Roundtable Forum
Our 23rd Year
December 2019

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Documentary on the Zero
Mark Horan comments
VT-8 (Det) at Midway
B26's at Midway
Station Hypo
Fighting 3 at Midway
Eyewitness to the Attack
1942 Lessons Learned
Questions and Announcements
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Welcome to the Midway RoundTable.  I am sorry to be so late with the newsletter this month but sometimes you have to work for a living.  Seems that life choice I really think through.

This month we have a lot to get to.  There were many submissions dealing with some notes and articles last month.  There are also some comments on the Midway movie as one might expect.  You will want to read Mark Horman's comments.  I think you'll find them informative as well as give one pause for thought on the whole Hollywood depiction of the men involved.

Bill Vickrey continues to have information and sources that he is willing to share and I appreciate his emails every month.  He has some details on VT-8 and the B-26's at Midway.  You'll want to read those.

We also have an interview with John Ford and his experiences at Midway.  I also have a very lengthy exchange between me and Col. Miniclier where he relates his account of his experiences standing by Mr. Ford during the attack that I supplied to the movie studio.  I think you'll find it interesting.  I so appreciate his willingness to relate his account.

And so much more.  But this newsletter is long enough without me droning on so......

Documentary on the Zero

From Ron Russell
December 28, 2019

In the last newsletter, I commented on a new Smithsonian Channel documentary, "The Battle of Midway: the True Story," which didn't live up to its title. The Smithsonian has done a bit better with another recent offering, "Air Warriors: Zero." That one first debuted last June, but I just caught it for the first time in December. Unlike the channel's BOM tale, this one is worth your time.

While it has some of the usual mismatched film clips, like a Betty supposedly attacking the Yorktown at Midway, or those ubiquitous SBDs with painted red circles simulating Vals diving on Pearl Harbor, I suppose we're used to that by now if it isn't overdone. The star of this production wasn't the archive film clips, but closeups of a superbly restored Zero, with narration by an air show pilot who describes the plane in detail and takes us through the cockpit. We see a lot of aerial film of the same restored bird going through its paces--really well done.

Even better, much of the narration was provided by Roundtable member Ron Werneth, probably the leading western expert on Japanese pilots and aircrew in the Pacific War. Ron's book on that subject, "Beyond Pearl Harbor," was reviewed here in 2009, and his remarkable story is worth another look. Find it the archives at: (scroll down)

Okay, there was one more glitch in the narration that I have to mention: at one point, the off-screen narrator (not Werneth) made a passing comment in the Midway discussion that Station Hypo at Pearl had broken JN-25 "in 1940" which explains why the USN knew all about Yamamoto's Midway plan. That persistent rumbling sound you hear is Admiral Showers turning over in his grave at Arlington.

Nevertheless, I give the production a decent 3 stars out of 5 and can recommend it due to its core subject, the Zero, ignoring the eye-rollers regarding Pearl Harbor and Midway. It's next scheduled on the Smithsonian channel on January 27th at 1:00 pm EST. Set your DVR.

--Ron Russell

Two answers to queries and a third commenting on the tripe in the latest Midway movie

From Mark Horan
December 11, 2019

1. Concerning VT-8 detachment:

Lyonal Joseph Orgeron, AOM3c was trainer air gunner in VP-44 already on Midway when the TBFs of VT-8( Detachment) arrived. William Lawson Coffey, Jr., as his rate of Aviation Machinist Mate, First Class, was a fully trained maintenance man ON the new TBF. As no one in MAG-22 or the Naval Air Station at Midway had ever even seen a TBF, the flight needed someone familiar with maintaining the planes while there. Thus, he flew out replacing a gunner - they were carrying too much gear and fuel to carry a fourth man. Not being a qualified Air Gunner, they needed a replacement for combat missions while there. Orgeron an ordnance man familiar with the .50 cal MG and qualified on it, "volunteered" to join the flight.

2. Concerning Carniero:

The enlisted air gunners were qualified for flight status and trained as gunners. The were crewed up with pilots. Like any military organization, rosters and flight crews changed often. Notably, it changed based on the on the number of operational planes available and the desires of the pilot AND FOR THE MISSION ASSIGNED - specifically, TBDs carried a bomb aimer on bombing missions. Like a number of other squadron personal Carneiro was a trained air gunner. BUT, between the May South Pacific sortie by TF-16 and the deployment for Midway, the air chosen for the "Flight Roster" changed. The Squadron received two new planes - up from 13 to 15 ... and there were changes in flight status by 4 June, one of whom was Carneiro.

McClusky lost his regular radioman on the morning of 4 June when he broke his glasses. There is no record as to why Carneiro was no longer air crew. It could have been as simple as he had a serious head cold. The Squadron officers that would have updated things were all dead when the ship returned. There was a Squadron to reform ... and Carneiro was in it ... so whatever the reason was, it was no reflection on his ability to do his job.

3. Concerning the Midway Movie

In my opinion it was utter garbage and a mockery of the PROFESSIONAL navy pilots on USS Enterprise (and USS Yorktown) on 4 June or at any other time EXCEPT in Star Trek ... which ... like this piece of garbage ... is PURE FICTION!!!

Midway - in particular the professionalism of the USN Air Group personal - is something that I spent a great deal of my life resarching. Our air crews and the Air Departments on our carriers - especially Enterprise and Yorktown - were composed of absolute PROFESSIONALS. My take on the movie is that it made an utter mockery of every single one of the men that carried the battle to the enemy on June 4, 5, and 6.

A. The air crews acted like modern punks

B. Their planes performed like comic book planes

This movie depicted Richard Halsey Best ... a consummate PROFESSIONAL ... as a (edited) yahoo ... it depicted dive bombing squadron personnel as professional as a middle school girls team ... it depicted dive bombing like a 5-year old imagines it ... it depicted THE MOST difficult PROFESSIONAL pilot activity - carrier takeoffs and landings - as a JOKE ... they did NOT take off per doctrine .. they did not form up per doctrine ... they did not fly in formation per doctrine ... they did not attack anything remotely like actual dive bombing which is CAREFULLY diagrammed in navy records easily available ... they did not pull out correctly ... they did NOT defend themselves correctly ...and the takeoff and landing sequences were utterly absurd. The squadron procedures for takeoffs, form up, break up for landing, and landing are fully diagrammed in commonly available documents - the landing approach is a steady descending right hand turn to a touchdown on the landing wires aft. Showing Dick Best diving below the deck, zooming up and landing is an utter disgrace. Showing rear seat gunners doing everything BUT their job in a dive - which was to face FORWARD and call the altitude during a dive - was as well.

... they did NOTHING ... NOT ONE THING ... remotely correctly ...

Further, William West was a UNIVERSALLY loved member of VS-6. He too was a consummate professional ... his death just over two weeks before the battle - drowning because the long ranged radio antenna wire entangled his leg after making a water landing when his engine failed on takeoff - was horrific for his Squadron and the other airdales on the ship. With the losses over Pearl Harbor, in the early Pacific Raids, on scouting missions, West on a PRACTICE mission, and at Midway, VS-6 lost the equivalent of the ENTIRE squadron in six months. Such had never even been contemplated. To portray West as a wise ass punk may be what liberal baffoons believe and expect to see in a movie - it was a DISGRACE to the aircrews that pulled victory out EXCLUSIVELY with their PROFESSIONALISM. Put yourselves in their family’s shoes and ask yourself how they would have felt seeing that junior high school jibberish.

Just to set the record straight, THIS is Richard Halsey Best’s verbatim description of a dive bombing attack – written at my request many years ago – with my comments in parenthesis:

The set up of the dive. You approach straight to the target (author’s note: preferably up wind as it steepens the dive) then push over, kicking the nose aside as you come in to see the target. Repeated practice makes his routine. The good dive was a VERTICAL DIVE (my emphasis), then a pullback to 70 degrees. In the vertical dive you only corrected by aileron. When you use rudder (i.e., inducing a skid) you throw off the bomb trajectory. At 3,500 feet you PULL BACK TO 70 degrees (my emphasis). The SBD cruised at 135 knots. Slowed to open dive brakes. Has to be less than 185 knots. Flaps opened as target passed under the leading edge of the wing. Propeller pushed into full pitch. Mixture at full rich; carb heat on; Flaps were withdrawn as soon as you leveled out. Wheels were not lowered. SBD was a superlative diving platform. Its Curtiss engine idled roughly when in preparation for takeoff but was fine in operation.

He also noted that that VB-6 would not arm bombs electrically because of the unreliability of the system. (which is of course is exactly what happened to four of Leslie’s VB-3 planes!)

Finally, when he landed after attacking Hiryu it was his 330th – and last - carrier landing!

Making professional navy pilots ... especially Richard Halsey Best ... look like an unprofessional yahoo ... is a disgrace ... the Hollywood buffoons had no clue how navy planes took off, joined up, flew in formation, or landed ... ALL OF WHICH IS CLEARLY DIAGRAMMED and EXPLAINED in navy documents any idiot can get ...

When you use REAL PEOPLE'S NAMES you have a MORAL obligation to show them AS THEY WERE. I knew Lt.Cdr. Best (then a Lieutenant) - the VB-6 squadron commander - and his radioman James Francis Murray, the squadron senior chief (later a Lt.Cdr.) well. They were CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONALS ... they didn't screw around ... they did it "by the book" ... which is available!

Finally, knowing that the AM mission was going to push his planes, armed with 1,000 pound bombs, to the limit and that they needed to offload 22 gallons of full to make takeoff weight, Best ordered that his planes lose that weight by any other means BUT fuel. They off loaded some ammo, 4 of 6 bottles of oxygen for each of the two crew members, and some of their food for the rafts.

The second of Best's oxygen bottles was contaminated with caustic "soda" and when he switched to it he inhaled it into his lungs ... when his squadron began running out on the long flight he brought them down 4,000 feet to 15k feet and took off his mask showing all who could see him that they didn't need the oxygen. The attack, screwed up as it was, was successful - but at the cost of many planes. NOT one got back with more than 5 gallons on board. Had he not insisted on retaining those 22 gallons, NO ONE VB-6 plane would have returned!

However it came at great cost; by the time he had finished his second dive on the PM attack he was so sick he did not think he'd get home ... yet he did so on pure guts to save his gunner, the Squadron Chief ... but had to be carried from the plane in a stretcher. When the ship returned to Pearl he went straight to the naval hospital ... eventually to the states ... and did not leave until 1944 when he was medically released from service. He was a Lieutenant in 1942 - and was on discharge - his Navy Cross bumped him to Lt.Cdr. for retirement.

Two men: Lt.(jg) Norman Jack Kleiss, USNA38 (VS-6) [Kaga and Hiryu] and Lt. Richard Halsey Best, USNA32 (VB-6) [Akagi and Hiryu] each made two dives that day and each got two hits and sank both targets! They are the ONLY men in HISTORY to dive on two carriers in a single day, hit each, and SINK each! As far as I recall the former did not make the cut to even get mentioned in the movie, and the later acted and flew like a 16-year old punk diving a convertible to school.

And you can bet BOTH men were rolling over in their graves at the utter tripe presented in this movie!

Mark E. Horan

Editors Note:  Thank you for the notes. I agree. As early as the first conversation I had with Emmerich it was clear that he was going to mess it up. I argued with him about the whole Best dead stick landing being a total joke, uncharacteristic, and probably impossible, not to mention something a professional Navy officer would not even try, risking his rear seat man in the process. His response to me was that he needed 'his' hero to do something heroic in the first part of the movie. Darn near quit right then as it was clear he was not going to listen. Probably should have. But sticking it out I did manage to correct as much as I could so maybe that's something.

VT-8 (Det) at Midway

From Bill Vickrey
December 13, 2019

Recently some articles and questions have appeared in The Roundtable regarding VT-8(Det).

I knew Captain Bert Earnest quite well and knew Commander Harry Ferrier well but did not spend as much time with him as with Captain Earnest. I once had the privilege of being General Marion Carl’s house guest for a long and interesting week end.

Attached is a copy of the report Ensign Earnest wrote on June 23, 1942 detailing the activity of the Midway detachment of Torpedo 8 which was detached from HORNET to Midway. I’m not sure why I typed this but it may be that Bert sent me his copy and asked for it to be returned.

Marion Carl and Bert Earnest were close friend and – among other duties – were in Test Pilot School at the same time. One day Marion was flying a helicopter over the landing area when Bert landed below him in a Luftwaffe 262. The brakes may have failed as Bert took the 262 right off the end of the runway into the woods. With fear for his friend, Marion landed his helicopter near the point where the 262 had entered the woods. He was surprised – and delighted – to see Bert come walking out of the woods – with his parachute over his shoulder and a look of disgust on his face – completely unhurt.

So far as I know, anyone can use this article.

Smooth Sailing

VT-8 Detachment at Midway

This might also help those who are seeking such information. It came from an eight page magazine or newspaper article co-authored by Captain Earnest and Commander Ferrier.

B-26's at Midway

From Bill Vickrey
December 14, 2019

There may be some confusion as to how many B-26’s were at Midway. There were four and attached is a list of the pilots and crew of these aircraft.

Collins and Muri got back but nothing was heard from the other two. I knew Collins quite well and he loaded me down with correspondence. Jim Muri lived in Montana so I never met him but did correspond with him a good deal.

On 13 June 1942 Admiral Nimitz wrote a seven page report entitled “Air Force Employment at Midway.” It is not clear enough to scan but I will be happy to mail you a copy – but I do not seem to have your address. Let me know if you want a copy.

Editors Note: Thanks for the offer. Yes a copy of the report would be great.  Also I have a copy of a report Nimitz wrote after the battle that was mimeographed and sent to King I believe. I need to go find it. Bought it a long time ago from one of the used mail order book sellers in the 70's. I think the report is about 20 pages if memory serves. Haven't thought of this till just now. Maybe I can scan it, clean it up, and post it on the RoundTable. The old mimeograph's don't photo copy particularly well and a scan of a photocopied mimeograph is even worse.

From Bill Vickrey
December 14, 2019

On the way on Monday. I think I have that Nimitz lengthy report.

Long before the study of the Battle of Midway became so well researched, the Navy Department sent me all the discs they had and – somewhere along the line – I misplaced the discs even though I had printed much of the material. Shame on me for losing those invaluable bits of history.


Editors Note:  Well don't be too hard on yourself.  At least you have a printed copy of the material.  And by now hard telling how the discs have held up or if they are even readable or if we even have something to be able to read them.  I also doubt they sent you their only copies.

I added the crews to the page as images rather than the PDF.  The PDF is available if you want to download it  Click Here.

Also the letter that Mr. Vickrey sent me is a bit hard to read so I can understand why he couldn't scan it.  Probably a copy from an original mimeograph copy.  Having worked with those I can understand how the copies are a bit hard to read as originally copiers didn't copy blue very well and most mimeographs had a shade of blue ink.

I am working to clean up the pages but there are seven pages and so it's going to take some time.  But when I'm done I'll post it in the newsletter.

I'm will also see if I can clean up the Nimitz report and post it.  I also believe a copy is online that someone cleaned up and posted but I can't find it at the moment.  Not sure if it was the same one but I don't believe Nimitz would have any reason to send two different reports to King.

The movie slips up on Station Hypo

From: Elliot Carlson
December 1, 2019

Movie-maker Roland Emmerich clearly got a lot of things right in his new production depicting the Battle of Midway. From what Roundtable reviewers had to say, the company did a good job with most of the scenes, capturing, as it did, the “feel” of a flight deck, presenting accurately the SBDs, TBDs and much other naval hardware. The performances were good, particularly Ed Skrein’s version of Dick Best, maturing from a smart-aleck hotdog pilot into an inspiring leader; the Best saga clearly was the glue that held the movie together.

But the movie fell short in one critical area of naval activity leading up to this landmark campaign; it failed to represent accurately many aspects of the crucial, if always challenging, world of Station Hypo, the naval codebreaking unit at Pearl Harbor commanded by Joe Rochefort. With the notable exception of Patrick Wilson’s outstanding portrayal of Fleet Intel officer Edwin T. Layton, who did indeed serve effectively as liaison between Rochefort and Fleet Commander Nimitz, the movie got many things wrong. Some, to be sure, are minor. Hypo was not part of the Fleet Intel system, as a moviegoer would be led to believe; it was a separate shore-based unit. Rochefort’s underground realm hardly comes across as a “dungeon,” as Hypo’s decrypt people irreverently dubbed the place. Rochefort didn’t have his own office; he sat at a desk out in the open along with everybody else.

Other miscues are more serious. Nimitz did not visit Rochefort in his quarters before the BOM to satisfy himself that the Japanese code AF did indeed designate Midway. Instead, he sent over to the Hypo’s unit, on 14 May, his war plans officer, Captain Lynde McCormick, to examine Hypo’s evidence. McCormick spent the better part of a day in Rochefort’s basement going over Hypo’s documentation piece by piece; he returned to CINCPAC headquarters later that day convinced that the Hypo team had the goods. It was actually McCormick who convinced Nimitz that the Imperial Japanese Navy was heading for Midway. Also, regrettably, the movie perpetuates the myth that the USS California’s bandsmen, some 20 in all, recruited by Rochefort for work in his basement when Japanese bombs rendered their ship unserviceable, functioned as codebreakers. They did not. They worked in Hypo’s machine room as operators of tabulating machines, key-punch operators, clerks, assistants, and sometimes researchers for Hypo’s linguists. They did important work, but they didn’t do cryptanalysis.

I was horrified by the movie’s version of Rochefort; Brennan Brown plays him as a shadowy, droopy-eyed recluse, hunkering quietly in his dark office, shuffling papers, hardly recognizable as the leader and strong personality that he was; in fact, if Nimitz had failed to ask, as he did in their scene together, why he, CINCPAC, should take the word of someone dressed in a red smock and who is also wearing slippers, viewers would never know that Rochefort was given to idiosyncratic clothing (the room was too dark for anyone to notice). For what it’s worth, this version is a 180-degree shift from Hal Holbrook’s loopy characterization of Rochefort as a sloppy, cigar-chomping loud mouth in the Mirisch Corporation’s 1976 account of Midway. At least Holbrook’s “take” on Rochefort radiated energy; Brown turned Rochefort into a zombie.

If nothing else, the Emmerich production suggests that if it ever is to get Rochefort, and Station Hypo world, right, Hollywood at some point will have to do yet another version of Midway.

Elliot Carlson
Joe Rochefort’s War

Editors Note: Thanks for the note. I did suggest they change some of the script regarding the Hypo scene including the Band members as being actual codebreakers. (Thanks to your book I remembered reading how they were used) Unfortunately the scene between Nimitz and Rochefort was more of a movie thing. I noted the differences but was pretty sure they would not change that as it would entail introducing a new player as well as reduce the dramatic effect they were looking for. The script writer puzzled me on many aspects of the script. In some cases he picked out significant and specific details from some books but in other cases he totally missed the mark seemingly not doing any research whatsoever but just jumbled his way through it. Course that comes from someone that is pretty familiar with the history as opposed to one who is paid to write a script on a subject that he might not have even been familiar with before he started.

Also many of the actual scenes were descriptions in the script so I didn't get a good idea of what they were going to shoot. I did for instance argue pretty hard about using the whole map room thing with the markers and pointers and such on a large table with the 'group' around it. No table map was used as depicted in the movie. One of the reasons I got so involved with that was due to the fact they were hunting down a picture of that kind of table display. I'm not sure the US ever used such a thing so finding a picture was not possible. I did find some pictures used by early warning air defense units that used large tables for tracking flights, but nothing that high level officers such as Nimitz would have used. But despite my arguments they wanted that big room and table. What can you do?

I think your summary on the Hypo scene pretty much sums it up.

As for the portrail of Best I was pretty much against most of the depiction of him.  He was a career Naval officer and was not at all like what was presented in the movie.  From the very first  conversation with Emmerich I was trying to convince him that he could do a much better job with him than what the script presented.  But it is likely he had his mind set on what he was going to do.  It's really a shame as I think a more accurate portrail would have resinated with the audience a lot more than the cowboy approach.

Flying into a Beehive: Fighting Three at Midway

Editors Note:  Found this an interesting read and saw it was online for anyone to read.  It appeared in the US Naval Institute Naval History Magazine in 2007.  Enjoy.

Flying into a Beehive: Fighting Three at Midway

Eyewitness to the Attack on Midway Island June 1942

From Fran Raus
November 29, 2019

I found the notes from an interview with John Ford, the movie director. During WWII he was a full Commander in the Navy and found himself on Midway Island photographing the actual bombing of both Eastern and Sand Islands during the Battle of Midway. Later in the war he was transferred to the European theater to film some aspects of the Normandy invasion. In case you have not seen his recollection of the attack on Midway, I've put the interview below. It may be a little long to hold your attention; but, do think you will find it very informative, some details that never made it to the movies nor documentaries that have covered the battle.

Recollections of Commander John Ford, USNR

Adapted from Commander John Ford USNR interview in box 10 of World War II Interviews, Archives, Naval History and Heritage Command.

Recollections of Commander John Ford, USNR, Oscar-winning Hollywood producer and Chief of the Field Photographic Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), concerning his experiences making combat motion pictures under battle conditions. His film of the Battle of Midway subsequently became a popular movie feature.

This is Commander John Ford, USNR. I am in command of the field photographic branch of the Office of Strategic Services. This is a photographic branch among other things. Most of the people in our outfit - officers and men are from Hollywood. They are writers, directors, some actors, but mostly technicians, electricians, cutters, sound cutters, negative cutters, positive cutters, carpenters, and that sort of thing.

About 1932 my old friend Admiral Frank Scofield, who at that time, had the flag in the fleet and Captain Herbert Aloysius Jones, "Baldy" Jones, as he is known to the Navy, got me to return to the Naval Reserve and to organize a photographic [movie-making] section. He thought at that time that in the future, the future emergency, it would be of value; so I came back and organized this outfit. I was called into active service in August, 1941, and started planning. Before Pearl Harbor we had gone to Iceland, and made a complete [film] study there, a complete [film] study in Panama. After Pearl Harbor I was asked by the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of War to go to Honolulu and give a factual photographic [film] account of the action there. So I left with a crew about January 4, 1942 and arrived there about 12 days later, and got to work.

We found Pearl Harbor at that time in a state of readiness. Everybody had learned their lesson from Pearl Harbor. The Army and the Navy, all in good shape, everything taken care of, patrols going out regularly, everybody in high spirit, was courageous, [in a] spirit of hope, [that] I have ever seen. I was particularly interested in our new blue jacket [US Navy enlisted men]. He was a man of unlimited education, background, he had evidently left a good trade. He was a fighting man. In a few months I was to see what a good fighting man he was.

The first task force I went on, I was called by Admiral [Chester W.] Nimitz [USN] on the phone, I knew him quite well, [and] he said, "Throw a bag together and come out here and see me." So I left immediately and went out to Pearl Harbor, [and] saw him. He told me to report to Admiral Bagley. I left there immediately and went down to the Harbor, got into the speedboat and caught a destroyer that was leaving. Got on board while it was in motion, while she was underway. Hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing, where I was going. I found out when I got on board that the destination was Midway.

After we had been out a couple of days, we picked up a flotilla of PT [high-speed wooden motor torpedo] boats, I think we picked them up at French Frigate Shoals, refueled them, and gave them food. It was the first time I had seen the PT boys. And that, gentlemen or ladies, whoever is listening, that is really an outfit, that is really a wonderful group of boys. I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. We proceeded then to Midway. I think at the time there was some report of some action impending some place or some movement in the seas, [since] everything and everybody was on KV [a form of alert].

I proceeded to make a pictorial [film] history of Midway. I photographed the Gooney Birds, I photographed the PT's and all that sort of thing. I didn't believe much in the impending action, if it did come I didn't think it was going to touch us. So I worked, spent about 12 hours a day in work, had a good time up there, a wonderful station. On June 3rd, my friend, Massy Hughes, Commander Massy Hughes, asked me to take the [aircraft] patrol with him the next day. He said, he speaks in a southern accent, he said, "Well, it looks like there is going to be a little trouble out there - -" To resume[,] Massy Hughes, he says, "Well it might be some trouble tomorrow, you and I are too damned old for this war anyway, so we better take the easy dog leg." That was the northeast triangle [segment of the aerial patrol route]. So we got aboard, took off, it was very, very cloudy weather, didn't see anything for a long time, finally the radar picked up something, [and] we presumed it was one of our task forces. About 60 miles off we saw through a rift in the clouds as we started to go over[,] we suddenly saw a couple of cruiser planes coming for us. Taking a quick look, we realized they were Japanese. We hadn't any idea that we had seen their task force so Massey did a quick bank, got up in the clouds, stayed there for a while, finally ran out of clouds. We got down to about three feet from the water and really got some speed out of that old PBY (twin-engine patrol bomber seaplane, known as "Catalina"). At one time he said he thought he was doing about 89 miles an hour. We managed to get back.

It's too bad we just saw the task force for a moment, it was so far away, otherwise I might have gotten a good picture of the disposition and so forth, but we did get a pretty accurate, just in a flash, we got a pretty accurate view, you could tell pretty much what was there.

The next morning - that night we got back and evidently something was about to pop, great preparations were made. I was called into Captain Semard's office, they were making up plans, and he said "Well, now Ford, you are pretty senior here, and how about you getting up top of the power house, the power station, where the phones are?" He said, "Do you mind?" I said "No, it's a good place to take pictures."

He said, "Well, forget the pictures as much as you can, but I want a good accurate account of the bombing," he said, "We expect to be attacked tomorrow."

And he told me to do the best I can, get out, lay out my phones. I had some wires, two phones with the wires leading to the command dugout, and then I had a sea phone, stationed those, got everything ready. Tried them out, went to bed that night, upstairs, got a bedroom there, went to sleep and early the next morning everybody had breakfast. There were about eight Marines in the power house with me. I think the alarm, of course, I haven't any notes, but the alarm went off, I imagine around 6:20. So everybody took their stations and Midway became sort of a deserted island.

I imagine the Japs when they attacked thought they had caught us napping, there was nothing moving, just a lazy sort of a tropical island. Everything was very quiet and serene. I had a pair of powerful binoculars with me and finally spotted the Japanese planes. I picked them out to be Zeros [Japanese fighter-bomber planes], by what in picture identification we thought would be Zeros. They evidently were. The first flight I saw there were about 12 planes. They were coming at about 10,000 feet, so I reported this to the command post, told them that the attack was about to begin. Everybody was very calm. I was amazed, sort of, at the lackadaisical air everybody took. You know everybody sort of took to the line of duty as though they had been living through this sort of thing all their lives.

Suddenly the leading Jap plane peeled off. As he peeled off, evidently the Marines [fighter planes] who had left earlier got the rear plane which went down in flames. I photographed that, but my eyes were sort of distracted by the leading plane, the leader of the [Japanese aircraft] squadron who dove down to about five thousand feet, did some maneuvers and then dove for the airport. We have all heard stories about this fellow who flew up the ramp on his back, but it was actually true. He dove down to about 100 feet from the ground, turned over on his back and proceeded leisurely flying upside down over the ramp. Everybody was amazed, nobody fired at him, until suddenly some Marine said, "What the Hell," let go at him and then shot him down. He slid off into the sea.

But by this time, of course, everybody had been watching this fantastic thing and by that time Hell started to break loose around there, and, of course, the high altitude bombers started to come in. The Zeros evidently - what I took to be Zeros had evidently some sort of small caliber bombs. They started to plaster the ramps or the airfield. They did a very neat job. They went up and down and got the outside area. They didn't touch the field itself - I imagine their idea was to land there later that day themselves. They didn't drop any bombs on the landing mat itself, but did a thoroughly good job of dropping, I would say 200 pounders [bombs] up and down outside. Of course, I mean the [American] planes had all been pretty well scattered and they didn't get any and as I was saying about this time the high altitude [Japanese] bombs started dropping. This I reported to Captain Semard.

Forgot to try to count [Japanese] planes and [do] photography. I got a pretty good estimate, I estimated about, that I saw with my own eyes, I would figure there was from 56 to 62 planes.

By this time the attack had started in earnest. There was some dive bombing at objectives like water towers, [they] got the hangar right away. I was close to the hangar and I was lined up on it with my camera, figuring it would be one of the first things they got. It wasn't any of the dive bombers [that got it]. A Zero flew about 50 feet over it and dropped a bomb and hit it, the whole thing went up. I was knocked unconscious. Just knocked me goofy for a bit, and I pulled myself out of it. I did manage to get the picture. You may have seen it in [the movie] "The Battle of Midway." It's where the plane flies over the hangar and everything goes up in smoke and debris, you can see one big chunk coming for the camera.

Everybody, of course, nearly everybody except the gun crews were under ground. The Marines did a great job. There was not much shooting but when they did it was evidently the first time these boys had been under fire but they were really well trained. Our bluejackets and our Marine gun crews seemed to me to be excellent. There was no spasmodic firing, there was no firing at nothing. They just waited until they got a shot and it usually counted.

The planes started falling, some of ours, a lot of Jap planes. It seems when you hit a Zero plane, it almost immediately goes into flames. At least that was the impression I got. One [Japanese] fellow dove, I think he was going to [attack] the clubhouse. He dove, dropped a bomb and tried to pull out and crashed into the ground. The place that I was manning, I didn't realize, the power house, but they evidently tried to get that. I think we counted 18 bombs, some big, some 200 pounders, some 500 pounders, that dropped around that. I would say that the Jap high [altitude] bombing was bad. I don't know whether they hurried or not, but they were not hitting their objective. Of course, incendiaries set fire to the wooden buildings. It seemed as though they were doing a lot of damage, actually they were buildings that had been used since the Pan American [Airlines, which had previously had a trans-Pacific seaplane fueling outpost,] gave up there. They hit an oil tank, but it was an old unused oil tank that hadn't any oil in it and then there was a fake plane in the center of the field and they really wasted a lot of time blowing that up. They strafed [machine-gunned] it and finally dropped a 200 pounder [bomb] on it. They really - they lost about three planes trying to get that fake plane, as it came into a cone of [American] fire that was pretty dangerous.

During this, I suddenly saw the PT boats which were circling around, open up [begin firing]. They did a tremendous amount of damage. The Japs couldn't figure what the Hell they were and they really gave the place a wide berth. I would say the PT's were responsible for about three planes and they drove the fighters and low bombers - they pretty well drove them off, because that 13 boats out there were [with] those multiples 50's [.50-caliber heavy machine guns], that is too much fire power, they put up an awful blast.

The raid wasn't over, still a few bombs dropping now, but of course, you couldn't restrain the bluejackets. I mean they would run out when a plane would fall. There was about 50 bluejackets around it [the crashed Japanese plane] trying to haul the Jap out of the plane, getting souvenirs, and you would see some ensign or j.g. [lieutenant junior grade] screaming, "Get the Hell back there" and the fellows would look and they would go back. They were all pretty jolly about it.

The Marines with me - I took one look at them and I said, "Well this war was won." They were kids, oh, I would say from 18 to 22, none of them were older. They were the calmest people I have ever seen. They were up there popping away with rifles [Marines at that time were armed with bolt-action M1903 .30-caliber rifles], having a swell time and none of them were alarmed. I mean the thing [a Japanese bomb] would drop through, they would laugh and say "My God that one was close." I figured then, "Well, if these kids are American kids, I mean this war is practically won."

I was really amazed, I thought that some kids, one or two would get scared, but no, they were, they were having a time of their lives. Each one of the eight claimed he had brought down a [Japanese] plane with rifle fire. They certainly fired enough at them, they had a good time. Of the 18 [Japanese bombs] dropped around the power house, one finally grazed the corner off and filled the place full of smoke and that caused these kids to start looking for me. They came in and bandaged me up and said, "Don't go near that Navy doctor, we will take care of you, this guy over here, Jones, is a swell doctor." Talking right under fire like that, it was very interesting.

Well, finally the attack was over and we went around counting heads. What made it unfortunate, they made one hit on a dugout, that a Marine detachment was in on Sand Island, I think they killed about 16 men there. Of course there were quite a few casualties, dead and wounded but that was a lucky hit, and that was just too bad. Otherwise the bombing didn't mean anything. As we know now, I guess it's no secret, Midway was not really protected at the time, I mean, it was sort of a peacetime station. We had very few 20 mm [anti-aircraft guns], had no 40 mm's [anti- aircraft guns] and even at that time there were quite a few 30 caliber machine guns there, which strangely enough they did very, very effective work. The Marine gunners and our Navy gunners were really excellent, I have never seen a greater exhibition of courage and coolness under fire in my life and I have seen some in my day. Those kids were really remarkable, [and] as I said before, I figured "Well, this war is over, at least we are going to win it if we have kids like that."

There are no incidents that I can report, I mean there is nothing particularly - Oh, I did see, I did see one of our kids jump in a parachute, I think it was a Marine flyer. It was quite a distance away and I had, that is, I couldn't photograph it - I had to look at it through my [field] glasses. This kid jumped and this Zero went after him and shot him out of his [parachute] harness. That was observed by about eight people. The kid hit the water and the Jap went up and down strafing the water where he had landed [and] even sunk the parachute [and] filled that full of holes, which I thought wasn't very chivalrous at the time. I only prayed to God that I could have gotten a picture out of it. That was verified. A lot of people did see it.

Pretty soon the Marines [fighter pilots] started back, a lot of them badly shot up, some had to make emergency landings on the field. And, well, we all went about our job, taking care of the wounded and getting things ready and putting out fires, which was very, very quickly done. Then, of course, after that, I mean things were exciting for the next two or three days. Planes kept coming in and going out. We got reports of the [naval] battle and the submarines came in and after the battle, after a few days we went back to the peaceful routine.

That night, I forgot to say, a [Japanese] submarine came in and started shelling the island. He came up, I imagine, about a mile away and I heard the first rumble and I ran out there and saw him fire. He fired about six times. I think he was firing at the airfield but his shots were way over. One Marine five-inch [coastal defense artillery gun] let go and I am positive he got a hit on the submarine because there was a yellowish greenish flash out there, and from then on we didn't hear any more from the submarine. It was very amusing - a very amusing incident occurred there, this Marine Sergeant was sound asleep, really tired and one of the kids ran up and said, "Hey, Sergeant, wake up, wake up, God Damn it, we are being attacked," and he [the Sergeant] started pulling on his mattress. And he said, "Where, where, what is it?" and he [the young Marine] said, "A submarine" and he [the Sergeant] said, "Oh, shaw!" and went back to sleep.

Interviewer: Commander, I understand you must have been very busy, because they gave you a citation for the reports you sent it, and you yourself said you were quite busy taking pictures.

Commander Ford: Well, evidently the reason that Captain Semard and Captain Logan Ramsey sent me up there, they figured I was a motion picture man and naturally should have a photographic eye so I made a pretty good choice, because I knew what I had to do and that was to count planes which I immediately did. One of the Marines stood by me and checked and we double-checked, and so I think that my count of the [Japanese] planes was official. As far as the citation was concerned I think it was more for being wounded in an exposed position and not leaving my post, well, Hell, you couldn't leave your post, there was no place to go.

But my report was pretty good and as I say I have a photographic eye and we are used to that sort of thing, reporting, taking battle scenes, and mob scenes and notice every detail and that's why I probably would notice a lot more than the layman who is not trained for that sort of thing. Like the chap that did the flying upside down and was noticing the Jap that shot that kid out of his harness. Things of that sort immediately photograph themselves on my memory.

Interviewer: Commander, from your account I take it there were no planes on the ground except that decoy plane you spoke about?

Commander Ford: No, they [the American planes] had all pulled off early in the morning. The PT's had flown back to French Frigate Shoals. After all these [Japanese] planes were picked up coming in the radar, they were picked up on the radar and so we had about , I think, nearly a half hour's warning. Of course, the Marines took off about 20 minutes before [Japanese] planes arrived and as a matter of fact as we know, they attacked the first five planes coming in and did a Hell of a good job. So there was nothing on the ground for them [the Japanese attackers] to hit, so I presume when the Japs came, they thought the planes were on the ground well dispersed to the side of the field, covered with camoflauge. That's why they did such a good job of blasting that portion of the field. They did a very good job of systematically plastering both sides of the runway. Oh, there was one other plane on the ground, that was Captain Semard's duck and that caused them a lot of trouble. They blew that up. But the thing that really caused them the trouble was that fake plane. I mean they really went for that thing. I imagine they have put that in use since so it is pretty well exposed.

Interviewer: Did anyone get the Jap that had strafed the man, our man in the parachute?

Commander Ford: That I can't say, Sir, I don't believe so, because he went to the clouds later on. I would like to meet him myself some day, Sir.

Interviewer: So would I.

Commander Ford: You're asking about the African invasion. We were in England, assigned to Admiral Stark's staff there, requested by the Army to cover this operation, for them. They evidently hadn't enough cameramen at the time. And, of course, we wanted to go along to cover it from our own Navy standpoint.

We left Greenwich about noon one day. [We had] A very interesting journey up the Clyde [in Scotland] to see these ships in full daylight pulling out, [and] the factories along the side started their horns atooting and people yelled and screamed, and I sort of had the premonition, then "Well, the thing is about to start, I think we are going to take over this war." Seemed like old days.

It was the first emotion I had seen displayed in this way on the part of the [British] civilian population. It was really quite a wonderful sight if you know the Clyde. It's not very wide and as we ploughed, it's banks were lined with people, factory whistles blowing and a few people out with flags, I remember particularly one, someone, had a small American flag waving it like the dickens there. It was quite an inspiring sight. The outfit I was with was mostly, well I should say about 85% British, parachutists, commandos, different combat units, then we had a signal corps unit under a Colonel Dobbs, which was a very, very good unit.

We proceeded out, continued down the coast, headed around Ireland, and down the - I think we went due west for about a day and a half and then suddenly we went south and made for Gib[raltar]. Strangely enough, there was nothing seen all the way down. We didn't, I mean we might just as well have been on a pleasure cruise. Lovely weather, sun was shining, everybody stripped down and getting tanned. [We] Hit Gibraltar one night and proceeded to go through it [i.e., the Straits of Gibraltar]. Nothing happened at all, didn't even pick up Italian submarines. [We] Got there [and] loaded into L.T. [landing craft tank?] boats and went ashore. I had a particularly easy time. Our landing wasn't contested at all. As a matter of fact, I didn't hear it, but there was a report that a very indignant French official came down[,] the French always came down[,] and bawled somebody out for being three hours late or something. I didn't know anything about that, I didn't see it so I don't know[,] but that was the report that was going around.

I remember one funny incident happened, we were groping around in the dark, I had my camera equipment and I ran into a fellow and we started talking. He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm a photographer, I don't know what the Hell I am doing here in the middle of the night trying to photograph." He said, "What about me? I'm a psychiatrist." So that was that.

Then we came in - there was a lot of sniping going on and they [the Allied forces] took over the town. I think everything went according to plan very beautifully. It is more interesting. We left Algiers with these tank landing craft, with the 13th Tank Landing Regiment and we went up the coast to Bone, we traveled at night, hide up in the daytime. Usually about half an hour after we would leave a port, the German planes would come over and blast Hell out of the town, evidently looking for us. By that time we would be sneaking along the coast. We saw a flight of Italian planes near sundown, [but] they just couldn't quite figure out what we were. We had no protection with us, [but] we had a fishing schooner, that is acting as a guide, a fishing schooner with an auxiliary motor. Of course, the tanks had the machine guns pointed up. These Italians, I don't imagine, they quite knew what we were and so they didn't make an attack.

We landed at Bone. Of course, there was no opposition there, some aerial activity. The Germans were making sporadic [air] raids there. About every hour or so they would come over in waves of 10 to 25 and, but I thought their bombing was very bad. They would come over and let go and try to get away and the place was jammed full of shipping and occasionally they would hit a French fishing smack or a tugboat or something, but they never seemed to get these landing craft that the tanks were on. I thought their bombing was bad, they would do a lot of damage in the town, burn down a lot of places.

From there we proceeded with the 13th right on through as far as Medjez el Bab, where we contacted the enemy. We stayed with them [the 13th Tank Landing Regiment] a couple of weeks. It was very, very interesting. My Chief Petty Officer, Ronald J. Pennick, Jack Pennick, who was quite a well-known picture actor[,] happened on an old Marine pal. He [Pennick] was with the Pekin [Peking, China, U.S. Marine] Legation Guard in 1912. He's been with me for 20 years. He did a good job, proved he was a good soldier, did quite a stunt up there, was decorated by the Secretary of the Navy with the Silver Star, for gallantry. We saw quite a bit of action. Finally, by that time, the Signal Corps cameramen started to arrive so we were ordered out, came on back. I think the experiment of learning how to use landing craft was very good. I think it was a good thing we went in there because we found out the deficiency of a lot of the stuff. They take the personnel barges in and you couldn't get off quickly enough, the next wave would beat them out so they were just helpless[,] starting to broach. I think they have fixed that since then, I know the one we went in on, I sat alongside the kid [the coxswain who steered the landing craft] and told him to ride it like a surfboard. He jammed her right up on the beach so we did all right. But it was a great experiment. I think it helped our ultimate success in Tunisia and Sicily. [That is] The experience these lads got out of handling these boats.

Interviewer: Commander, in the first landings were our soldiers - did they have full marching order equipment? Did they have than on them or were they light so they could take care of themselves in the water?

Commander Ford: Well the outfit, of course, the men that I landed with were British and they were in very, very light battle gear, very light battle order. Their stuff came from the ships later. I understand a lot of the boys got weighted down with the equipment. As I said, we had no trouble, our fellows landed in, I think the British refer to as light battle order. They are in battle dress and carried canteen, rifle, ammunition, but no overcoats or blankets, or any heavy gear of any kid. They were pretty mobile when they landed.

Interviewer: The general system is to land the personnel at one point and the equipment at another. Is that right, Sir?

Commander Ford: I don't know.

Interviewer: I noticed some of the later operations, they reported that they do that. Commander, I don't recall that you mentioned the name or type of the ship that you were on when you went down the Clyde.

Commander Ford: Well, I forget the name of the ship, she was one of the - she was a Duchess boat. Wasn't the Duchess of Athol, or Duchess of Richmond, I forget what it was. She was one of the old Duchess boats that runs from - run from Montreal to England, some very fine boats. Food was especially good, accommodations were good, it was a very, very neat boat. I can't remember the name of the boat, I have been on so many. I would have to refer to my diary, to my notes on that. There were quite a few Duchess boats. As a matter of fact, I think they were three or four in that particular convoy. All boats are similar types, I would say passenger ships from 18, oh, about 14 to 18 thousand tons.

Interviewer: You were in some action there on land?

Commander Ford: You mean at Algiers - Tunisia? Oh, yes. Yes, we were there about three weeks under heavy dive bombing and artillery firing all the time, [German Luftwaffe] Junkers 88's [bombers] and that sort of thing.

Interviewer: Howe did the marksmanship of the Germans compare with the Japs?

Commander Ford: I thought they were pretty much on a par. You were referring to their bombing, Sir?

Interviewer: Yes.

Commander Ford: I thought their bombing was pretty bad. Of course, those dive bombers, the German dive bomber, has a lot of guts, they would come right on through and try to do their stuff. But I thought their bombing as a - generally was bad. It seemed to be hurried, they tried to do it and get away with it. But I don't think they had the precision that our fellows had. I know the only thing that interested me, when they piled all our gear on the center of the - of the field one day and I asked Pennick, "Well, where's our stuff?" And he said, "In that pile." And I said, "Good heavens they are going to take that for an ammunition dump." He said, "Aw, well, that's just what I told `em." Just then it went up, that was the best shot they [the Germans] made. We lost all our gear. But their bombing is hurried, I don't think it compares with ours, only that's my own opinion, Sir. Interviewer: Commander, these pictures that were taken at Midway, and Africa, where do they eventually end up? I mean, is there any arrangements made so that these pictures can be taken care of for future generations?

Commander Ford: Oh yes. That is very thoroughly and systematically done. Those [motion] pictures are censored, sent on to a common library for the services and processed so that they will be preserved for centuries. Very, very well taken care of. Each picture will reach its proper destination eventually.

[Producer/Director John Ford (1894-1973) was born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He took the professional name, John Ford, when he got into the movie industry in 1914, and directed his first film in 1917. He was the winner of six Academy Awards for such films; his work includes such films as The Informer, Young Mr. Lincoln (with Henry Fonda), Drums Along the Mohawk, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man. But Ford's specialty was the western adventure; he collaborated with John Wayne to make the famous "cavalry trilogy" of films (My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and later The Horse Soldiers and The Searchers. Commander John Ford, USNR, commanded the OSS Field Photographic Branch from 1942 until 1955. Ford died in 1973. Chief Petty Officer "Jack" Pennick, USNR, was a well-known character film actor whose body of work spanned the period from silent films to the 1950's, and included many John Ford films.]

Col John F. Miniclier relates his account of what happened.

From Colonel John F. Miniclier
September 11, 2018

Forwarded for information and I had hoped the powers behind the new film effort would have contacted me because I was in the wooden tower next to the destroyed laundry during the entire attack on 4 JUNE 1942. At time I was a PFC in the 6th Defense Battalion, G Battery, S/L position 5 on top of the Power Plant and Commander Ford spent a lot of days with us. His report on his action, at the time were believable but his later interview are filled with TALL tales and not true. Ford's Oral History-Battle of Midway, 12 pages should be screened before any of it used and a recent national museum report says he even fell off the Power Plant top roof, not true!!!

I would be willing to talk to any one working on this film. Years ago Ron wrote a article about me in the tower, still valid.

I can discuss any period from early Sept 1941 until I left Midway as a sergeant in 1943. My interest is to try a prevent any more false in formation connected with the Power Plant during June 1942.

Any help or guidance would be appreciated.

John F Miniclier, now age 96

Editors Note:  Mr. Miniclier, I have been in contact with the movie crew and director and they do want to get the details correct. I have also given them plenty of people to talk to if they want including you. I hope at some point they do as I think it would be criminal not to use first person accounts.

The Director had me sign and NDA so I could read the script and correct any historical inaccuracies. I also had about an hour long conversation with him on the script. Wish I could say more but NDA.

As to your point they did have Ford falling to the ground from a bomb blast but the script was unclear if they had him fall off the tower. I did clarify that he did not in fact fall off the tower. I thought he did catch some shrapnel but was not seriously wounded.

From Colonel John F. Miniclier
September 14, 2018

Let me give you a short report on myself. I joined the Corps in August 1940 as a Private making $12.00 a month. After Boot Camp at MCRD, San Diego was assigned to the 2nd Defense Battalion at MCRD. After a few weeks assigned to the 6th Defense Battalion, trained in the hills of San Diego and on San Clément island, then during fall 1941, over nine hundred of the original 6th was transferred on the USS Wharton to Hawaii and September 1941 to Midway Island. The majority, of Marines stayed on Sand Island and the rest went to Eastern Island which had the only airfield. All PBY,s were serviced on Sand Island near the hanger, landing in the bay and moved to the ramp so wheels could be attached, then pulled up the ramp for fuel, ammunition and then be able to reenter the water for take off.

(Continued in a later email that day)

I made a effort to give my back ground but am not sure it was forwarded. So let me jump to when the 6th Defense Battlion landed on Midway in September 1941. We moved into tents and continue to improve our installation of equipment. Early on 7 December 1941 we were told of the attack on Pearl Harbor and moved to our equipment to protect it and establish under ground billets. This took a major effort, many sand bags to fill, barb wire to install with land mines. Admiral Nimitz arrived in May to see our readiness and it was decided to put a Search Light on top of the power plant, billet the operators on the bomb proof deck. The crew was selected from operating units until the new position 5 had eight, to ten Marines, I was one in charge of the generator. Now we needed a tower nearly as high as the power plant roof and big enough for the control station and two operators. So the crane needed to lift the Searchlight to the roof top was provided by civilian contractor and the needed tower was constructed by naval contractors. The tower needed telephones to G Battery CP and the Power Plant. A cable was connected from the Control Station to the Searchlight for remote control. Many more sand bags to enclose our living area on the bomb proof deck for protection and prevent light from showing. The control station had the high power binoculars mounted on it to give us good visual coverage, it helped us see the in coming enemy and give a actual count. This, I and Corporal Hippie did starting at 0300 on 4 June. We could see and hear our planes taking off. The high level, 10 or 12000 feet enemy bombers dropped bombs and we could see them coming down on us. Hit the fuel storage tank, just missed the tower but destroyed the new laundry building between us and the power plant and then the sea plane hanger.

About 0800 there was a quite period until our planes returned with the enemy shooting them down and we watched one of our pilots in a parachute being strafed by enemy planes. These planes were some distance from Sand Island going to Eastern Island and some of our anti aircraft guns could not fire for fear of killing our own pilots. We did see one enemy airplane about the same height as our tower follow the path of the bombs as if was making a report on the out come which might require more bomb effort. All the people in the bomb proof deck were not permitted to go up on the top deck until they were sure there would be no high level drops for some time. Until then they could only look out the window type opening. The top deck of the power plant was to high for any one to fall from and no one did while I was there in 1941-42 0r 43. So out one window you see the destroyed laundry building, next to it our tower (look closely and you will see the tops of our helmets).

I will end tonight and send another report tomorrow.

Sincerely John M.

From Colonel John F. Miniclier
September 18, 2018

The information I provided on September 14 did not read as well as I hoped, the top deck of the power plant was about thirty feet off the ground and YES people could fall from there but no one did fall off.

The WWII National Museum of New Orleans Published V...-MAIL, vol 33, spring 2018, page 06, I quote, : "a dedicated sailor John Ford joined the Navy months before Pearl Harbor. Ford was eager to get into the action. In May 1942, he accepted an assignment to Midway Atoll, and from the rooftop of the base power station, he and his crew filmed in Technicolor the Japanese attack that commence on June 4, 1942. Capturing scenes of roiling black smoke, fires, diving planes, and anti-aircraft fire amongst destruction on the base, Ford was at one point blown off the roof by a nearby bomb blast, the impact visible in the footage. He was wounded by shrapnel in his arm, but what he did with the hard-won combat footage next was truly remarkable: "

So let me recall what happened on 4 June 1942. Corporal Hippie and I went to our assigned position at about 0300. We were told, about 0530, the azimuth that the enemy air planes would take to bomb the atoll and this was confirmed after 0600 from a radar report. So we searched that area with our strong mounted binoculars on the control station and made a time note on the description of type enemy planes to expect, I still have that sheet, and it shows we were attacked at 0720 from about 32 planes in a V formation located over 10,000 feet high. They all released their bombs and we could see them falling, some hit the oil tank and started a fire with thick black smoke which poured out for the next few days. A few more hit on line with the smoke and I thought we would be next but it hit the new laundry building between our tower and the power plant, which it missed, then unto the Hanger which we could not see. Other enemy aircraft attacked East Island which was too far from our tower for us to see. We were in constant telephone contact with our Sergeant at the power plant bomb proof roof and G battery Command Post located under ground, which received reports from all five Search lights positions. All personal located on the bomb proof deck, including Commander Ford and his staff of one man, Jackie, had to stay in place until we got permission that it was safe to go on the upper roof. Right after the bombs were dropped a single Jap plane flew about the same elevation as our tower, along the line of the drop and our guess, he was making an evaluation of the results. Up to this point Ford could only take pictures from the window type openings. The best one they took showed the destroyed laundry building, our tower and the smoke of the distant burning tank. When they finally got a picture we could look at on 6 or 7 of June we notice that the American Flag can be seen in the smoke we followed the flag pole to the ground and you can make out a jeep with the two Marines and one Corps man that raised the Flag each day at 0800. So this picture had to be taken on 4 June 1942 at 0800 from a opening of the bomb proof deck. A lull in the action permitted people to make a evaluation of damage and personnel go to the top deck of the power plant. The bomb that destroyed the laundry had no real effect on the Power Plant but the concussion caused some small cement pieces to break off. A later search of that deck showed no shrapnel. When all hands were on the top deck, a Marine Don Drake, noted that Fords shirt had some blood on his sleeve of his shirt. Not a bad cut so Don said I will get a band aid. Ford said never mind I will go to sick bay later the next day. Looked to us that some one was hoping for a Purple Heart.

Time for this old man to fix supper so I will send this and send another note in a few days. At this point it would be nice to have a secretary.............John F. Miniclier

Editors Note: There is a personal note to Mr. Miniclier from his daughter that I choose not to print that is a little too personal to be put on the internet.  But just so you know what he is responding to one part says "they will use whichever version of the story they want to. As we know it won't be completely accurate. "

From Colonel John F. Miniclier
October 4, 2018

Yes, my point of view from a good memory. All the people I addressed it to, can do with it as they see fit. Tom Walla. CEO for BOM group is in contact with the powers for the movie effort so what happens, happens. My effort was to help them avoid errors which have been repeated many times and is now history. After one more report, it will be dropped, and if they want more they, will have to call. It has been a fun effort, as I sat before a old picture of the Power House and another showing the burning storage tank, with our tower in the fore ground and the top of my helmet shining.

Love to all from the 97 year OLD Man, John Miniclier

There are just a few things that should be read by the movie and the director to give all, the back ground, the preliminary phase from May 22, 1942, thru June 3, 4, 5, 6, 1942.


C O F I D E N T I A L JUNE 7, 1942
From: The Executive Officer.
To : The Commanding Officer, Mar. A. G. 22.
June 3, 4, 5, 6, 1942
With preliminary phase from MAY 22, 1942

Annex (A) Casualty Lists - Personnel.
Annex (B) Communications Report.
Annex (C) Radar Report.
Annex (D) Reports VMSB-241.
Annex (E) Reports VMF-221.

Lower Right, hand written 426 to 455

This report and ANNEXS Changed and greatly expanded my thoughts about Midway. Up until now my comments were about the TOWER I was in each day starting about 0330, either Corporal Hippie or I were on duty. When we needed a break one of us climbed down and one of the other 8 Marines took our place, there was room for only two people on top of the Tower. The view from the tower was restricted by the Sand Island Power Plant, so we could not see either the entre hanger, just a few blocks away or the lagoon and the PT boats. Eastern Island was to far for us to see or hear gun fire and engine noise. We could see airplanes in the sky, both taking off and landing. G battery CP gave us the azimuth to scan and we counted 32 enemy airplanes in formation at high altitude. at about 0720. This we reported to our section in the bomb proof deck and our Battery CP. No one was allowed to go up on the TOP deck including Ford and his one helper so they could not see this formation. About 0800, during a lull, a picture taken through the window of that bomb proof deck which shows The Flag in the smoke and at the base of the pole, a jeep with one corps man and two Marines that raised the flag each day. About 0820 we saw more planes and expected a attack but we determined it was our planes making a effort to return to Eastern Island while being pursued by the enemy and being shot down. Our Tower was located over a number miles from the take off and landing pattern for Eastern Island. Eastern Island, was not easy to get to. We were awary of PT boats in the lagoon but could not see them or hear them. Our unrestricted view from the tower was the azimuths from which the enemy was expected. When I, printed and read all the details shown in the above ANNEXs, I was amazed and still am. The TOWER I was in had only been exposed to the high altitude bombing of the 32 plane formation that we had reported. We watched the bombs fall and land, saw the tank of oil on fire, some bombs hit on a line we thought would wipe us out, missed and felt the concussion when the laundry was destroyed. No hits on the Sand Island power plant but the last bombs took out the sea plane hanger. A lull, which let the flag to be raised near 0800. About 0820 we thought a second attack was about to happen as we could see planes heading for Eastern Island and we determined that it was a mixture of our planes and enemy planes shooting down ours. Now, we saw a open parachute floating down, he looked alive but then watched as a ZERO shot him a number of times. We did not see, hear or watch any strafing on Sand Island. All planes, from eastern island, taking off and landing had a very short distance before crossing the reef to the ocean waves. Most shot down planes and the parachute landed beyond the reef. That was over a mile away from our tower so we needed our special binoculars mounted on our control station to see and report to the power plant, G Battery CP and island CP. About this time people, including Ford, were allowed to go to the top deck of the sand Island Power Plant. Fords report sounded like he used our report. The only good picture was the one through the window of destroyed laundry building, heavy smoke with Flag and jeep at flag base. We were on guard from May 22, until June 6. I think the action on Eastern Island was over looked by all writers and for sure by me. From the above appendix I determined there was about 100 airplanes on Eastern Island and most were used around the clock when needed. Fuel demands were beyond belief and with the loss of the Eastern Island Power plant, for a period, it had to be done by hand pumps. Work around the clock, as reported one truck driver did 60 hours and add places for all hands to eat and sleep. It looks like Sand Island had 12 PBY5, not included in total count. PBY5A, amphibians could set down on land so there was 16, at least PBY54, on Eastern Island. There is need to find an after action report Prepared and Signed by Admiral Nimitz, and one from each Midway Commander. There should be a Army report as detailed as the one here, for all B-17. As I believe there effort greatly contributed to the final Japanese withdrawal. The dedication of Flyers, the many different type of airplanes and continued attacks day and night, help there need to retreat. The final result help speed up radar use and inter service Control.

In passing, Admiral Ford could not see the end of the parachute shoot down, his pictures were all posed from a flag raising and the 50 caliber firing a week later.

End of my effort, there are many books written and I have read and own most, they too have errors. So at 97 I will once again claim to be the last 6th Defense Marine that sailed to Hawaii and got to Midway September 1941. I hope the new movie turns out to be big winner. JFM If you need more information, just ask, I will still be here!!!!!

Editors Note: Mr. Miniclier, Thank you again. I have forwarded your comments to the movie people. They have sent their appreciation for your contributions concerning Ford and what he saw vs what he reported as having seen. Now hopefully they get that into the movie and don't succumb to sensationalizing a myth.

So ends my email exchange between myself and a very gracious Colonel John F. Miniclier.  While I appreciated his candid accounts and corrections to the fictitious accounts that have filled pages of books and screen time we only succeeded in deflectiong some of it.  They did cut quite a bit out that was in the script as per Ford's account.  However they still chose to show Ford out in the open during the attack, 'getting wounded', and yelling "keep shooting" while laying on the ground.

Here is a page that has a picture of Ford on Midway with Mr. John Miniclier.

Ford on Midway

Here is the RoundTable Veteran page on Mr. John Miniclier

Colonel John Miniclier

1942 Lessons Learned or TTPs

From Ed Beakley
December 18, 2019

There are short but reasonable discussions of the various problems occurring in CV ops for the end of each of the four CV battles. Discussions about Eastern Solomans and Santa Cruz provide the various thoughts of the Captains and Admirals on Fighter Director capability, comms, coordinating (or not) strikes and defensive aspects of separating carriers and screens by x miles vs two carriers with one screen.

Short of one sentence in Polmar's book on a 2 carrier task force on one of the late '43 island/atoll attacks, I can find no refs to adaptation in tactics, techniques and procedures from the end of 42 through 43 related to the above. Writing is all on the Essex CV, Corsair, and Hellcat intros. (although Fighter Director issues do get discussed) While we all know what a difference industry brought forth, the problems of 42 could not all be solved without some discussion, analysis, etc. And indeed new stuff brings problems along with solutions.

Any thoughts or refs

From Barrett Tillman
December 18, 2019

Ed, one additional thought occurs to me:

Early-mid 80s I met Paul Mankin, the only USN noncommissioned ace. He flew from CV-3 and 6, and said the biggest difference he saw was speed of the elevators (also, there were three on CV6 v. two) A major factor in cycling the deck, especially with CAPs.

Undoubtedly there are BuAer and maybe BuShips documents about evolving requirements and doctrines but I've not seen any. Suspect that John Lundstrom would be The Man in that regard.


From Ed Beakley
December 18, 2019

Good input on elevators.

I've gone back through Lundstrom but he focuses on just fighters in the one book, but of note in Blackshoe Carrier Admiral he notes that when Fletcher went back to DC, no one was interested in his views and indeed he was never "debriefed" by anyone at any rank or position.

It would appear that the only lesson taken out of the Fleet Exercise program was MUST STRIKE FIRST and everything else be damned. IJN did coordinate but other than by chance US Navy never did. Reasonable to say I think "thereby Hornet" and probably Enterprise too.

From Barrett Tillman
December 18, 2019

Often lost in the discussion is that Kido Butain TRAINED LIKE IT FOUGHT including launch/assembly of tactical formations from multiple decks, usually 2-ship CarDivs I would imagine. In that regard I'd guess the USN was almost a year behind but of course soon caught and then some.

Ref. FJF being ignored: I should revisit Blackshoe Admiral but don't know when I'll have time. Wonder if the fact he was ignored did in fact have to do with color of footwear.


Regarding VF gunnery. I worked with Johannes Steinhoff on two symposia and discussed the subject with him. Asked why the Luftwaffe did not use the USN type overhead, which would've been effective against bombers. He said the advantages were known: bigger target to shoot at than on the horizontal, and very little return fire. But the GAF lacked the fuel and time to train enough Jagdfliegern in the technique. Those who mastered it (like Marseille) did so on their own.

JS was interested to learn that Jimmy Thach Himself thought if the GAF had used the overhead, daylight bombing could have ended in 1943, and of course it was a close run thing anyway.

Near as I can tell, the Finns were the only other air arm to train at wide-angle gunnery, which of course is what made the Weave so effective. An overhead pass on a target also required full deflection shooting, or nearly so, and that's why the USN/USMC were effective.


Editors Note:  One of the more puzzling aspects, at least to me, of the first year of the war was the fact that one man commanded three of the first four carrier battles of the war yet was for the most part ignored as far as his experience was concerned.  But one must remember, as I found out, that the Navy was divided between two factions by, as Barrett Tillman so eloquently put, the color of their shoes.  I found myself interested in how the US changed carrier operations during the war from it's pre-war ideas to such a formidable force by wars end.  So I did a lot of reading.

Fletcher was a product of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Kimmel having just lost his battle fleet had to choose a new senior flag officer. His two choices were Fletcher, non-aviator, and Fitch, aviator. He chose Fletcher much to the disgust of the brown shoes. In a way this makes sense. Kimmel was also a Black Shoe and so probably found it easy to choose another Black Shoe. Despite the success of some of the British carriers, against the German Bismark and the Italian fleet at Taranto something the Japanese apparently found quite interesting, the US Navy was still in the opinion, at least within the gun club, that the Battleship was still the Queen of the seas. It should have been readily apparent that if Pearl Harbor didn't squash that notion, then the loss of the Repulse and Prince of Wales 3 days later should have solidly buried. However it did not. And to a certain extent Kimmel was probably not the man to make that choice. But rank and such dictated otherwise. So Fletcher was in command and so fought the first carrier battle of the war.

Interestingly enough Fitch was also in the Battle of Coral Sea as commander of Task Force 17.5 consisting of the Yorktown and the Lexington and appointed as the Officer in Tactical Command by Fletcher. So even though Fletcher was in overall command, tactical operations were in the hands of Fitch. Fletcher for all that has been said about him did know who to put in what position. We obviously don't know if decisions were made or how they were during the battle except from the after action reports. As it was the loss of Lexington and then later the loss of Yorktown was becoming a weight that eventually would doom Fletcher.

So tactics of the carrier battles of 1942, especially the first two had some profound ramifications in both the US Navy and the Japanese Navy. Up until Midway the black shoes in both navies continued to believe in the power of the battleship. What Coral Sea only hinted at Midway firmly slammed the door shut. But what the two Navies took from the battles was completely opposite.

The Japanese lost 4 carriers and a lot of aircraft, but they still had most of the pre-war trained pilots from their 6 first line carriers. True they had been thinned by the losses at Coral Sea and most of Hiryu's pilots were lost and some of the replacements from the first 6 months of the war were not up to the same level as others. But still they still had a sizable highly trained air arm at least as far as pilots go. Trouble was they only had two first line carriers left. Still they doubled down on their operating procedures regrouping the fast carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku and Zuiho into one carrier force. They formed the second carrier group of Junyo and Hiyo. Both were slower and did not have the efficiency of a true first line carrier. But Japan had anticipated the need for more carriers so built the two liners with the idea of converting them to aircraft carriers pre-war so it was pretty much as they had planned anyway. They just didn't expect that there would not be more first line carriers in front of them so to speak.

The US on the other hand reacted completely different. King having read the reports from Midway concluded that the Japanese carriers operating together in one task force lead to the destruction of all four at Midway due to the fact that one strike group found all four at once and for the most part destroyed them. It was not quite that simple but one takes away from something what one wants to in some cases. At any rate he forbid the US from forming multi-carrier task forces after Midway. Instead each carrier would have one admiral in charge and its own escorts and would operate a significant distance from each other in order to avoid a like disaster the Japanese suffered.

And so it went for the rest of 1942 and probably led to the Enterprise being damage at Eastern Solomons and the loss of Hornet at Santa Cruz as the full Japanese strike force landed on both carriers in each battle while they only had their own fighters for protection rather than the combined fighter cover their own strikes encountered. After that the US simply didn't have enough carriers to worry about forming multi-carrier task forces, something that didn't really get resolved till nearly a year later. Much of the blame for the lag in developing better carrier tactics rest on some decisions made during 1942 by people who did not really understand air power at sea. But did the air admirals understand it much better. One must remember that Fitch, an aviator, was in tactical command at Coral Sea yet was out flanked by Shokaku and Zuikaku and only by the mistaken report from the Japanese scouts identifying and oiler and destroyer as a carrier and battleship did the US carriers survive. Many criticize Fletcher's performance at Midway for launching a scouting line to the North East in the morning and thus taking Yorktown out of position. However after leaving some things to Fitch a month previous he was not about to be outflanked again because his tactical commander did not 'think' to check his flanks before committing to battle. There are a long list of defeated commanders that suffered from that slight oversight.

Well I've babbled on long enough about this. If anyone wants to read a bit more on the subject I'd recommend a book called 'The Fast Carriers' by Clark G. Reynolds. Printed in 1968 it is a bit outdated by some declassified materials that were not available at the time. However it was the first book I found and read on the subject and has always been a favorite of mine. It does have a lot of information on how the US learned from and developed carrier tactics during the war.

Announcements and Questions

US Navy Training Film On Midway

From Barrett Tillman
December 1, 2019

1950 Midway analysis, Part 1 but no evidence of Part 2.

Midway Island aircraft reconnaissance and attack on the Hiryu

From Brock Howe
December 1, 2019

One question for the group: What was the role of the Midway Island aircraft during the afternoon reconnaissance and attack on the Hiryu? Even if they had significant bombing aircraft losses from the morning and the range from Midway was increasing through the day, their PBYs and B-17s had significant reconnaissance capabilities.

Editors Note:  The PBY's were originally ordered to search in the morning and then return to Pearl Harbor rather than Midway.  This was on account that nobody knew if Midway could still service them after the Japanese attack among other reasons.  Some did, but some returned.  The B-17's were hampered by the fact that the power station on Midway was hit so the refueling had to be done by hand.  I don't think the B-17's were serviced and launched in time to scout for the Hiryu.  The flight that found the Hiryu was launched by Yorktown.  10 SBD's led by Wallace Short located the Hiryu and alerted Fletcher who in turn alerted Spruance.

WWII Pilot, 99, To Fly Restored Warhawk

Editors Note:  Not exactly Midway related but we should all be so lucky at 99.

SBD gunner's view

From Barrett Tillman
December 2, 2019

From the CAG-11 documentary.  "Dauntless Dick and Daring Ose" is a short documentary featuring interviews with U.S. Navy Carrier Air Group 11 Veterans, Richard "Dick" Miralles and Ose Veesey from Scouting Squadron Eleven (VS-11/VB-21).

Comments on Midway Movie

From Barrett Tillman
December 2, 2019

From a local aviator, former airline and other venues.


From Larry Turner

As requested, I am forwarding Dick Murphy's article on the movie Midway.

Midway Movie review

Cheryl and I saw “Midway” and liked it albeit they missed several key significances. Ens. John C. Butler was not mentioned! Yet, he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross (flying the SBD ‘Dauntless’) for his combat heroics during this epic battle. This omission is more than puzzling given that Ens. Butler was not only awarded our country’s second highest award for valor, a destroyer escort (DDE-339) USS John C. Butler (and even an entire class of these ships) was named for him!

His brother, Bill, a good friend, was a WWII B-24 pilot. Bill & John Butler were raised in Buckeye, AZ. Their's was an aviation family. The Buckeye Airport is supposed to be named in honor of Ens. John C. Butler…? Yet, there is little reference to the Butler name on the charts (ForeFlight, etc.)… Below is it! Albeit, Ryan Reeves, made sure the KBXK airport website shows the Butler recognition. Arv put in a great deal of effort to get Ens. John C. Butler his much deserved recognition.

The movie showed Ens. George Gay in the water holding some flotsam over his head. This was accurate except for being so close to the Jap carrier. What was puzzling was that there was no mention of him and he was the SOLE survivor of the ‘Devastator’ torpedo squadron! I met George Gay several times when he was a TWA pilot. Nice fellow.

Barrett Tillman had some other observations of interest:

“Saw the movie--first one since Dunkirk which, even with 3 Spits, was dreadful.

The new Midway movie is cosmically better than the atrocious 1976 version with jets and a Forrestal class carrier. But there are many-many avoidable flaws. USS Yorktown hardly exists and Hornet is barely referenced. "The sole survivor" (who wasn't) is not introduced--he just appears, and his position a few hundred yards from the Japanese carriers is absurd. Despite GG's various versions, a simple time-distance formula shows they were below the horizon from his view when the SBDs rolled in.

I knew Dick Best well--the Brit actor caught his focused intensity but otherwise it's an insult. One of the finest naval officers of his era is portrayed as a hotdogging flyboy. His very experienced senior chief, Jim Murray (whom I also knew) is reduced to an indifferent newbie.”

Pearl Harbor Survivor and Battle of Midway veteran, Jack Holder, noted that there was no mention of the PBY’s (who located the Jap fleet) and the fact that the SBD’s didn’t fly around with their canopy open all the time…

From Barrett Tillman

Billy, I'd like to share your Butler comments with the Midway internet roundtable if I may.

I can understand why Butler was not mentioned in the movie because so many others fit his description: Navy Cross SBD aviators. But there are segments that contributed nothing and could've been used otherwise. The John Ford segment is Exhibit A; he's barely identified.

I had two encounters with Gay and found him a pompous self-promoter. At the Midway 50th event in DC he told an auditorium full of Midway vets and historians that he was The Sole Survivor of VT-8. Afterward I was sitting on the aisle when Bert Ernest (VT-8 TBF) saw me and said "I'd like you to meet my radioman." Feisty little guy stuck out his hand: "I'm Harry Farrier THE THIRD SOLE SURVIVOR OF TORPEDO 8!"


From Larry Turner

Sure Barrett, of course you are welcome to any of my stuff!

It is apparently left to you to set the record straight and HOPEFULLY write the John C. Butler story. Incidentally, there is a John C. Butler organization locally. I spoke to them once several years ago. Tom Alexander is the headman. Bill Buttler, John’s brother, was a member of this group. A really great bunch of vets who put together nice care packages to send to service member deployed to places where bad things happen a lot!

Dauntless Movie

From Barrett Tillman
December 3, 2019

I don't think we discussed this. Another E-centric version but the CGI appears somewhat better than the current hit.

Editors Note: We have mentioned it a couple times in the past.  It mixes a lot of history with some fiction to make a movie.  CGI seemed to be really good in some parts.  Not sure who did it but looks pretty good.

‘Midway’: Effective Bang-Bang-Boom-Boom - Taki's Magazine

From Barrett Tillman
December 3, 2019

Pretty smart review.

Several information questions

From William Longton
December 12, 2019

I just want to ask a few quick questions about (2) things I have not heard of hoping someone can help me.

1) What is the " forums"? Is this an accessible site now? Is the information stored and/or how is it accessed?

2) Barrett Tillman made reference to the "Naval History Magazine". How have I never heard of this before (I know you can't answer that), but how do I look it up or get a subscription to it?

Now for my real question. According to records, Lt James Muri's B-26 (mistakenly referred to as "Suzie-Q", when in fact it was called "Old 1391"....but that is a debate for another time) was bulldozed into Midway Lagoon off of Eastern Island after it crash landed upon his return following the battle. Several scuba diving expeditions into the lagoon have found other aircraft that crashed there over the years, but I have not heard if the B-26 was ever discovered. Does anyone know if it was ever found/discovered and/or salvaged? Additionally, his C/O Captain James Collins made it back after his B-26 attack, with the nose wheel collapsing upon landing. Does anyone know if his plane was repaired and he flew it back to Hawaii or did he and his crew return on a cargo/transport plane? If the latter, what happened to his B-26?

Bill Longton

Editors Note:  Naval History Magazine is published by the U.S, Naval Institute. If you have not heard of them I recommend them highly. They not only publish this fine magazine but also many many good books on Naval History.

If you don't want to subscribe to the magazine it is available in many news stands and book stores. I normally pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble each month. Probably should subscribe but gives me a reason to browse the other magazines on history in their section each month.

As for the, yes you can go there.

However it does not look like it's been updated since 2009 so probably an abandoned site.

As for the B-26 questions I really don't have an answer.  Someone that knows might chime in after I publish the next newsletter.