicago Council - Secretary

VP-44 at Midway

From Mike McAdoo
March 31, 2017

My late father, Robert D. McAdoo, was a crew engineer in VP-44. He stated that his particular PBY had suffered one or two men killed. Where would I find information on this incident as well as a roster for the June 4,1942 PBY crews?

Mike McAdoo

Editor's Note:  I do not have the permission to reprint information from this page so I'll just provide a link which provides more information.  Basically it outlines the loss of the PBY as well as the crew and survivors.  The information on the page was contributed by Mark Horan.