Roundtable Forum
Our 20th Year
October 2017

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
South Dakota Warrior
Stanley Johnston's Blunder
Mark 13 Torpedoes
Mark 13 Torpedo replica
Robert Campbell
Hedy Lamarr
Downed fliers question
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks



If you have time for only one thing from this newsletter I suggest you watch South Dakota Warrior.  John Mollison who is the man behing Old Guys and their Airplanes has produced a very good short film on John Waldron.  It's about 20 minutes long but well worth the investment in time.

We also have more on the troublesome Mark 13 torpedoes, a few comments about 'Stanley Johnston's Blunder, and much more.

I am asked from time to time or someone points out that links on the RoundTable no longer work.  While I can fix many some cannot.  This last month someone emailed about a broken link and after doing some research discovered that we linked to John Greaves excellent site.  However as most know he passed away unexpectidly and the site was eventually taken down.  I probably won't be able to restore the link with the content so it will be lost.  While this is unfortunate it is inevitable that some are lost from time to time.

However I still want you to send in any links you see as broken or going nowhere.  I don't routinely go through all the pages and test links so any reported are appreciated.  I think there might be some software that does that and I may see if I can find one.

Enjoy the newsletter.


South Dakota Warrior

From John Mollison
November 6, 2017

South Dakota Warrior is now live!

Thank you for your help, support, encouragement and friendship… writing for the OGTA team, we hope SDW gives you some sort of inspiration and honors the memory of yet another hero from South Dakota.

Click on Image below to Watch it at:

https://vimeo.com/historyisnutritious

And, our Press Release is attached.

But, if you know of any group, media person, museum…that is interested in great stories from History, please forward the release and/or link.

Best regards,
John Mollison

Press Release


Stanley Johnston's Blunder

From Bill Vickrey
October 11, 2017

I found Ron’s note regarding this new book to be most interesting. I had not heard of this book but will get a copy and may have some comments after reading it. Along the way - of my Midway research - I took a side trip into this subject and have a good bit of detail which I have not seen in published form. Maybe this book will fill in some blanks.

There were several blunders but I do not see Johnston’s action as being a blunder but rather an intential act. Commander Seligman and Johnston came to the states on the U. S. S. BARNETT (AP-11). I served aboard the U.S.S JOHN LAND (AP-167) immediately after World War II and I cannot imagine Nimitz’ dispatch being aboard such a lowly hunk of steel as BARNETT but all data I have suggests that CINCPAC’S dispatches went to the intended commands with copies to a wide variety of commands and ships.

I don’t have Ron’s email address so please pass this on to him.

Bill

From Ron Russell
October 12, 2017

Bill has a good point: why did a lowly transport ship have a copy of CINCPAC's intel on the IJN plan for Midway a week before the battle? The answer is on page 44 of "Stanley Johnston's Blunder." It's hard to give a short explanation of how it happened, but I'll try. Messages to ships and commands at sea were delivered via the all-ships fleet broadcast. Radiomen would decode the header of every message, then stop there on messages not concerned with their ship or embarked commands. That was the case of the Midway message on the transport; it should have been filed without decoding the text. For one thing, the transport didn't have the manpower needed to decode the text of every incoming message, a lengthy manual process in 1942.

But it did have several communications specialists from the Lexington on board, and it was those Lex survivors who decoded and provided the message to their ship's XO (Seligman) upon his request, to satisfy his general desire to see all radio traffic regardless of topic or intended recipients. And that's how the message wound up in Seligman's quarters, which Johnston was sharing.

We would view that as a major breach of security today, but this happened in May 1942, when there was a whole lot yet to be learned at all levels about communications procedures and limits. Many lessons were learned the hard way as the war progressed, and this is one of those.

--Ron Russell

From Bill Vickrey
October 13, 2017

Thanks, Ron...I will look forward to this book.

Years ago I got some first hand data on this subject from Rear Admiral Bill Mott (JAGC) USN (Ret). At the time of his retirement he was Judge Advocate General of the Navy. He was in the USNA class of 1933 which was the class where only half of the class graduated and Bill was in the half which did not graduate. He then went to law school and was called to active duty when things heated up. Attached is a copy class of 1933 who were at Midway. This is one of my prize exhibits because it took so much time to develop it and I am sure it is not complete. Without checking all my files – at 91 I am not gonna tackle that – I am going from memory so cannot be absolutely sure of the men I have been in contact with but I am pretty sure of them --- James Cobb, Charles Cundiff, Ray Davis (Davis was a close friend and I stayed at his home each time I was in Pensacola.), Steven Jurika (he was actually the Intelligence Officer but they apparently did not have a billet for that so they gave him another title),Jim Ogden’s widow and his Oral History.

One of the most delightful evenings I ever had in my research was having dinner in Pensacola with Dick Best (USNA class of 1932) and Ray Davis (1933). They rehashed what they knew about the men of these two classes. Sadly, I did not have a tape recorder. Ray succeeded Dick as CO of VB-6 following Midway.

In the early days of the War Lt (jg) William C. Mott was ordered to set up a communications and intelligence center for President Roosevelt at the White House serving additionally as Assistant Naval Aide to the President. In these assignments he was heavily involved in the Tribune matter. I did not get as much information as I could from him as I was “picking his brain” for what he knew about Midway. He noted that he briefed The President daily on Midway. The President was “all Navy” and was incensed by the false reports of the damage done at Midway by the B-17’s.

I did not visit with Admiral Mott – in person - and had a great opportunity to do so and missed it. He lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. I drove through there late one night and – because of the hour – did not respond to his invitation to visit and he died before I had another chance. His brother (Benny) was the Assistant Gunnery Officer on ENTERPRISE at Midway and I knew Benny quite well and this is how I got in touch with Bill.

Somewhere I have a copy of the Tribune issue which covered this affair but I’m not sure how to find it. My filing is the biggest pain in my Midway project. In my last 25 years of my 50 years in the business world I was the CEO of three different insurance companies and thus other people controlled my files so – when I started my Midway project - my filing was and is a horrible mess which will never be straightened out.

Yes, the IJN could have read the TRIBUNE article and concluded that we had broken their code but we – looking back – know that Finnegan and Dyer had broken the “time/date code” (I believe it was a cipher rather than a code) on either May 23 or May 24, 1942 (I am inclined to believe it was the 24th). I bring this up only to note that the IJN changed JN-25 (the U. S. Navy’s name for this code/cipher), on May 25 1942.

After I read this book and research the data I have I will try to write more on this interesting matter.

Smooth
Sailing Bill

Class of 33


From Barrett Tillman
October 13, 2017

Maybe the best known from class of 33 was Dashing Dave McCampbell. In May 42 he was LSO aboard CV7 in Lant/Med.

BT

From Bill Vickrey
October 18, 2017

Here is a copy of the article from the Chicago Tribune which we discussed earlier. I had trouble scanning it but it seems to be readable.

I was surprised that this article was not published under Johnston’s byline. I understand that this same article was published the same day in the WASHINGTON TIMES-HERALD and in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS but this is rarely mentioned.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox was part owner and publisher of the CHICAGO DAILY NEWS. He and the editor of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE were bitter enemy – or, at least, not bosom buddies - so Knox wanted to prosecute THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE and/or its publisher/editor.

Does anyone have Nimitz’ issue (I think the number was 311221) from which Johnston drew his article? I do not recall ever seeing it.

I have ordered STANLEY JOHNSTON’S BLUNDER and will get it in a few days.

Bill

Chicago Tribune Article

From Ron Russell
October 18, 2017

Bill, the message is on p. 245 in the book.
--Ron

From Barrett Tillman
October 18, 2017

Got a review copy from NIP. Impressive research--and a pox on the navy for trying to prevent access to 70 y/o documents.


Mark 13 Torpedoes

From Barrett Tillman
October 10, 2017

In researching the Osprey TBD volume I computed 174 Devastator combat sorties (excluding searches) with 133 VT and 41 VB.

BT

From Don Boyer
October 10, 2017

Always look forward to ​Barrett Tillman's articles in the Roundtable, and his précis of the navy's torpedo troubles is spot on. One notes that the actual discovery of each of the problems with the torpedoes (depth setting and both exploders) was discovered by the fleet in the field first in Australia, and then in Pearl Harbor and both under the direction of Admiral Lockwood and his staff. The haughty "experts" at BuOrd resisted every attempt to test the torpedoes until their blatant lack of adequate oversight and engineering blundering was exposed for all to see -- particularly Admiral King. Admiral Lockwood was even able to use sanitized intelligence decrypts that showed the torpedoes were not working from the Japanese side. It doesn't get more conclusive than that.

I've always found a couple of things interesting about this whole mess. The first would be the fact that Admiral Nimitz didn't light a fire under some naval bureaucratic butts when the torpedo troubles became so obvious to the boats at sea and their commanders. We know Admiral Christie would never have been on the bandwagon, but Lockwood was, and he had the ear of Nimitz directly at Pearl. One wonders why the issue, which was costing lives and crippling the sub campaign, didn't get the attention it deserved (apparently) from Nimitz and his staff and then Admiral King. Nimitz screaming bloody murder, so to speak, to Admiral King would have gotten VAdm Blandy on the hot seat right quick. (Instead, he goes on to four stars and Operation Crossroads.)

Another interesting note, in the face to face meeting between Lockwood and Blandy in Washington, Blandy complained part of the problem was that he was not getting well-qualified boat commanders on the staff from Lockwood to "work the problem." That's about as disingenuous as it gets -- he was saying he needed "field experts" to resolve a problem that was entirely the design and engineering responsibility of BuOrd and Newport's staffs? His QC and testing was so weak it would take a sea-going expert to fix the problem? Pure bullshit only those with careerist leanings would say -- meaning his people were failures, and he had no solution to the problem. I have no idea what Lockwood said in response to this, but I know what my response would have been, and I'd probably have been under hack for a long time!

Don Boyer



Mark 13 Torpedo replica

From Brock Howe
October 9, 2017

I’m looking for a replica Mark 13 torpedo (full size) for a museum display with an Avenger aircraft. This is strictly a display item and not a flight worthy item and we’d use it to give visitors that aren’t familiar with torpedo’s a visually idea of the size of one. Do any of the members of the Round Table have suggestions for obtaining a dummy torpedo or ideas for fabricating a replica? I can research the dimensions and try to come up with something but I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel if I didn’t have to. I’ll appreciate anybody’s input.

Regards,
Brock Howe

Editors Note:  Great question. I am not sure how to find a full sized mark 13 torpedo off the top. I'll post the question in the next newsletter and see if anyone has an idea. Since it is unlikely there are any just sitting around waiting for a buyer I would suspect the best option would be to get the specs and fabricate a replica. But some phone calls to aircraft boneyards or something like that might turn up something. Long shot for sure. There might also be a possibility of finding one in the oddest places. The rural town of Wahoo Nebraska has a Mark 14 sitting outside the court house on display. It was purchased after the war or maybe during the war in honor of the Submarine USS Wahoo. My brother and I could not wait to go to the town and would always beg our mother to take us by the court house so we could see it. It was on a display so you could go up and touch it and such. Now that you jogged my memory I think I might take a drive up with a camera and take some photos. I assume it's still there.



Robert Campbell

From Brock Howe
October 8, 2017

One article that grabbed my attention is the good news about Robert Campbell as I thought Dusty was the last surviving Midway airman. I’m the plane Captain for our Lone Star Flight Museum’s SBD and always love when we can find veterans who flew the plane during the war and have a chance for them to see their plane again. I was wondering where Mr Campbell might live as maybe we could figure out a way to get our aircraft out near him or maybe to an airshow that’s close by. Or maybe we figure out a way to get him to Houston but at his age, that may be tough. Definitely no guarantees as I’ll have to figure out a way to raise money for fuel and get the museum’s permission but where there’s a will, maybe there’s a way.

Regards,

Brock Howe

Editors Note:  That is extremely nice of you. I believe Mr. Campbell lives in California but I'll have to find the exact town. I believe somewhere north of San Francisco but am not positive. I don't think any articles list his current location and he was never a member of the RoundTable that I know of.

And yes it is always nice to get a pilot to his aircraft. Recently I have had the honor of meeting Don McPherson who may well be among the few remaining Hellcat Ace's. He lives in a town not far from me and a friend of mine and I went to visit him last year. He is doing well and was a very gracious host even getting us lunch in town and then driving us to his home so we could see all his memorabilia and ship and aircraft models he built over the years, ships and aircraft he served on and even the 5 aircraft he shot down. He says he gets about one or two requests for signed stuff each week so he has a prepared signed photo and an article written about him he sends out. As luck would have it someone from the historical society stopped by unannounced and asked for an interview while we were visiting but he told them to come back later. He also said one of the things he missed when he left the Navy was his flight Jacket as he had to turn that in. My friend has a very good working relationship as well as friendship with the people who own CockpitUSA and asked if he could have a replacement made for him. He declined even though we told him it would be no charge to him. I think CockpitUSA even offered. Just way too nice of a guy.

A few years ago I think his son took him to a place where they had a Hellcat they were restoring. He told me the director was rather embarrassed at the one they owned as it was not in very good shape yet. He said it was still quite a bit of fun to see one again even in the shape it was in.

At any rate I'll see if I can track down the address. But for the moment I'm pretty sure he lives in California.  (Edit: as of this writing I have not been able to track down an address for him.  Maybe he doesn't wish to be bothered any longer but if anyone has info and knows he's still interested in seeing an SBD one more time let me know)


Here is a link to an article about him from February 2017 that is interesting if you can ignore the obvious error in the caption of the photo.

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20170217/FEATURES/170219775



Hedy Lamarr

From Zsolt Szalanczi
October 9, 2017

I remembered I read about inventions of Hedy Lamarr an article appeared in a popular history magazine in Hungary so I googled quickly on the "frequency hopping". Here are two places mentioning the invention and its importancy - both well known sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hedy-lamarr-not-just-a-pr/

all the best,
Zsolt




Downed fliers question

From Paul Welch
November 2, 2017

I have just come across this great web site after having read Ian Toll’s excellent ‘Pacific Crucible’, in which he mentions you.

I don’t know a huge amount about Midway, so I have just started having a look at the great resources on your site, starting with the book and DVD reviews. As a result I am now reading Barrett Tillman’s book on the SBD and about to start Craig Symonds’ book on Midway!

I was wondering if anything much had been written about picking up the downed flyers from both sides?

I read occasional mentions about a vessel picking up the odd person. But was there any sort of policy, or systematic approach to picking up flyers, who, after all would have been scattered far and wide? So for instance were vessels sent out to the site of the carrier sinkings in a search for fliers (as well as ship’s crew of course)? Were ships sent as a matter of course to last known positions of fliers who ran out of fuel? Was there any sort of policy or was it all a more haphazard?

All these great battles are of course fascinating, but I can’t help thinking they also must have involved lots of lonely deaths for both aircrew and survivors from ships.

Best Regards
Paul Welch (UK)

Editors Note:  Although every effort was made to rescue downed fliers it was all pretty much based on the best they could do at the time.  Since it is hard to determine what resources one has after a battle much less who has control of the battlefield the commanders just had to work with what was available.  For instance most of the PBY's were ordered away from Midway after completing their recon missions on the morning of the 4th.  If all had departed like ordered there would not have been any left to conduct search and rescue missions in the following days.  Fortunately many did return to Midway and so the PBY's were available to use.  There were no ships that conducted search and rescue missions that I recall as they were protecting the fleet carriers Enterprise and Hornet.  The Japanese did not send any ships as they would have been subjected to the remaining carrier air strength the US had and they had lost far too many valuable ships to risk more.  So to answer your question it was organized but somewhat haphazard.




Announcements and Questions

Aircraft technology and advancements

From James Leffler
October 12, 2017

I have a question, possibly for Barrett, he seems to know a lot about aircraft, but actually for anyone on the panel. It may be something to ask an aviation magazine instead but I have long been curious why every nation’s air arms, and actually Any arms for that matter seemed to run fairly parallel to each other? Was it the limits of technology and metallurgy worldwide, was it spies, etc? In other words, take the fact of a Zero fighter being superior to many of the Allied fighters at Midway but yet, it would not have been against a F8F, P 80, F 86 or even an F 14… or say a B 52 at a time when Germany had FW 190’s. Yes , the Germans were ahead of the Allies in fielding a potent jet fighter but I have wondered why even from the dawn of flight no one advanced much quicker than anyone else. Might be a stupid question, but I was curious. Thanks, and again, may be something to ask another forum.

James Leffler A1C,
US Air Force

Editors Note:  Despite the secrecy surrounding research and development of various weapons or systems, it is incredibly hard to keep a secret for very long.  One advancement will breed another advancement.  In other words a breakthrough in one area often leads to advancements in another area that increases the effectiveness of the technology overall.  And that is what drives research onward.  That's a lot of words.  Maybe some examples would help.

The Atomic Bomb was developed by the United States but other countries were working on the same idea.  It was probably the longest kept secret  even after the war but eventually Russia embarked on a successful spy mission that gave them the technology to do it.  So again secrets are hard to keep.

A more interesting subject is how Hedy Lamarr patented several things and offered them to the Navy only to be turned down.  The proximity fuse was one of the ones the Navy, or I should say the US, decided was worthwhile and we used it to good effect.  No other country could get it quite right although I think a few tried.

The Zero fighter was developed in secret much like our own aircraft and like the German Jets.  However the Zero was not really a superior fighter once it's 'secret' was discovered from the one lost in the Aleutions during the Battle of Midway which was later found and restored and flown.  The Zero simply was designed to give it the maximum performance they could achieve but sacrificed much to get it.  But it was also because the Japanese realized that range was just as important so it kind of worked out that the two goals produced a really good fighter.  They felt that their pilots could over come the shortcomings of the aircraft.  And to a degree they were right.  However once pilot skills declined the fighter was found lacking.  But again, the secret lasted only a few short months of the war.


Yorktown crew member

From Daniel C. Roe
November 6, 2017

My father Charles O. Roe was aboard the Yorktown at Midway. I would like to find a roster of the crew, if possible to find out more info. Thanks for your time and effort.

Daniel C. Roe

Editors Note: There is a group that is specifically tied to the Yorktown. They do have yearly meetings although I'm not sure how many are able to attend any longer. But they do publish a newsletter every quarter.  They might be of help. They sent me the latest newsletter a couple months ago.   Here is the address they list:

USS Yorktown (CV-5) Club, Inc.
PO Box 75
Markleeville, CA  96120