Roundtable Forum
Our 22nd Year
October 2018

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Alvin Kernan
Air Zoo SBD-2
SBD's 100-lb bombs
CDR. Robert Keith Campbell
World War II at Sea
Japanese film footage from the BOM
Poppy Posters
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Welcome to the Battle of Midway RoundTable's 22nd year.  I am humbled by the fact that I get to  honor the men who fought and won the Battle of Midway 76 years ago with this newsletter and accompaning web pages.  Since the inception of the Battle of Midway RoundTable till present day the discussions have always been finding out what happened those days so long ago and dispelling rumors, falsehoods, or just plain poor research.  To this I must acknowledge that it was Bill Price who first saw the value of sharing discussions among veterans of the battle and later when he was no longer able Ronald Russell took the helm and brought it to the internet.  The value of the RoundTable was also evident in Ron Russell's excellent book No Right to Win which was based almost entirely on the veterans from the Battle of Midway RoundTable.

None of this is new to any of you I'm sure but it makes me happy to continue the tradition of these fine men who fought the battle that day and all the members here that continue to honor our veterans as well as Ron Russell and Bill Price who saw the value and took their time to insure the continuation of the BOM RoundTable.  May the 22nd year be just as valuable.

Speaking of which, November 11th is Veterans day so I'd like to say for all of us thank you for your service, whether you were on duty June 4th, 1942 as some of you were, or any day thereafter. 

One of the things I do every year is find someone selling poppies and buy one.  Couple reasons. 

One, I remember in school it was a big deal to make what they called poppy posters.  The American Legion sponsored the posters with some recognition by displaying them in the Legion and maybe a prize or two.  There was contest as to who had the best art and slogan.  I'm not sure what we won but it was always something special just to have your poster displayed even if you didn't win.  And to show you how dedicated I was to this somehow through all the years two of my posters somehow survived.  They are posted below for everyone's amusement.

The second reason it's kind of a tradition passed on to me by my father.  I remember as a kid growing up when we were in town on that day he would always stop and buy a poppy.  Later on as I got older and moved away if I was visiting home on that day we'd always go out for something, lunch, dinner, shopping, or whatever the excuse he had and inevitably we'd run across someone selling poppies and he'd always stop and buy one.  He almost always had one on his jacket or sometimes his cap pretty much year around.  Now since he no longer can as an honor to him for his service in the Pacific War I buy one every year.  After wearing it that day always hang it from my rear view mirror in my car to remind me of what we owe to so many.  So if you can go out and buy a poppy on veterans day.  Just makes you feel good.

This month we have a very nice tribute to Alvin Kernan from Mr. Russell and Mr. Harvey, a note on perhaps the only surviving Dauntless that fought in the Battle of Midway, and those poppy posters way down at the bottom of the newsletter.


Alvin Kernan

From Ronald Russell,
October 5,2018

I was profoundly saddened by the passing of VT-6 veteran Alvin Kernan, who had contributed so much to the Roundtable, especially when I was drafting the manuscript for No Right to Win. Many of our vets had a hand in its creation, but Kernan was among a few whose contributions were key to its subsequent success. As a bonus, he was an accomplished author himself, most notably for his very best autobiographical work, Crossing the Line. His other books, particularly his BOM-based novels, suffered from inadequate editing, but Crossing the Line is the exception. It's an outstanding personal narrative of an amazing set of wartime experiences, largely from within the turret of a TBF. If anyone reading this hasn't added that one to their library yet, here's a strong recommendation.

But Kernan's experience as an Avenger gunner always brings up the issue of his alleged involvement in the loss of Butch O'Hare. Griff Sexton quotes him in the September newsletter as suggesting that he wasn't certain whether or not he had inadvertently fired at O'Hare's Hellcat, but one has to assume that to be an offhand remark made late in life without too much thought, for there is ample evidence to discount any such notion.

You can read about it in Fateful Rendezvous by John Lundstrom and Steve Ewing, and you can bet that anything coming from those two, especially Lundstrom, is going to be vetted to the max for historical accuracy. It turns out that the whole controversy is mainly due to an overzealous reporter, who had overheard Kernan's pilot speculating that O'Hare may or may not have been hit by friendly fire, which could only have come from Kernan's gun. The reporter then engaged in what today would be labeled "fake news," turning unsubstantiated speculation into "fact." The rumor dogged Kernan for the rest of his life, despite being awarded the Navy Cross for his part in the action that night.

What the reporter had missed was the testimony of the plane's wounded radar operator, who had been taken to sickbay immediately upon returning to the carrier and was thus unavailable for after-action interviews. Had he been there, he would have told everyone that Kernan was firing at a Betty that was trailing O'Hare, and the only way he could have hit the Hellcat was to shoot the tail off of their TBF. The Betty's nose gunner simply got off a lucky round that likely hit O'Hare directly. Lundstrom and Ewing devote an entire chapter of their book to this issue, which clearly sets the record straight. Sadly, too many critics have found it all to easy to believe the invention of an overzealous reporter, rather than bothering with inconvenient facts that prove it to be a myth.

Farewell and following seas to an honored BOM vet, a heroic combat aviator, a generous contributor to the Roundtable, and a cherished friend.

Ron Russell

From Van Austin Harvey
October 5, 2018

I, too, was saddened by the passing of Al Kernan. Al and I were neighbors many years ago as graduate students in the Quonset huts at Yale. We used to play tennis together almost every week during the summer, and yet despite the fact that both of us had served in the Navy in WWII, we never mentioned the subject and so were unaware of it. I had been an Ensign in the USNR and served on the destroyer USS Benson (DD 421) Both of us went into academia and of course I was quite aware of his reputation as a Medieval literature scholar at Yale. Consequently, I was surprised when one day I saw the book he had written about Midway. I didn’t know the author was the same Al Kernan who I knew as the scholar and so I located him after some trouble at Princeton University and asked him if he was the same Al Kernan I had played tennis with at Yale. He greeted me like a long lost friend and we began at Email conversation that lasted until his death.

When I located him, he told me about his book Crossing the Line which I read. Together with Sledge’s With the Old Breed I consider it one of the best memoirs of WWII. In fact, I told my wife if she wanted to know what it was like in the Navy, she should read that book. And it is so well written and interesting that even she enjoyed it.

Van A. Harvey
Professor Emeritus
Stanford University

Air Zoo SBD-2

From Barrett Tillman
October 29, 2018

SBD-2P 2173.

Initially VS-6, then VS-5, then VMSB-233 before being used for carrier training if I recall.  VS-6 in 1941, some confusion in the history card listing it "Strike, crashed at sea" with VS-5 in March 1942, but shown to be an incorrect ID. VB-5 after Coral Sea, then CASU-1 and MAG 21. July 1 1942 to VMSB-233 until November 1942, a month before they went to Guadalcanal. Rotated between NAS Jacksonville, San Diego and Glenview in April 1943 as part of the CQTU aboard USS Wolverine and USS Sable, lost 18 February 1944.

Editors Note: Here is a good history of the airplane. I believe it is the only surviving SBD that was in the Battle of Midway.  Certainly if one is in the area a visit would be a must.

SBD's 100-lb bombs

From Barrett Tillman
October 9, 2018

I think Jon, Tony, John et al and I discussed the mysterious 100-lb SBD bombs. Seems to me they were incendiaries but I've found no specifics. Pinterest often has promising links but I don't want to sign up.

100 pound incendiaries

Editors Note: The has always been some debate on the 100 lb bombs loaded on the Scout bombers for the strikes on the Japanese ships.  There are arguments on both sides whether they were incendiaries or fragmentation.  A 100 lb bomb would not do much damage to a carrier let alone an armored warship so what exactly was the purpose.  On the incendiary side the bomb might have a chance of starting a fire especially if hitting some critical section or possibly some aircraft parked on the flight deck.  A fragmentary would be more useful in suppressing the AA fire.  So I can see both sides.  I have searched for a definitive answer but could not come up with one.

CDR. Robert Keith Campbell

From Barrett Tillman
October 9, 2018

Ref. Soupy Campbell's training: The Naval Aircraft Factory N3N was never named (ignore those absurd "Canary" titles online) but often was called the Yellow Bird generically. Meanwhile the Boeing-Stearman was the N2S v. N2N. Army versions were PT-13 and 17 depending on engine.

As ever
500-hour N3N aviator.

Editors Note:  Here are a couple pictures of an N3N that I found interesting.  The N3N-3, Serial No. 2952 N44839 is a plane that President George H. H. Bush trained in April, 1943, while at Wold-Chamberlain Naval Airfield in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Now privately owned.

World War II at Sea

By Craig Symonds

Editors Note:  While not strictly on the Battle of Midway, although it's covered in a chapter, I wanted to note that Craig Symonds new book on the Global War at Sea during World War II is a pretty good read.  Obviously a book of this breath of history is going to be brief on most battles but I found it interesting and enjoyable.  I recommend it for those just looking for a good read but also I think it makes a great first book for someone that is just learning about history of the War at Sea.

Japanese film footage from the BOM

From Don Boyer
October 8, 2018

Another great issue. I was interested to see the article re the faked photos of Akagi and Hiryu under attack at Midway. They were the subject of a large group of posts on the Face Book site "Banzai" that I moderate. Here are the photos. The first is Akagi, and following that is the Nov. 25th '44 hit on Essex. You can see the "explosion" has been flipped 180 degrees and superimposed on an Akagi photo. Nice piece of work, too. This shot is of Hiryu, with another faked explosion on it, but I can't remember from which American carrier. The Japanese members of Banzai, two of whom are superb experts on Imperial Navy ships were in complete agreement that these are fakes.

Best Regards,

Editors Note:   First thank you.  The fake photos have been around for a while and I won't publish them here as search engines will inevitably find them and link them to us.  Hope everyone understands.  Anyone that wants to look at them can probably find them on the internet somewhere else.

One interesting use of a mix of paintings, painted photos, and models is what I call a picture box.  Basically its a diorama where one model is added to a scenic base with a background painting.  Below is a good one on Best diving on Akagi.  The lighting and camera is placed in such a way that the optical illusion makes it appear the ship below is quite a distance from the carrier below.  I could explain it all day long but if you go to the link below you can see how this is done.  I've always been fascinated by modelers talents and certainly this use of camera and models is tough to pull off let along build.

Many more dioramas on the page if you want to look at them.

Poppy Posters

Okay as promised my early artwork.

The first one is probably the one poster I actually won a prize for although I am not certain I actually every won anything with them.  But this was my first poster when I was 8.

Next year or so I tried my hand with pencil drawings.  This one is kind of faded now.  I tried to enhance it to show details better but it didn't work very well.  I believe the two bright colored spots were added at some point later.