Roundtable Forum
Our 20th Year
September 2017

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Robert Campbell
Mk 13 Torpedoes
Radio Deception before the Battle of Midway
Catalina restoration
Digitally Enhanced John Ford's Battle of Midway
Book recommendation
South Dakota Warrior
Torpedoes: Mk XIII mod 0 vs Mk XIII mod 1
Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields
Real History of Ewa Field - Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

September was an interesting month.  We had many submissions and so let's get right to it.  First up I am pleased to announce, or rather Mr. Barrett Tillman was pleased to announce that Robert Campbell is still with us.  He flew with VB-3 during the Battle of Midway and went on to a rather distinguished service record participating in several other battles after Midway.

We also have some further conversations on the Mark 13 torpedo, Radio Deception, a digitally restored version of John Ford's film, a new film on John Waldron, and a new book on just how close we were to spilling the secret that we were breaking the Japanese codes and reading their mail.  A more astute Japanese intelligence division and we might never had had the Battle of Midway turn out the way it did.

A lot to get to and I always want to thank all those who chime in each month with some interesting topics and observations.  I also want to make sure anyone with a question on the Battle of Midway to submit those as well.  We have discovered some facts about the battle that were brought up by a question that perhaps nobody had thought of before.  The next one might be yours.


Robert Campbell

From Barrett Tillman

Dang if he isn't still with us--apparently age 101.

At the Tailhook Assn meeting in Reno this week, the usual suspects for earliest trap award were upset by Cdr. Robert Campbell, who car-qualled in 1941 (the other 2 were '42). I was able to speak with him very briefly, and he's uncertain of some details. I asked if he were VB-5 and he said he thought so. One of his friends had a photo album showing the VB-5 pilots and a couple of other pix obviously later in the war.

Here's a prior link containing reference about him:

Barrett sends

From James Sawruk

Robert Campbell of VB-3 has quite a record having bombed SORYU on 4 June & later in the day, bombed a “BB” as assigned. On 6 June, he bombed MIKUMA and on 24 August, he bombed the RYUJO.

Amazing record when you think about it.

From Barrett Tillman

Jim, thank you. What a record: attacking two CVs, a BB and CA! Really-really wish I/we coulda got to him sooner, but thank goodness for Larry Wahl's connection, in the link I included.

So Cdr. Campbell is 100 as of last month...

I'll notify Tailhook accordingly. Presumably Campbell CQ'd on CV-3 but he did not remember specifically.


From James Sawruk

I think that SARATOGA is the most likely deck he CQ’d on. Then he gets to operate from YORKTOWN, ENTERPRISE and SARATOGA again at Guadalcanal.


Editors Note:  Robert Campbell was with VB-3 during the Battle of Midway in the first element lead by CDR Max Leslie.  Although in my research he was not credited with scoring a hit on Soryu the reports are far from conclusive.  At one time I had a list of the four pilots who dropped their bomb accidently when the electronic arming devices were found to cause the bomb to release rather than arm but I can't find it now.  I don't remember his name being on the list so he did attack the Soryu with an intact bomb and could have scored one of the hits as eye witness accounts on both sides were confusing to say the least.

Mk 13 Torpedoes

From Barrett Tillman

Excellent insight to the torpedo scandal--and it was a scandal.

I've ranted on the subject before but perhaps it merits repetition:

One of the best naval sites on the web is , maintained by a massively motivated gent in Iceland. "Gummi" and I exchange data on occasion. Years ago he noted that the Kriegsmarine ordies who developed defective torpedo detonators went to prison. I noted that ours made admiral.

The wartime weapons (Mk 13, 14, 15) were developed under the BuOrd auspices of William Leahy, 1927-31, who was recalled to active duty as FDR's briefcase carrier/chief of staff. I've always inferred that he got his 5th star so the Brit field marshals would return his calls. It certainly wasn't for any exceptional naval competence.

Testing was severely limited. I recall Tom Cheek's contribution to the TBD book, saying that each fleet VT pilot was supposed to have a live drop annually but it hardly ever happened. In fact, IIRC he said that tactics training was heavily slanted toward bombing. Don't know how the violation of requirements was explained away...

We pay some people way too much. We really do. But you knew that.

One of my finest sources was the late VADM Bill Martin, pioneering CV night flier and longtime holder of the record for most nocturnal traps. He led VT-10 from CV-6 in 43-44 and said that of c. 30 torpedoes dropped, none ran hot, straight, & normal. That's why he developed low-level night bombing that proved so effective at Truk onward.

Far as I recall, nearly every advance in torpedo technology during the war came from industry rather than The Bureau or Newport Torpedo Station. That certainly included "Fido" the acoustic homing torpedo that proved so effective. Officially it was designated a "mine" for security reasons. Also IIRC, Hedy Lamarr was co-holder of the patent on the technology, originally developed for frequency-agile radios.

Barrett sends

Editors Note:  Thank you. The torpedo issue has always been a fascinating subject since I first read 'Silent Service' when I was a kid. Could talk about it for hours but it's probably been said. Hedy Lamarr is a fascinating woman. Most of the technology that we use for Bluetooth, WiFi, cell phones, etc. was developed by her and someone else who's name escapes me now with something called Broad Spectrum technology or maybe Spread Spectrum. Forget the name. She developed it sometime just before we entered the war and patented it but the Navy never incorporated it till a couple decades later when they finally realized what they had. I believe it was to be used as a guidance system and to defeat signal interception and to prevent jamming. She also invented a host of other things we did use during the war such as the proximity fuse for anti-aircraft weapons if memory serves. Brilliant woman really. You peaked my interest again. Have to dig up my book on her and give it a read as I'm just paraphrasing some of this as it's been too long.

Radio Deception before the Battle of Midway

From Stephen Kovacs

For what it’s worth, page 180 of John Lundstrom’s book, First South Pacific Campaign: Pacific Fleet Strategy December 1941-June 1942, elaborates upon your response to Timothy Tynan regarding the use of radio deception. Quote: “Beginning about 25 May. . . using the seaplane tender Tangier and her patrol bombers, communications officers simulated the presence of a carrier task force by broadcasting conversations sounding like traffic between aircraft and fighter director officers. This was the kind of traffic which appeared on the air during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and CinCPac’s radio deception officer knew the Japanese listened closely to it. There evidently was also some involvement in this by the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City, lent by Halsey to Leary’s ComSoWesPacFor. . . Nimitz intended the operation to convince the Japanese that he had not moved his carriers to the Central Pacific, and this impression would greatly assist the surprise counterattack Nimitz planned to spring at Midway. . . The Naval General Staff’s analysts in Tokyo fell completely for CinCPac’s radio deception.”

A check of Salt Lake City’s deck log via the website   reveals that Tangier was one of the ships present at Noumea, New Caledonia on 19 May 1942 when Salt Lake City arrived there. On that day, SLC transferred one of her floatplanes to Tangier and received 1200 gallons of aviation gas from her. In light of Lundstrom’s above account of 25 May, one can only imagine what else might have transpired between those two vessels six days earlier.

Editors Note: Thanks for the memory jog. The same information might have come from other books as well but I did read John's book when it first came out so probably remember this reference.

I always thought this was a clever ruse by Nimitz to fool the Japanese into thinking their Midway plan was going to be another cake walk which as history has shown they did.

Catalina restoration

From Ronald Russell

Here's a video that the Roundtable members might enjoy, on a PBY-5A Catalina, beautifully restored and flying. Just grit you teeth and ignore the occasional reference to "Strawberry 5" at Midway. Aside from that, it's a fine look at a superb restoration.

Editors Note: Thank you. It is an amazing restoration. We had someone send this a while ago but never hurts to show it again. I should put a link on the main page to the video as I plan on adding some other videos when I get time.

Digitally Enhanced John Ford's Battle of Midway

From Ron Martell

In 2012 YouTube showed a digitally enhanced video of John Ford's Battle of Midway. I did not see it until recently. If it has not been mentioned before in a Forum article you might mention it now. It is at  

Book Recommendation

From Ron Russell

"Stanley Johnston's Blunder" by Elliot Carlson

Roundtable members have a new candidate for their booksheves: Elliot Carlson's fine volume on the Stanley Johnston affair; the incredible blunder that very nearly handed Joseph Rochefort's codebreaking secrets to the Japanese. The story has generally been known from the outset: Johnston, a newspaper reporter embarked on a ship returning from the Coral Sea battle, gets access to a CINCPAC message that detailed the Japanese fleet headed for Midway, even including all four IJN carriers by name. He routinely files a story about it to his newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, which published it on June 7th with a front page headline that trumpeted the Navy's foreknowledge of the Japanese attack plan. All Tokyo needed was someone on their side reading that paper, and Hypo's successes from that point forward could have been stymied for months, if not permanently. In terms of lives lost and the war prolonged, it would have been a calamity on the scale of the Pearl Harbor attack itself.

Thankfully, either the Japanese never saw the story or they didn't grasp what it revealed. Despite clues that seem obvious in hindsight (three ambushes in succession: Coral Sea, Midway, Yammamoto), they believed throughout the war that the complexities of their language buried in JN-25 rendered their codes unbreakable. But that was unknown in 1942. The Navy and President Roosevelt were outraged; heads had to roll, but the only way to do that would have been in federal court, the proceedings of which would further reveal our mastery of Japanese codes. Reluctantly, the government let the matter drop altogether rather than risk making it worse.

But the devil is in the details, as they say, and Elliot's new book has them all, including a whole lot that would have never seen the light of day without his personal doggedness. As an author with a considerable background in the law, he was well equipped to take on the federal Department of Justice, which had no interest in releasing suppressed records of a 74-year old secret grand jury hearing. Elliott sued under the Freedom of Information Act and eventually prevailed. The transcript of the hearing is fascinating, revealing how Johnston, officers on his ship, Navy censors, the Tribune's publisher, the Justice Department, Admiral King and President Roosevelt were all contributors to one "beautiful mess" (one of the book's chapter titles).

For anyone familiar with the Rochefort and Hypo stories, especially as related by Elliott in his earlier book "Joe Rochefort's War," you're going to want to read this one.

--Ron Russell

From Ron Martell

Elliot Carlson's recent book, Stanley Johnston's Blunder, about Johnston's June 7, 1942, Chicago Tribune article containing enough detail that could only have come from Nimitz's May 31, 1942 order. Ron Russell wrote a review which is at:

South Dakota Warrior

From John Mollison

South Dakota Warrior, a film celebrating the leader of Torpedo Eight, John Waldorn, goes on Public Broadcasting (and live on-demand) 6 November.

Torpedoes: Mk XIII mod 0 vs Mk XIII mod 1

From David Anderson

The ordnance for the TBDs at Lae, Salamaua: Lexington's TBDs had torpedoes, and Yorktown, which launched slightly later, had their TBDs carrrying 2 X 500-pound bombs. I hope this helps in trying to figure out who had what in the early Pacific Raids.

Regards, David F. Anderson

Editors Note: Thanks. I thought that they armed some of the TBD's with bombs but couldn't remember for sure. So Lexington did expend some torpedoes on the raid but it was unlikely they used up more than a few. Only 13 TBD's were on the raid. If the Lexington was initially loaded with 36 Mod 0's then they had at least 23 left.

Above is an interesting picture I found of a Mark 13 Torpedo loaded under the wing of a PBY in 1937.  The only Mark 13 Mod 0 picture I have run across that shows the torpedo in such detail. Note that the propellers are missing but otherwise the torpedo looks to be intact.  You can clearly see how different the tail assembly is compared to the Mod 1 pictured below.  It is no wonder the Mod 0 torpedo was considerably more reliable considering that the tail fins on the Mod 0 extend to and beyond the propellers as well as being longer, wider, and have reinforcement braces to keep them from wobbling in the water or being damaged on a drop.  The smaller fins on the Mod 1 as well as the propellers extending beyond the fins contributed the host of problems the Mod 1 was plagued with during the war.  After comparing the two photos it is hard to understand how anyone looking at the two side by side could come to the conclusion that the modifications on the Mod 1 were improvements.  From general knowledge about how objects move through air the turbulence created by the body of the torpedo would inhibit the ability of the smaller fins to stabilize the torpedo.  This would only be magnified in water.  The suspicion that damage to the fins on the Mod 1 from an air drop resulted torpedo failures lead crews to add a plywood box around the fins before Midway.

Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields

From Paul Freeman

An interesting development for the "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields" website: I was quoted in an article this month in the New York Times about the fate of airports:

Thanks to historical material contributed by Kevin Walsh, Ron Plante, Brian Rehwinkel, and hundreds of other aviation history buffs over the past quarter, the "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields" website's quantity of material has grown to a total of 2,210 airfields, across all 50 states. This includes new additions describing former airfields such as Glen Ivy Airport CA, Northway Airpark OH, Marlboro Airport MA, Graham-Bell Airport NM, Sossamon Field NC, River Falls Airport WI, Groveton Airfield NH, Elsinore Airport CA, Brightwood Airport IN, Reynolds Field NY, Holley Field FL, Wamsutter Airport WY, Pepeekeo Airstrip HI, Kona Village Resort Airstrip HI, Bassler Airfield MD, and updates to many others. If you have applicable material about a former airfield, please let me know.

Paul Freeman

Real History of Ewa Field - Battle of Midway

From John Bond

Attached is an introductory letter and attached information being sent to request possible information, photos or documentation about 1942 Naval aviation history, Battle of Coral Sea, Midway, etc. that can help document a National Register nomination of aircraft revetments at former MCAS Ewa Field.

One of the major findings is that many histories and archives are wrongly attributing operations to Naval Air Station Barbers Point because of mistaken command histories confusing the two different Hawaii airfields in 1942 and their periods of operation.

A review of many books published about this period often correctly attribute Ewa Field as a naval air group base but many archives and museums are not because of the way command histories were later misinterpreted confusing the two airfields.

Ewa Field 1942 History.pdf Ewa Field Midway LTR.pdf

Editors Note: Although not directly involved in the Battle of Midway it is nonetheless an interesting topic.  The second PDF is a very good read.