Roundtable Forum
Our 21st Year
March 2018

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Ralph Widhelm
Discovery of Lexington
Midway Victors
"The Truth About the BOM"
Douglass Cossitt Letters
Walt Winchell Letters
Search For George Gay, WWII Vet's Family
Questions and Announcements
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Current Discussions

This month we have some letters from two men who were in Torpedo Six relating their experiences at Midway.  I would like to thank Tom Doll who was kind enough to send them to Steve Kovacs who in turn forwarded them to me.  They are included as they were written in the 1960's.  While not containing any new information they are nonetheless a look into what they did and felt at the time.  I have always liked reading personal accounts as they give one a look into the past in a special way.  Maybe the closest any of us get to time travel.

We also have a person looking for George Gay's relatives which I thought we had discussed at one time not long ago but my email fails to find the exchange so hoping someone might have information for the gentleman.  Another ship was found by RV Petral in the Coral Sea and Ron Russell writes an article for the newsletter outlining why we already know the truth about Midway and the role Halsey, Fletcher, Spruance, and Nimitz played.

Ralph Widhelm

From Bill Vickrey
March 6, 2018

I was surprised to see that Commander Widhelm died at 100. I lost contact with him several years ago and had wrongly assumed he had died. Of the several hundred Men of Midway – with whom I made contact – I was as close to Ralph as to anyone. Rose Marie and I spent several nights with Ralph and Olga at their California home and – if I remember correctly – they visited us here in North Carolina and I seem to remember that we were together in Chicago. A Midway SBD had been raised from Lake Michigan and hung from the overhead at Chicago’s Midway Airport...I, along with several Midway fliers, were at the hanging ceremony. I may have had contact with a half dozen Naval Aviators who were assigned to cruisers at Midway and only a few of them flew then – Ralph was one of the few. I had the pleasure of typing his autobiography – and there are those who said I learned nothing in high school...but I did learn to type.


From Ralph Brading
March 7, 2018

Ralph Wilhelm was the second Midway pilot I was fortunate enough to meet up here in Australia, the first being Howard Ady II, both meetings coming from an introduction from Bill Price, both in Sydney and at the time I was probably the only Australian Round Table member to target. The meeting with Ralph and Olga was brief but memorable, both for me and my then new but still now partner June, who has asked that her condolences also to be passed on to Mark. We met for a long lunch the then new Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport Hotel, where Ralph and Olga had overnighted in a break in what was either an around the world or around the Pacific Rim flight, courtesy of Olga's previous occupation. We both came away impressed with their tremendous vitality and obvious great enjoyment in each other's company particularly when at an age we then considered very old, but now very normal. I also came away with new knowledge of the un-heard by orders role of the floatplane scouts at Midway.

Ralph and June

Discovery of Lexington

From Jeffrey Crosby
March 7, 2018

Not that this has ANYTHING to do with BOM...but it was nice to know that Lady Lex was located

Editors Note:  True enough it didn't have anything to do with the Battle of Midway directly. However I always considered the Battle of Coral Sea to have evened the odds at Midway so I don't think we can discuss Midway with out at least a passing nod to Coral Sea. We have played many games replaying a 6 on 4 carrier battle for Midway and it never comes out well for the Americans. And true it's only a simulation but I have always wondered if Yamamoto had stood his ground and not caved to the Army's pressure to send carrier support to Coral Sea if Nimitz would have risked his 4 carriers against 6. We'll never know of course but an interesting thought at any rate.

From Jeffrey Crosby
March 7, 2018

One thing they learned from that battle tho was to drain fuel lines to the flight deck areas tho in case they were danaged in future battles...even tho it was an expensive lesson I think it helped in preservation of flattops going diwn the road...what a great ship tho.

Editors Note: Yes, the history behind this was an interesting story. Machinist Oscar W Meyers, the fuel officer on the Yorktown, thought that the open fuel lines on the Lexington's flight deck led to her loss. He figured out how to hook up a CO2 feed to the lines and both blow the fuel out of the lines and fill them up with CO2. But actually all fuel lines were drained and pressure released from the lines before the attack as was standard practice anyway. It just didn't get all the fumes out and I think some of the fumes leaked below decks causing the explosion. But the problem Lexington had was that flight operations were resumed after the attack which meant the fuel lines were again re-engaged. The subsequent explosion or explosions from other factors eventually got to the fuel lines if I remember. But the CO2 system had been hooked up and all lines flushed when Yorktown came under attack at Midway. This likely prevented the explosion and fire from the first bomb hits.

From Richard Douglass
March 7, 2018

What great news, the discovery of the Lexington!!!

If there are any mysteries left on Lexington's aircraft at Coral Sea, much of that may now be solved. My records indicate that 43 aircraft went down with the ship.

Two aircraft are shown in videos already on youtube. A TBD-1 and an F4F-3. Red and white stripes are seen on the tails, and the red dot is seen in the white star.

The F4F is a mystery to me because of the Felix the Cat insignia below the cockpit. See it here at 0:39 -

One source says that VF-6 was assigned this insignia for the period 1937 to 1943. VF-2 was normally the assigned fighter squadron for the Lex, but was replaced by VF-3 before heading to the Coral Sea. Can anyone tell us why this insignia is found here? Was VF-6 redesigned VF-3? I suspect I am missing something really basic.

My notes contain BuNos for all of the F4Fs lost on the Lex, but they are not matched to side numbers.

Public perceptions of who the Midway 'Victors' were

From Paul Welch
March 8, 2018

I’ve read in one or two accounts of Midway (most recently ‘Pacific Payback’) that the Army Air Corps were portrayed in the media as the ‘victors of Midway’, just a few short days after the battle.

Is there anything written on how this perception changed, how soon the ‘truth’ about the battle emerged in the popular press, and how?

Many thanks
Paul Welch

Editors Note:  Excellent question. I know that the myth was largely due to the fact that the Army Air Corps flew back to Hawaii pretty quickly after the battle while the Navy did not return for considerable time. Since all the news agencies were waiting for any news they got the news from the Army flyers who claimed quite a bit more than they actually achieved, which was nothing. By the time the Navy returned the news agencies had already published the stories of the Army Air Corps "victory", so to speak. I also know the Navy was a little bit concerned about the Japanese figuring out that we had broken their code so didn't immediately counter any of the Army's claims. I don't know the exact time table or even how much of the truth came to light at what time. I believe by the time Morrison wrote his 15 volume set on the war it was common knowledge that the Navy dive bombers struck all the fatal blows, just not who hit what. That was still somewhat of a mystery at the time and not until Walter Lord published his book did some of his interviews start to shed light on which squadron hit which carrier on the morning of the 4th.

From Paul Welch
March 9, 2018

Thanks for the reply. It must have caused some resentment among the carrier crews. In ‘Pacific Payback’ Stephen Moore mentions one of the SBD gunners, John Tereskerz, photographing the strike on the Mikuma on 6th June. It goes on to say that ‘some of the photographs he had taken [were] printed in an issue of Life magazine about Midway’ some months later (p344). (It seems this was taken from recollections on the Midway roundtable!). I wonder what the story was that accompanied the photographs.


"The Truth About the Battle of Midway"

From Ron Russell
March 11, 2018

I regret to learn that our prolific friend out there who has a strong bias against Admiral Fletcher continues to push his opinions, now with a book that is "Searching for the Truth" about the BOM (see Scott Kozel's post in the February newsletter). Readers need to be very suspicious when encountering a "truth" that has been mysteriously kept secret for seven decades. It reminds me of Robert Stinnett and his "Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor." Not hardly.

The facts of this issue have been on our website for ten years. If anyone wants a review, go to this page and open links #5 and 6:

You can dismiss any thought that Halsey had orders from Nimitz to withhold the TBDs at Midway for two reasons. One, as Thom mentioned in response to Scott, Browning would have known about it and would have insisted on it with his infamous vigor. The fact that it never came up on the Enterprise flag bridge demonstrates that there was no such order. And second, CINCPAC is not going to dictate micromanaged tactics to a task force commander. The specific aircraft to be launched for any given mission was a decision for the air combat professionals on the scene; the idea that a five-star in Hawaii in 1942 would tell a carrier commander what aircraft or ordnance to use in a given situation is a non-starter.

It’s true that Dusty Kleiss strongly believed that Halsey would have withheld the TBDs because he knew all about the Mark 13 torpedo's woes, of which Fletcher and Spruance were presumably ignorant. But again, both the Enterprise and Yorktown had highly experienced air officers on board who had no problem sending off the TBDs—especially the Yorktown veterans who had seen torpedoes actually sink something in the Coral Sea (albeit with help from several bombs).

The bottom line here is that the "truth" about Midway is what we've known it to be from the Roundtable’s many veterans plus the respected historians that we've been fortunate to include on our roster. The standards they've set for us serve as a test for anyone who might want to promote contrary history, especially with selective, twisted, or even invented evidence that appears to support the preconceived notion.

Weisheit and Parshall-Tully seemed to risk that with their revelations about the Hornet air group and Kido Butai's empty flight decks, but both had supportive primary sources that actually did change two key understandings about the BOM. When a writer tries to do that and the primary sources say otherwise, move on.

--Ron Russell

Douglass Cossitt Letters

Editors Note:  I would like to thank Mr. Steve Kovacs very much for the following.  Mr. Tom Doll, along with B.R. Jackson, wrote a book on the TBD-1 Devastator that was published in 1973 by Aero Publications.  I remember this book, and still have it, for being one of the first that had any information on the aircraft.  When doing research for the book Mr. Doll had correspondence with several pilots and crewman of the aircraft.  Below is a letter from Douglass Cossitt who was the rear seat gunner for Walt Winchell.  Both were in the Enterprise Torpedo Six squadron flying 6-T-14 during the morning attack.  He relates his experiences during the battle in a letter to Mr. Doll.  Also included as the first PDF is a short piece from the Aero book from Walt Winchell.

From Steve Kovacs,
March 16, 2018

I received an envelope from Tom Doll that contained a 5-page personal letter from Douglas Cossitt, dated 1964, which recollects his experiences in 6-T-14 at Midway.

I can scan theses pages and email them to you. Is that acceptable or photocopy them and mail a hard copy to you? If you prefer copies, I’ll need a snail mail address, of course.

-Steve Kovacs

Editors Note: That is great. Scanning them and email is fine. I'll look forward to reading them. I've recently thought about putting together a library for members where items like this could be stored and available to anyone that wants to read them. I think our members have pages of documents relating to Midway they've collected over the years. May have to see if that would be something members would contribute to. Thank you very much.

Below are the letters in pdf format. 

Winchell from Aero TBD Book
Douglass Crossit Letter Part 1
Douglass Crossit Letter Part 2
Douglass Crossit Letter Part 3
Douglass Crossit Letter Part 4
Douglass Crossit Letter Part 5

Walt Winchell Letters

Editors Note: Again I'd like to thank Mr. Tom Doll for being so gracious in sharing the personal letters Walt Wichell wrote to him when he was writing his book on the TBD-1 Devastator.

From Steve Kovacs
March 20, 2018

Today’s mail contained more material from Tom Doll. Attached is correspondence between him and Walt Winchell from 1965-66. Although it is instructive not all of this is related to the Battle of Midway as well as earlier aerial engagements which may or may not interest the membership.

Editors Note:  Although the Battle of Midway is the focal point of the RoundTable much of what happened prior to the battle is always of interest as it in one way or another probably influenced events at Midway.  Plus personal accounts are of particular interest, at least to me, because it gives a window into what was going on at the time.  Below are the letters from Walt Winchell about his experiences leading up to Midway.

Walt Winchell Letters Part 1
Walt Winchell Letters Part 2
Walt Winchell Letters Part 3
Walt Winchell Letters Part 4
Walt Winchell Letters Part 5
Walt Winchell Letters Part 6

Search For George Gay, WWII Vet's Family

From Charles Rakiecz
March 24, 2018

Battle of Midway Roundtable

I have been searching for the surviving family members and/or estate manager of WWII vet, Ensign (later Lt. Cmdr.) George H. Gay Jr., the sole survivor of the USS Hornet's thirty-man Torpedo-8 Squadron during the Battle Of Midway. I was hoping the Roundtable might have some fresh idea of how I might go about tracking down any relatives of Mr.Gay or those handling his estate.

My own efforts so far have been unsuccessful. These include getting copies of Mr. Gay's last will and testament (Dated March 13, 1985) from the Marietta GA probate court; reading his newspaper and TWA obituaries on line, doing Google searches of those mentioned in the will; leaving phone messages on the few (very old) phone numbers listed on its pages; and contacting the Marietta Ga VFW on Facebook. If you have any direct information or know of organizations and/or individuals I might contact in my search, it would be greatly appreciated.

The reason for my search is to get family and/of estate manager approval of a manuscript I have written for a story relating Ensign Gay's experience during the Battle Of Midway. If approved, it would appear on a popular new (starting its third season this year) audio drama podcast titled "THE LIFT". The show is reminiscent of Rod Serling's classic TV series, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, with a touch of FANTASY ISLAND added.

Three of my stories have already appeared on the THE LIFT. One in particular, THREE TWELVE NOEL (Season-1, Episode-4) is about a former WWII vet finally on his way home, at Christmas time, shortly after the end of the Berlin Airlift. While the story and its characters are fictional, it is similar in tone and seriousness to my story about Ensign Gay at Midway. (If you care to take a listen, you can access THREE TWELVE NOEL directly at the following link:

As I mentioned earlier, any help you can provide would be very much appreciated. Many thanks,

Charles Rakiecz

Editors Note:  At one point I think someone else was also looking for his estate manager or any relatives but I don't remember if anyone could track something down.  If any member has information that could be helpful send me the info and I'll pass it on to Mr. Rakiecz.  In the mean time I'll continue to look through emails and see if I can find anything.

Announcements and Questions

Miracle at Midway

From Joseph DeCaro
March 20, 2018

Didn’t Shattered Sword conclude that Midway was less of a miracle and more of a major miscalculation by the IJN as it tried to implement a battle plan that scattered its superior forces over the Pacific such that they couldn’t support each other?

Editors Note: It's a little more complicated than that but essentially the conclusion was that Midway was less of a 'Miracle' and more of good planning by the US and poor planning by the Japanese.  The Japanese were working on some assumptions that the American Fleet would react to the Japanese attack.  Even though Nagumo was instructed and complied with keeping his best pilots in reserve in the eventuality the US Fleet was spotted there was no real plan of action should it occur.  He was hampered by the fact that he was under constant attack from Midway aircraft and his flight decks and fighters were used up defending his fleet.  So when it came time to actually launch a strike he was faced with the reality that his aircraft returning from the Midway strike would all be lost should he attempt to ready aircraft for a strike.  While Nagumo made some serious errors during the battle, such as turning his ships towards the US Fleet when he was at a disadvantage rather than retiring momentarily to regain his strike forces, most of the blame rests on decisions made higher up.  The Army insisting on carrier support for the Port Moresby Invasion reduced Nagumo's carriers from six to four and evened the odds at Midway when it should not have been the case.  To a degree one can blame Yamamoto for allowing the Army to dictate what the Navy should do.

In reality Yamamoto did scatter his forces but really his true advantage was his carrier fleet and no matter how or where the battleships were mattered not.  They simply were not going to be a factor in the battle.  Nimitz new this and kept his battleships out of the way.  The two carriers sent to the Aleutions were not fleet carriers so would again not be of much use to Nagumo.  Junyo did not have the fleet speed or aircraft handling capabilities of a fleet carrier so would hamper the other carriers if included.  In the Solomons campaign both Junyo and Hiyo operated in support for Shokaku and Zuikaku rather than in the same fleet.

John Waldron signature

From Barrett Tillman
March 24, 2018

This is from an emailing pal, Philip Downs who has a REALLY impressive autograph collection from G. Washington onward. He's particularly focused on navy aces. Knows he'll never get all 300+ but he's coming close. Somebody started collecting signed envelopes (relevant first-day covers) in the 50s/60s and Philip has obtained many of 'em.


I forgot that John Waldron died at Midway so his signature is rare. This is from the yearbook.

Philip Downs

Juneau Found

Editors Note:  Last issue we were fortunate to have some underwater photos of the discovery of the Lexington.  The same is now true of the Juneau.

From Kate Doolan
March 21, 2018

Now that Paul Allen has found USS Lexington and USS Juneau, I hope that he gives some thought to finding the four Japanese carriers sunk during the Battle of Midway. That would be the icing on the cake!