Roundtable Forum
Our 22nd Year
September 2019

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Movie Review: Dauntless
P-40's at Midway
Midway Part 1 of 2
Japanese Names
Cleo J. Dobson
Passing of Navy Hero
Midway gets a TBD
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Welcome to the September issue of the Battle of Midway RoundTable.  First my apologies for being so late with the issue this month.  I have had a busy couple weeks at real work and I only managed to get a few things done.

First up we have the new Midway movie opening November 8th.  For those that have not seen the trailer yet:  Midway Movie Trailer #1

I think it will be well received as I think the script does a good job of telling a story that will appeal to many.  About all I can say about it at the moment.  After the movie is released I can probably get permission to give everyone a more detailed story of how it came together.  But as a teaser, now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak a little bit of the movie makes it's way to the USS Midway Battle of Midway experience.  More about how that came about in the next month or two.

Also in this issue a movie review of Dauntless.  This movie made pretty much at the same time as Midway tells a part of the story of Midway.  While it is a fictionalized account of the true events and the airmen involved it is nonetheless based on events that did happen.

We also have a review of a book that is available on one of the Enterprise pilots, Cleo J. Dobson.  This book has somehow escaped my many searches for new and interesting accounts of men involved in the battle.  It's really kind of interesting to see some of the book appear now due to the advancement in small run publishing or print on demand books or even electronic books that we would have never seen even 10 years earlier.

Again let me apologize for the delay and the brevity of this issue.  But enjoy.

Movie review: "Dauntless: the Battle of Midway"

From Ron Russell
September 10, 2019

After more than a year of speculation here on the Roundtable, “Dauntless” was finally released on September 6th. There will only be limited distribution in theaters; the producers apparently expect to make their money on streaming and DVD sales. Amazon says that DVDs will be available on October 22nd, although you can stream it now on Prime Video.

I’m not into streaming movies, but I went for it via Vudu. The fee was nominally $6.99, but I got a $6.50 credit as a new customer, so the movie cost me 49 cents. Sometimes you get lucky. If anyone else wants to go that route, here’s the link:

The story is a fictionalized version of the fate of Ensign Norman Vandiver and Seaman Lee Keaney, who flew 6-B-14 on the Enterprise. The script is primarily about those two, who ditch shortly after their bomb run on the Kaga and spend a miserable four days floating in their Mae Wests, surviving mainly on rainwater. As for the battle itself, it’s more or less well covered from the perspective of the Enterprise, but not to any depth. We see Spruance’s major decisions, including lighting up the fleet on June 5th for planes returning in the dark, and his testy relationship with Miles Browning, who is generally shown to be an arrogant jerk—pretty much as reported by historians.

A major sub-plot revolves around a PBY crew, whom you expect will find Vandiver and Keaney sooner or later. In the meantime they fight off numerous Zero attacks, with virtually no damage to the PBY nor any of the enemy fighters. Despite that, the scenes in and around the Cat were well done and quite interesting if you ignore “23-P-15” painted on the side of an amphib PBY5A. VP-23 was Howard Ady’s squadron, and those planes were PBY5 flying boats, not the amphibs.

There were only a few other historical flubs. We see Spruance and Browning conversing on the Enterprise with a TBD in the background marked “3-T-3,” with the red circle present in the fuselage roundel--a double glitch. (Interestingly, “3-T-3” would’ve been Lloyd Childers’ plane.) The Dauntless R/Gs are shown facing aft 100% of the time; not hardly. Vandiver and Keaney witness 3 carriers burning, then watch the killing hits on Hiryu—kinda difficult. In several spots Midway is referred to as “Midway Island,” implying that there’s just one. Then, there was this: on the morning of June 4th, the deck spot on the Enterprise was all SBDs; nary a Wildcat nor Devastator to be seen anywhere.

But the producers made up for that with one brief clip: while Vandiver and Keaney are desperately waiting for a friendly plane to spot them on their third day afloat, we see three Devastators pass directly overhead at low level—obviously, LTjg Laub’s VT-6 sortie that launched against Mogami and Mikuma on the “last combat flight of the TBD.” Nicely done.

The dialog was mostly authentic as was all the background hardware and scenery. If the movie suffered at all, it was the drawn-out ordeal of the two survivors in the water that seemed to never end. It finally did in this fictional version, although the real story was different.

I rate the movie a strong 4 stars out of 5. The CGI was very good, especially the attack on Kaga. (Hint: use headphones for the audio; the stereo sound is awesome!)

It’s ironic that this Midway flick came out almost in step with the major “Midway” remake that’s scheduled for November 8th. But that one will be the full story of the BOM, while the producers of “Dauntless” have given us just a tight personality drama. Even so, it’s worth a look, even if it costs you more than 49 cents.

From Chuck Wohlrab
September 19, 2019

I suspect you have already been informed that Dauntless opened in only one movie theater, in Hollywood, last week, and then went straight to home video. It is currently available in HD from iTunes and Amazon Prime for $12.99 to buy or $6.99 to rent. Amazon also offers an SD version for $9.99. I purchased it and watched it, and will offer a few insights but will avoid spoilers.

Storyline: The movie follows a Dauntless pilot (Norman Vandivier) and gunner (Lee Keaney) from Bombing Six, a PBY pilot (Bennett, a friend of Vandivier) and crew and the actions of Admiral Spruance and Miles Browning during and after the battle. The Dauntless crew is forced to ditch after the successful attack and follows their fight for survival. The PBY pilot and his crew search for the enemy throughout the battle and then assist in the search for aviators lost at sea. We finally see Miles Browning and his actions and conflicts with the Enterprise pilots and Admiral Spruance during the battle.

Visuals: Some excellent CGI. Very good quality, with images of the ships portrayed in excellent detail. Special effects were well done.

Overall: A good movie, though not in league with a major Hollywood effort. It was made by a small production company (Bayou Films), who did put a lot of effort into good visuals. It is worth a watch by anyone interested in the Battle of Midway, but be warned that the battle is not the focus of the film, and anyone looking for a lot of detail there may be disappointed. Even so, I am glad I added it to my library.

Chuck Wohlrab

Editors Note:  I have not watched the movie yet but will do so at first opportunity.  From these two reviews it appears to have been done quite well, with only a few historical flubs.  It is a fictionalized version of events but seems worth the watch.

P-40's at Midway

From Chuck Wohlrab
September 8, 2019

In answer to Tom Galvin’s question about P40s and the Battle of Midway:

It was a combination of pre-war Army Air Corps policy and Inter-Service politics.

The Air Corps policy was that Army fighters would not fly more than 15 miles from shore, due to the lack on overwater navigation training and experience by fighter pilots. The Army Air Corps did not want to lose pilots by having them lost over the ocean.

In late 1941, Admiral Kimmel made a conscious decision not to allow employment of Army fighters from Navy Island Bases in the Central Pacific. The fear was that the Army would try to take control of said islands (basically Wake, Midway, Johnston, Palmyra and Samoa). They were Navy bases, bought and paid for by the Navy and Kimmel was not about to give them away.

As such, no Army aircraft were deployed to defend Navy bases pre-war or until 67th Fighter Squadron (flying P-400s) was deployed to Guadalcanal in late August 1942.

Chuck Wohlrab

Editors Note:  There is an excellent book written on the reinforcement of the bases before and after Pearl Harbor called "Racing the Sunrise: Reinforcing America’s Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942".  The book does give a good overall picture of the condition at the time.  One thing I've always been curious about was the 4 Army B-26's based on Midway during the battle.  They seem to have been the only Army forces on the Island. How and why they were sent seemed curious at best but considering the situation it was probably a consequence of throwing everything available to the island's defense.

The Battle of Midway 1942: Told from the Japanese Perspective (1/2)

From Jeffrey Crosby
September 9, 2019

I saw the video also...but have not been able to locate part appears that you have to pay to see part 2...?

Also...I can't remember if I already sent this note so please forgive me if I did. I am currently reading battle action notes on the battle of Leyte Gulf...not exciting but extremely interesting. I can't believe the amount of miscommunication, unbelievable expectations, etc for this battle. It leads me to believe the same situation must have existed during battle of Midway also. Also references are made as to the loss of experienced air crews from the BOM, it definitely had a large roll in all of the successive battles.

Editors Note:  I have not seen a link for part two yet either but I don't think I've seen anything about paying to see part two.  As for Leyte Gulf I don't know about the expectations on the Japanese side but things were pretty desperate by that time so they formed a plan with the best chance of succeeding based on several factors, one being the commander of the US carrier fleet being Halsey.  They knew he missed every carrier battle of the war and was likely going to take the bait of the 4 carriers to the north which he did.

Japanese Names

From Rafael J. Benero
September 9, 2019

Hi Thom, Been reading a bit about the Battle and found interesting that some authors write Japanese names in different format. As an example, some write Isoruku Yamamoto and others Yamamoto Isoruku, do you know why is that?


Editors Note:  I can't answer the question on why they choose one way or the other but I can tell you a little about the name. He was born Isoroku Takano and after his parent passed he was adopted by the Yamamoto family taking their name. So he would properly be addressed as Isoroku Yamamoto here in the United States. However it is proper in Japan and other countries to use the family name first so he would be addressed as Yamamoto Isoroku. So it's probably more likely who the author's target audience is rather than any real correct way.

Cleo J. Dobson US Navy Carrier Pilot World War II

From Bill Vickrey
September 23, 2019

I have just read this neat little book which is – for the most part – detailed day by day dairies kept by Dodson on ENTERPRISE. This brings a very broad perspective to anyone seeking information about carrier aviation in the WW II Pacific.

Dobson was attached to VS-6 on ENTERPRISE until 29 April 1942 when he was detached and assigned as Assistant Signal Officer thus he did not fly at Midway. These diaries bring on a very personal remembrance more detailed than any I have seen before in book form.

The authors (mostly family) enclosed two gracious letters from Walter Lord thanking Dodson for his input- some of which was used in Lord’s INCREDIBLE VICTORY. Mr. Lord was a most gracious man. On the occasions when I visited with him – at seminars – he invited me to come to his New York apartment and take copies of any of his material I liked. Sadly I was too busy building a career to do so. As an aside other writers – notable Barrett Tillman and John Lundstrum – have graciously responded to any questions I have had. Somewhere in my archives I have a picture of the three of us on the new YORKTOWN at a seminar where there were many Midway pilots including the three Midway torpedo plane pilots then living – Bert Earnest, Bill Esders and George Gay..

Bill Vickrey

Passing of Navy Hero, USS ARIZONA Survivor, Fire Control Chief Lauren Bruner

From Clark Whelton
September 12, 2019

Editors Note:  While not specifically about Midway I thought I'd pass this on as everyone should know what one day in 1941 did to change a man's life as well as a country.


A few days ago, I received in the mail a piece of the battleship USS ARIZONA (BB-39) sent to me by Lauren Bruner, one of the last four living survivors of the ship when she exploded and sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941, as a gesture of thanks for what Naval History and Heritage Command does to keep alive the memory of our Navy veterans. I admit to being incredibly choked up when I opened it, knowing what that relic meant to him, and what it means to me. Sadly, I learned yesterday that Lauren passed to the next life on 10 September 2019, a couple months shy of his 99th birthday, and sending that relic was one of his last acts.

So, it is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of a U.S. Navy hero, Fire Control Chief Petty Officer Lauren Fay Bruner. Fire Controlman Second Class (FC 2/C) Lauren Bruner’s battle station on the morning of 7 December 1941 was in the port-side 5” anti-aircraft gun director located on the Sky Control Deck high in the forward superstructure, just above the flag bridge, 70-feet above the waterline. He was one of only a handful of men on that deck who survived the catastrophic explosion of the ARIZONA’s forward magazine, and who were the only ones in the forward part of the ship to survive; 1,177 of ARIZONA’s crew perished. Only 93 of those who were aboard the ship at the time lived (There were an additional 242 ARIZONA crewmen who were ashore.)

Bruner was wounded by Japanese machine gun fire and burned over almost 80% of his body, as were the rest of those who survived the blast, and all were trapped by the raging inferno all around. Some jumped to their deaths in a futile attempt to escape the flames. Those that survived only did so because then-Boatswain’s Mate Second Class (BM 2/C) Joseph George on board the repair ship VESTAL (AR-4,) moored alongside ARIZONA, threw a line high into ARIZONA’s superstructure and tied it down, at great risk to his own safety from strafing, bombs that hit VESTAL and secondary explosions and fires. Six badly wounded men made it down that line, over flaming fuel oil and despite Japanese strafing. Two of the men subsequently succumbed to their burn wounds, and four survived. The survivors included then-Seaman First Class Donald Stratton, who is still alive today, and Lauren Bruner, who was the second to last to go down that line. The last was Boatswains Mate Second Class Alvin Dvorak, who the survivors credited with organizing and leading their escape effort and getting Joseph George’s attention, (and tying the knot on the ARIZONA end that held,) but who did not survive his burns.

After months of agonizing recovery and morphine-induced nightmares, which he barely survived, nearly losing his fingers due to infection, Lauren opted to return to sea duty, serving aboard the destroyer COUGHLAN (DD-606) in eight more battles against the Japanese, including COUGHLAN’s heroic charge against a superior Japanese force in what was almost the disastrous Battle of the Komandorski Islands in the frigid Bering Sea (see H-gram 016). He finished the war as a Fire Control Chief on COUGHLAN, steaming into Nagasaki harbor only days after the atomic bomb explosion.

Although Lauren never received an award for valor, he was a hero in my book, with an indomitable will to not only survive, but to return to the fight and see it through to the end. He never considered himself a hero; like so many of his generation in that war he believed he was just doing his duty, and like so many other veterans of that war, for many years he never talked about it to anyone, haunted by the horrors of what he had seen at Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, Lauren and Don Stratton fought persistently for many years to have a medal awarded to the man who saved their lives life at Pearl Harbor, BM 2/C Joseph George. It’s a long story of classic Navy bureaucracy, but their effort finally came to fruition on 7 December 2017, when the family of Joseph George was presented with a posthumous Bronze Star with Combat V. It was my belief that in the chaos of the disaster of Pearl Harbor, there were many hundreds of cases of extreme valor by Sailors that went unrecognized. This was a unique case where there were still two living witnesses, and a written statement found in the archives (thanks to LTJG Matt Previts) from VESTAL’s commanding officer (Cassin Young, who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at Pearl Harbor and killed in action at Guadalcanal in command of USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38)) that made the award justifiable, and representative of so many others who never received one. And, the leadership of the Navy agreed with my recommendation.

In recent years, both Don Stratton and Lauren Bruner finally were able to put their experiences onto paper. Both books are extraordinary. Don Stratton’s, “All the Gallant Men” superbly describes the valor of so many who fought back on that terrible day. Lauren Bruner’s “Second to the Last to Leave the USS ARIZONA,” is probably the most brutally honest description of the ghastly effects of naval combat, and in my view should be required reading to prepare leaders and sailors for battle, especially the parts that describe sailors needlessly dying because of their inexperience, and because they were not truly ready for war.

Like quite a few of the survivors of USS ARIZONA (over 40,) Lauren has opted to return to his ship and shipmates, and will be interred aboard the ARIZONA at a date to be determined. It is believed that he will be the last who has chosen to do so.

I should note that Lonnie Cook, who was inside one of the aft turrets when the magazine exploded and survived, passed away on 5 August 2019 (which I just learned.) Don Stratton, Lou Conter and Ken Potts are the three remaining survivors.

Below is a blog post I wrote, when I first met Lauren at the 75th Anniversary commemoration of Pearl Harbor in 2016.

Rest in Peace Chief Bruner.

Very respectfully,
Samuel J. Cox
RADM, USN (retired)
Director of Naval History
Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

Last Call
S.J. Cox 14 Dec 16

Smith’s Union Bar, in a somewhat run-down area of Honolulu and described in tourist literature as a “dive bar”, was not where I expected to be a couple nights before the 75th Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Reputed (and disputed) to be the oldest bar Honolulu, it existed at the time of the attack and was a favorite hang-out of Sailors from the USS Arizona (BB-39). Memorabilia from that ill-fated ship grace the walls of the bar, some pre-dating the attack. But this night, I had been invited by family members of the five remaining Arizona survivors to hang with them and Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner, and I could not possibly pass up an opportunity to personally pay my respects and express my gratitude for the service of a survivor of the USS Arizona, before it’s too late. I’d seen all five survivors two days before at a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), and met three others (Don Stratton, Lou Conter, and Ken Potts) the day before on a tour of some infrequently visited areas around Pearl Harbor, but I had not had the chance to speak with Lauren, who along with Don Stratton and four other now-deceased Sailors had escaped the flames of the magazine explosion from high in the forward superstructure via a line thrown by Boatswain’s Mate Joseph George on the USS Vestal (AR-4).

Anytime I meet and talk with veterans that I know saw actual combat, I am always careful to go only where they want to go, no matter how curious I am to learn about their experience. I had a most interesting, if too brief, conversation with Lauren. It was clear he was quite willing to talk about December 7, 2016, but clearly did not want to go to December 7, 1941. So we talked about the upcoming ceremony, the various commemorative events around Honolulu, the bar, and about his newly published book, “Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona;” I had compulsively bought a signed-copy as soon as I saw it on sale at the bar (as a naval historian, I could not help myself.)

That night I read his book, and understood. I could not put it down, except at points when I was overcome by emotion as I transposed faces of Sailors I knew during my service onto those in his book. For almost 75 years, Lauren Bruner told absolutely no one what he had seen and experienced on that terrible day, keeping to himself the unbelievably ghastly visions that haunted his waking hours and his dreams for his whole life. In the adrenalin-charged heightened sensory perception of a near-death combat experience, every horrific image was vividly seared into his brain and could not be forgotten no matter how hard he tried. He finally told his story, with the help and trust of authors Edward McGrath and Craig Thompson, with the proviso that he would never again respond to questions about what he had seen that day, and requested that no one ever ask again.

In his book, Bruner describes the shock and surprise of the first moments of the attack, of Sailors dying needlessly because of their inexperience, and of what he could see through the optics of his gun-director station of what was happening on the sinking USS West Virginia and USS Oklahoma. He described the reassuring sound of the Arizona fighting back as the five-inch anti-aircraft batteries quickly opened up; and then the ominous silence as they exhausted the ready-use ammunition, just before the “lucky bomb” from the Japanese high-altitude bomber hit the ship. From that point it was one gruesome horror heaped on another as he observed what happened to the crew from his vantage point high in the ship; scenes beyond any imagination of hell. He barely escaped death at numerous points, but suffered grievous burns and injuries, as he escaped the ship, and eventually began a long, tortuous path to recovery, one in which he could not determine which was worse, the intense pain or the morphine-induced nightmares.

After reading the book, there were two points that I believe Lauren Bruner would want everyone to know. It was BM 2/c Alvin Dvorak who orchestrated the escape of the last six men trapped on the Arizona, and who was the last man off, and who succumbed to his burn wounds a month later. And, it was the bravery, and physical prowess, of BM 2/c Joseph George of the USS Vestal, who threw the line to the trapped men, and refused to cut it until they had reached the Vestal, that allowed the men to escape. Bruner credits both men as the reason he is alive today.

Bruner makes no claim to being any kind of hero. But after months of painful burn rehabilitation (almost 80% of his body) and refusal to allow his fingers to be amputated despite real risk of gangrene infection, Bruner actively sought and returned to duty, serving on the destroyer USS Coghlan (DD-606) in eight more battles against the Japanese in the Pacific. In my book, that’s a hero. He is certainly among the group that Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, lauded at the 75th Commemoration, who “never took a knee” for our country.

Bruner’s book should be required reading for anyone seeking to commit Sailors into battle, and any officer or Sailor who might go into battle. It is the most brutally honest description of what happens to men aboard ship in a battle gone bad. The U.S. Navy has suffered casualties (USS Cole, USS Stark) in the last several decades, but nothing remotely on the scale of the Arizona. From my perspective, the lesson of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona is that war is sheer hell - and it’s even worse if you’re not prepared.

Midway gets a TBD

From Barrett Tillman
September 21, 2019

Looks good from what's viewable.


Movie prop goes to CVA-41.

Editors Note:  More on how this ended up at the USS Midway next month.  

Announcements and Questions

BOM Statistics

From John Bond
September 6, 2019

Do you know if anyone has tabulated the actual KIA and WIA of the Midway Battle with actual names?

I know there is a site with Marine names but I cannot find anything about Navy or Army. For such a major important historic battle you would think these would have been done by now.

Also, who did these very interesting graphics: "Bomb damage of IJN Carriers"

John Bond
MCAS Ewa historian

Editors Note:   There is a list under our tab 'The Battle' called 'Casualty List'. Maybe that would help. As far as I know its the most comprehensive list. As far as WIA I don't know of any specific document that lists those men.

As for the 'Bomb damage of IJN Carriers' that was my work. The top view of the carriers themselves are not my drawings. Not sure where they originated or who did them. As for the bomb damage each bomb that landed I did the graphics for that. I had a lot more time when I first took over the RoundTable so could devote more to some enhancements. When time permits hopefully will get to more.

From John Bond
September 8, 2019

Why are the US KIA lost considered confidential? We out here would like to have a memorial to the Battle of Midway with the KIA names on it. Knowing that real names of people were killed would be extremely important to the public, veterans and politicians. I know NPS would also get more supportive as well.

We have all of the names of those killed on Dec 7. Why are Midway names kept under wraps? How did the Japanese list compiler get these names?

The illustrations of the carriers and the bomb hits are very interesting and important as I can link Ewa Field Navy carrier pilots to these.

John Bond
MCAS Ewa historian

Editors Note: I'm not sure it's exactly kept under wraps but perhaps nobody has taken the time to go through the archives and dig out all the information and publish it.  I really don't know.  Maybe someone has and I just don't know about it.  And Yes you can link to those pages.

USS Hamman

From Jay Sanes
September 8, 2019

I have been a member for a good number of years and would share many articles with my father Joseph Sanes. My father was on the USS Hamman and is mentioned in the most current edition of the Roundtable. He passed away at the age of 93 in 2015, and I remember I took him to Mr Martin Bunch’s home to see the model of the Hamman that he built, and I have pictures that I took. I am not on facebook but I would love to contact Mr Bunch. Could you please share my contact info with him.

Jay Sanes
Tucson Az

Editors Note:  Done.

Richard Tregaskis

From Ray Boomhower
September 14, 2019

I am writing a book on WWII correspondent Richard Tregaskis, best known today for his best-selling book “Guadalcanal Diary.” During early 1942, he also covered the Pacific fleet for the International News Service, including being on the USS Hornet during the Battle of Midway. I have his unpublished memoir with his remembrances of the battle, but wanted to see if any Hornet veterans have recollections of his time on the carrier. Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Ray E. Boomhower (author of previous books on Ernie Pyle, Alex Vraciu, and Robert L. Sherrod)

Editors Note:  The book sounds like its going to be an interesting read. There were several Hornet members on the RoundTable but sadly many have passed away in the recent years. I'll reach out to the members and see if any of the remaining have any memory of him. Can't say one way or another if any will respond.   Some other members might have some info on him that might help.

Thanks for contacting us. I'll do what I can to help out.