Roundtable Forum
Our 26th Year
February 2024

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
Sinking of the Hiryu
Importance of the battle of Midway
Patches to Yorktown at Midway
BOMRT Comments
Midway Aviators and MOH
Smoke Calculations
VT-3 attack
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Welcome to the February 2024 issue of the Battle of Midway RoundTable.

Action packed this month with a lot of submissions and discussions.

First up some additional information on the twin 30's from the SBD diving on Hiryu.  We also have another approach to the flight to nowhere and the smoke that Clay Fisher observed on his way to attack the Japanese fleet, Medal of Honor awards and more.  So lets get to it.

Have a seat and read the lastest issue.

Sinking of the Hiryu  See December issue

2024 February 13
From Paul Corio

Regarding the direction Dauntless back seaters faced during dive bombing runs, certainly most faced forward to watch the altimeter and call out the altitudes so the pilot could keep his eye glued to the bomb site and focus his attention on the target. But Scouting 6's Dusty Kleiss specifically told me that he literally had one eye on his bomb sight and the other eye on the altimeter during his attack dive so his gunner John Snowden could be fully devoted to being on the lookout for fighters while they were diving and when they were pulling out.

The sharp shooting Snowden, who Kleiss considered the best in the business, shot down several Zeros using this configuration during an attack at Kwajalein on February 1st 1942. At Midway, he flamed several more Zeros during attacks on Kaga and later on Hiryu, as I note in my forthcoming book "The Charge of the Devastators." Snowden dispatched at least one attacking fighter on their pullout after the Kaga attack and likely shot down a Zero on or shortly after pushover on their attack on Hiryu.

I believe there were a few other Dauntless crews who followed the procedure Kleiss and Snowden employed although I presently cannot find documentation confirming that.

As there were no Devastators to pull the enemy cap down to the deck during the afternoon attack on Hiryu, there were several gun fights going on at high altitude between Dauntless gunners and the attacking Zeros, some 12 of which swarmed the Enterprise and Yorktown dive bombers around the time of their pushovers.

How many (if any) gunners remained facing aft during the entirety of the dive I do not know, but Dick Best's gunner James Murray reported riding side saddle as they dove on Hiryu, holding his un-stowed gun with one hand and the equipment shelf with another as he fought to transition from shooting at the tailing Zeros on their pushover to facing forward so he could watch the altimeter and call out the altitudes.

13 February 2024
From Zsolt Szalanczi

I might be wrong, but I think there are even more issues with the model. The caption says the plane is a Yorktown refugee so the plane should be the one of Shumway, because the three other planes hitting Hiryu were from VS-6 and VB-6. According to my notices (Thanks to Mark Horan!) Shumway indeed had the plane with side number 13.

IIRC however, VB-3 planes had only numbers on the side. Just the VB-6 planes retained the mission letter "B" in front of the number. Also, I think the white LSO stripes are missing on the tail. Maybe you have more information on that.

warm regards,

Twin .30's too heavy?

26 February 2024
From William Longton

Referencing the model diorama of the SBD Dauntless dive bombing the Hiryu. I notice that the comment was made that this model representation is inaccurate because the twin .30's in the rear seat would be too heavy to deploy in a dive. Ordinarily, I would agree except that Walter Lord points out in "Incredible Victory" that just such a thing actually happened. On pg 176, he says,

"Machinist's Mate F.D. Adkins, the rear seatman in Ensign Pittman's plane, had a different adventure with his twin gun mount. It broke loose from its rack during Pittman's dive, but Adkins managed to grab and hang onto it. Then, as they pulled out, a Zero attacked. Steadying the gun on the fuselage, Adkins opened fire and somehow shot down the fighter. No one ever knew how he did it: the gun weighed 175 pounds, and he was a very slight young man who couldn't even lift the gun when they later got back to the Enterprise."

Now, as to the complete accuracy of Lords assertions, I am totally silent. He was a enormously popular author, and I respect his work. However, it is a widely known fact that in extreme situations a person's adreneline level can boost and their body is able to perform the physically impossible. So as I said, ordinarily I would agree with the assumption that "the gun was too heavy", it would seem that in at least ONE case, it did in fact happen.

None of that takes away from the model. It is beautiful, and I am properly jealous. I wish that I could do such a good job.

Importance of the battle of Midway  See December Issue

13 February 2024
From Sam Silberstein

First off, much thanks for this great issue.

I have a comment on what I believe is a glaring omission by many historians, you mention it in your response to Job's letter;

"At one point Enterprise, despite damage received at the Battle of Santa Cruz, was the only first line carrier left in the Pacific."

What about the Royal Navy carrier that augmented the USN Pacific Fleet? Seems this fact is hardly ever mentioned. When did she join and until when did she serve?


Glad you like the issue. The Victorious didn't actually get to Norfolk Naval yard until December 31, 1942 where she was upgraded with a lot of US equipment, such as 40mm AA, TBS, radar, etc. She also had to have her arrestor wires and gear upgraded to handle the TBF Avengers as they were considerably heavier than the Fairey Albacore . Victorious arrived at Pearl Harbor first part of March 1943 and after a couple months training with the new aircraft left for the South Pacific and arrived mid May 1943. She served with Saratoga till the end of July when she left to rejoin the British fleet. Saratoga and Victorious supported the invasion of New Georgia and despite staying on station for a month and despite several warnings that the Japanese fleet had sailed from Truk to interfere with the landings no carrier clash occurred. Shokaku and Zuikaku arrived at Truk on July 15th after repairs and the training of new pilots so the potential was there but the Japanese apparently decided against sending their only two fleet carriers to support an island they were probably going to lose anyway.

One interesting configuration occurred when the two carriers were operating together off New Georgia. It was found that the TBF was just too heavy for safe operations on Victorious. So Victorious transferred her Torpedo squadron to Saratoga and Saratoga transferred all but 12 fighters to Victorious. Victorious now operated only fighters and was responsible for the combat air patrol for the fleet. Saratoga was the strike carrier and only had enough fighters for her own defense should a naval battle happen. This meant she alone would send a strike should the Japanese fleet come down from Truk to engage. Not exactly sure how this would have worked out and if Victorious would have provided some fighter escort but it was an interesting experiment forced upon them by necessity. Also remember at this time the Hellcat was still not reaching the fleet so both Saratoga and Victorious still operated Wildcats (Martlet as the British called them).

Patches to Yorktown at Midway  See December Issue

13 February 2024
From Zsolt Szalanczi

two more thoughts re Yorktown: I remember only Lexington class CVs had flight deck from teak, all other carriers had Douglas fir (being much cheaper). As for colors, Yorktown wore the Measure 12 USN colors at Midway, Haze Gray was applied only above level of top superstructure, above main deck level the paint used was Ocean Grey. To my best knowledge also gun barrels were painted so, just the paint attrited and faded.


14 February 2024
From Barrett Tillman

I noted the reference to WW II parkerizing of some weapons. Joe Foss sold me the last pistol he carried on active duty (USAFR). It was 1944 production and had been parkerized in a postwar depot overhaul. Shot extremely well: put five rounds into two inches at 20 yards.

Here's the wiki entry in case any BOMers are interested.


BOMRT Comments

13 February 2024
From Chuck Wohlrab

I realize my comments are longish, but I read the newsletter today and was inspired to respond. I mostly offer readers a number of interesting web links for useful information on Midway.

YouTube and Midway

Source of information seldomly mentioned these days are YouTube videos. One must be careful, of course, as some YouTube videos can be quite misinformed. I have found a few sources who are quite reputable and thought I’d link some of their videos here.

First is a British Naval Historian who goes by the moniker Drachinifel. He does several types of naval history videos, including short (5 to 10 minute) ship profiles, longer productions on specific topics and a couple of weekly Q&A sessions where answers questions posted in chats for other videos. He can be searched by name, and it will take you to his channel. Examples are:

Ship Profile:

IJN Soryu and Hiryu

Longer video:

Diving on IJN Kaga and USS Yorktown (Sept 2023) (with Jon Parshall)

Another fellow runs a channel called WW2TV. His videos are mostly entitled 10 myths of… or 10 Facts about…

Here is his Midway video:

Warning, it’s a long video.

How I Became Hooked on the Battle of Midway!

The year was 1961. I was nine and had been allowed to get my first library card. I went to the library with my sister and was in awe of all the books. A book caught my eye, that had a somewhat lurid cover showing an Avenger making a torpedo run on a badly damaged and burning cruiser (yes, I know that didn't happen at Midway) but I took it off the shelf and opened it. There was an airplane silhouette marking the beginning of each chapter and I quickly recognized it as a Dauntless. I had been building model airplanes for two or three years at that point and had built three or four of the HAWK SBD Dauntless kits. It was my favorite airplane. The name of the book was The Battle of Midway, written by Irving Werstein. It was a juvenile history of the battle, and not very accurate, but I read it and wanted to know more. I was soon trolling the adult history section and found Pat Frank’s Rendezvous at Midway, Fuchida’s Midway, the Battle that Doomed Japan, Morison and others. Then, a few years later, I saw the Avalon Hill game The Battle of Midway at my local hobby shop! Since then, I never looked back. I found the BOMRT in the late 1990s and joined. Now I look forward to every issue of the newsletter!


For Jamie, I would recommend two websites:


NavSource Naval History - Photo Archive Main Index

Here you can find a photo record of nearly every US Navy vessel from the start of the New Navy in 1888. It is organized by type and hull number. Lots of good photos of Yorktown (CV5). By the way, it's just a guess, but it's likely the bomb damage was repaired with bare wood, as I doubt they would have the time to paint the patch, as it would have interfered with flight operations. I'd say any light wood color that is similar to pine or teak would work.

Secondly I’d recommend the Ship Camouflage Website:

Snyder & Short's - *THE* source for ship camouflage information

I found this site in the early 2000s when I got back into building model ships. I was working overseas, in the Middle East and had a lot of time on my hands.

If you look at the tab labeled US Warships camouflage on the website, you will find every camouflage measure (pattern and colors) for every US Navy Vessel in WWII. They also sell paints that are exact matches to the WWII colors in the camouflage measures. Prices are similar to those in hobby shops. For example, Yorktown was painted in Measure 12 in 1942, consisting of Sea Blue (5-S), Ocean Gray (5-O) with flight deck in Deck Blue. The description tells you the areas the paint was applied. By the way, Haze Gray is a post-WWII color now used by the USN.


Chuck Wohlrab

Midway Aviators and MOH

15 February 2024
From Tom Rychlik

Another great issue of the Roundtable. I particularly appreciate the conversations on the criteria for the Medal of Honor that have been sparked. I learned a lot from Mark Horan’s comments on Teddy Roosevelt’s valor and his MOH. I use his incredible book A Glorious Page in Our History extensively in my documents. Your emails with Job van Aaist are spot on. Your point that without Midway, Guadalcanal does not happen, when it did, is crucial in my estimation on which one was truly the turning point. If the Japanese had not lost Kido Butai at Midway and had sunk or damaged Hornet or Enterprise, even if they hadn’t been able take Midway, the number of US aircraft carriers in the Pacific would not have allowed a landing on Guadalcanal in August 1942. Saratoga was back but Wasp was still not available in June or July. If Guadalcanal is postponed and the Japanese have more time to complete their airfield, they would have had air control over the southern Solomons. I am not sure we would have been able to do much offensively until the first of the Essex Class carriers started to show up in 1943. The Japanese would also have had as many as four more aircraft carriers to continue their offensive strategy.

Here’s something else to add: Before the BOM President Roosevelt was under considerable pressure from Congress and the American people to avenge Pearl Harbor and devote more resources against Japan which would have significantly impacted the joint Allied “Germany First” strategy. If the US Navy had lost the BOM, it is very likely the resources to make landings in North Africa in 1942, Sicily and Italy in 1943, and France in 1944 would have been siphoned away to the Pacific, greatly delaying defeat of Hitler. Losing the BOM would likely have resulted in the loss of most, if not all, of our precious aircraft carriers and eventually the Midway airbase. Such losses would have exposed Hawaii to invasion and extended the war in the Pacific for at least a year or likely longer. Thus, making a landing at Guadalcanal in August 1942 impossible.

Apparently I did not attach my analysis of the Navy MOH statistics when I sent you my December 6, 2023 email. So I have attached it to this email. I have spreadsheets provided by the Medal of Honor Society that indicate of the 15 Navy MOH awarded for actions on December 7, 1942 11 were awarded or presented before the Battle of Midway and one was in the works and awarded in September 1942. The other three were awarded much later. None were aviators. Butch O’Hare received his on April 21, 1942 for his actions on February 20, 1942. John Powers (Aviator), Oscar Peterson, William Hall (Aviator), and Milton Rickett’s MOH for the Battle of the Coral Sea had been submitted but were not awarded until after Midway. John Bulkeley’s MOH for getting McArthur out of the Philippines was awarded in August of 1942, which was two months AFTER Douglas McArthur received his MOH for the unsuccessful defense of the Philippines.

In the October issue Barret Tillman opened the discussion on Midway Medals of Honor by asking the question what is Above and Beyond? He then pointed out the competition between the 5th AF and the 8th AF for Army aviation MOH. Apparently some folks believe that Wade McClusky deserved it for his actions at Midway. IMHO that recommendation fails on the issue of what McClusky did that was above and beyond. Others feel Dick Best also deserves the MOH. In the December issue I mentioned the letter I have from RAdm Leslie fully endorsing MOH for Waldron, Lindsey, and Massey. Allow me to quote an interview Daniel Rush had with Dick Best that I found on the Enterprise Association website. I think what Best says about who really won the battle of Midway speaks for itself:

“LCDR Richard "Dick" Best told me, "I have been blessed with a long and happy life, certainly lived longer than some expected." Best is a simple man, an unassuming hero who never brags or suffers from blown ego. To talk with him, it seems impossible that on a June day in 1942 he led a group of Dauntless dive bombers against the cream of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Best was a graduate of the Naval flight school in Pensacola, Florida in early 1939 and was assigned to the Black Rams in late 1940. At that time, the war in Europe raged and among the pilots in Enterprise there seemed to be an expectation, almost an assured feeling, that war would soon come to the United States. Pearl Harbor was an unexpected start, the news sending shock at first, then outright rage. My Great Uncle Ensign John Doherty (Daniel Rush’s uncle) also joined the Rams in 1940. Best remembered that like all the other pilots, John had a "Get the bastards" attitude. John was a good man, very obedient, dedicated, clean cut. He was serious on duty. Now off duty, he was just like the other young guys in the squadron. They all had their moments. His best one was when we were docked in Pearl in mid-'41. He got caught by shore patrol running nude out of the old Moanalua Hotel. It was the only problem I ever had out of him. After Pearl, he had a real go get the bastards attitude. He never swore in public, maintained a sharp uniform, and stopped to do the sign of the cross before slipping into his plane."

Best participated in the first of two strikes on February 1, 1942 against the Marshall Islands, including runs against the Japanese airfield on Maloelap. He remembers clearly, the moment of each squadron loss from Pearl Harbor to Midway. "I was in the ready room when they told me John had been lost. Every loss hurt, as it rightly should. Commander Hollingsworth wrote the citation and personal letter that got routed through the chain to John's parents back home. Later that night, Tony Schneider came by my stateroom with a personal letter that had to go through censorship channels. It was addressed to John's mother from Tony, telling her about his friendship with John and, well ... it was written well enough to get through intact." Best defines Midway: "It was the single, most enduring example of courage, bravery, and sacrifice ever shown by the US Navy." He is not short in the classic thinking that Midway was a win or lose by the hair battle with plenty of foul-ups, mistakes, misjudgments, confusion, and dumb luck to grant it historical value. Best led Bombing Six in attacking the lead carrier of the Japanese battle group, the Akagi, and was surprised by the picture-perfect conditions offered to him as his Dauntless rolled in for the bomb run. "Here we were, clear sky, fair seas, and below my sight was the Akagi. Her deck was painted a very light yellow and a huge red dot sat on the bow of the flight deck. That was my aim point, I set my hairs right on that meatball and let loose at around 1,800 feet. I pulled out and rolled over so close to that ship that the Japanese could have thrown a monkey wrench at me. The whole back end seemed to erupt in this big ball of smoke and fire." The Akagi did "erupt." Best and his pilots had caught her cold with tons of bombs and torpedoes carelessly left topside along with fueling carts and loaded attack planes. This "hell's casserole" instantly turned Akagi into a flaming wreck. Best gives both lasting credit and a deep sense of sad respect to the many torpedo plane crews who were killed at Midway. The most devastating losses came from the USS Hornet which lost all but one man of its attacking TBD squadron. "Those poor guys went in without fighter cover in planes that were no match for the Japanese. They could have waited but they chose to go in and they got mauled. Their acts of sacrifice lowered the Japanese guard, brought down the anti-aircraft and fighter cover from high angle to sea level and we came in and nailed them good. Those guys won Midway for us, they won it with their own lives."

I’d like to expound on Ron Russell’s comments in the October issue concerning MOH for the torpedo plane pilots. Waldron was not the only torpedo plane Commanding Officer, or even pilot, that knew they faced long odds to deliver a torpedo they all pretty much knew was useless. Think of that. They knew the things were terrible but they all flew in a close as they could get to deliver them! Massey’s was the only VT-6 torpedo out of 9 that actually worked properly and hit a ship at Kwajalein. Not only did the torpedo pilots know the torpedoes didn’t work, the dive bomber pilots knew it too. Dusty Kleiss recalled the July 25, 1941 combined Torpedo Six, Scouting Six practice attack where he was tasked to shadow the TBDs and drop smoke markers so the torpedoes could be recovered. He found it hard to track the torpedoes because none of them came close to the target, most veering off in the wrong direction, sinking or spinning in a circle. After he returned to the carrier an officer told him he was not to breathe a word of the failed torpedo tests to anyone. Then you have Dusty’s recount of how the pilots of VT-6 cursed their torpedoes after Kwajalein and his parting tears as he said goodbye to his friend Tom Eversole of VT-6 on June 4th. I have read countless accounts of the dive bomber pilots and I have never read one who was worried about his bomb not exploding if it hit an enemy ship!

Here are some things my research has yielded and is a part of my justification for all three men.

At one intelligence briefing given to Torpedo Three ARM3C Lloyd Childers was told “if only three TBDs out of your fifteen-plane squadron survive the run-in to deliver torpedoes, you will have accomplished your mission.” And this: “Retiring to his stateroom (the night of June 3, 1942) Lieutenant Commander Massey recruited a couple of nonflying officers from his squadron to join him. Producing a bottle of Scotch he told them how long the odds were against the squadron. When they went out tomorrow he didn’t see how they’d ever get back.” On the eve of the battle Lieutenant Commander Waldron also recommended his pilots tidy up their personal affairs and write a letter home to their families. He and most did. These are the acts of men who knew they were doomed.

Tom Rychlik

Medal of Honor Information

18 February 2024
From Tom Rychlik

David Rigby’s Wade McClusky

Believe it or not the Navy will not accept books, even based upon original sources, as sufficient documentation for my Medal of Honor efforts. So I will have to gather copies of original statements to prove my points. One piece of evidence I am desperately searching for is a statement from someone on the Enterprise who was the source of multiple reports in several books (to include Barrett’s) that Lieutenant Commanded Lindsey limped to his TBD and had to be helped on to it and into the cockpit on the morning of June 4th.

Because I have a number of documents to obtain I decided to do detail reads of some of other books I had purchased earlier in my effort to see if they provided any insight on where the original source documents are. One was Rigby’s book. It appears you helped him quite a bit as he cites you often. I am almost finished with it. Sadly it hasn’t provided much useful information to me but it is a good book and I am glad to have read it. I just checked the list of Book Reviews on the Roundtable and it isn’t listed. Has someone already done that? If so, I’ll stop before I go any further. I noticed my review of Carnage and Culture is not listed either so it could be that the website hasn’t been updated to reflect either book.


Mr. Rigby asked for my help on various parts of his book.  I was glad to provide him with any information or sources I could provide.  There were several that he had not heard of like the first person account McClusky wrote for the Avalon Hill game Midway.  And yes I need to update both the library and the book review section as many have been added in the past few years.  As I catch up on things I'll see what I can do to add the latest books and reviews.


Bill Vickrey papers

20 February 2024
From Tom Rychlik to the Midway Museum

I am a 1979 Graduate of the Naval Academy and served as a Marine Infantry Officer, retiring with 20 years’ service in 1998. Since I read Walter Lord’s Incredible Victory in 1968, I have been inspired by the bravery of the men of the three Navy Torpedo Squadrons at the Battle of Midway. Along the way I discovered the three Commanding Officers of these squadrons posthumously received the same award (Navy Cross) as 161 of the 162 pilots that attacked the Japanese aircraft carriers on the morning of June 4, 1942, yet their actions were clearly “above and beyond the call of duty” and they should have received the Congressional Medal of Honor (MOH).

Since I retired from active employment, I have dedicated myself to this effort. I have read every book on the battle, conducted extensive research on the actions of these men, and uncovered information unknown or not reported in the aftermath of the battle, and for many years after the battle.

I was told by Thom Walla of the Midway Roundtable that Bill Vickrey gave you some papers that might prove valuable to my efforts. Can I discuss this with someone?


20 February 2024
From Phil Eakin (Midway Museum)

What we refer to as the Vickrey collection consists of 17 banker's boxes of material, the cataloging of which is less than 10% complete at this point. It is likely to be quite some time before the entire collection is cataloged and we are prepared to respond to detailed inquiries. We can keep your contact details and let you know when cataloging is complete. In the meantime, should you or a designated representative be out in San Diego, you/they are welcome to make a Researcher appointment with our Curator and examine the collection contents on your own to see what might be of interest to your quest.

Phil Eakin
Library Volunteer

20 February 2024
From Tom Rychlik

Thank you for your quick response. That is a lot of material to go through! I appreciate your offer to make a Researcher appointment with your Curator. Unfortunately, I live in Virginia Beach. At this moment in time I have a few other options wrt hopefully obtaining the documents or statements I am looking for. However, if my other options in the near term are not fruitful, I may take you up on your kind offer. Having been stationed in San Diego three decades ago I well remember how beautiful it was in February. I have heard a great deal about your fine museum. Commander Lance Massey USN (Ret), the son of Lieutenant Commander Lance E Massey one of the three squadron Commanders, lives in San Diego and paying my respects to him is something I have on my “to do list” for some time. June will mark the 83rd anniversary of the Battle. I am sure the museum will have some ceremony associated with it.

My friend Charles Race has written a screenplay on the life of Lieutenant Commander John Waldron and he is marketing it. I told him I know where we could find a replica of a TBD Devastator to use in his movie!


Major Thomas Rychlik USMC (Ret)

Smoke Calculations

26 February 2024
From Tom Rychlik

Spending time figuring out which course the HAG group took is important to my efforts with trying to get the DOD/DON to relook at Waldron’s contributions to the battle and his award for reasons I can’t go into with you guys at this point in time but as this effort plays out I will be glad to share this with you if things play out the way I hope they will. I definitely don’t want to say anything on this topic for distribution on the website. That being said the attached document is something I would appreciate if you could post on the Roundtable. If Ron hadn’t done such a great job analyzing Fisher’s observations in 2007 and then posting that work on the Website in 2014 I wouldn’t have had the inspiration to examine it from a different perspective.

Please let me know if you think I missed something here or have questions.


Tom Rychlik

Here is a link to the June 2014 article by Ron Russell:  Clay Fisher and the smoke from Midway

The text of the attached document is below:

One of the things about this post is that for people who are really knowledgeable about the battle, the words I chose might make them feel like I am talking down to them. However, since this is a fairly technical post, I included information that less knowledgeable folks would need to understand it. I have found that striking the right balance between these two perspectives is hard to get right. You guys do it so well…..

All the pilots in the Ready Rooms onboard Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet were fed spotting reports via teletype between 0540 and 0552 that said: “Two Carriers and battleships bearing 320 (from Midway) distance 180 (miles from Midway) course 135 speed 25 (knots).” Assuming Kido Butai would maintain this course (roughly) into the wind and speed in order to close Midway and recover their strike aircraft, a projected intercept course could be calculated based upon the location of the Enterprise and Hornet when launch was complete. In response to the sighting report Admiral Fletcher signaled Admiral Spruance “Proceed southwesterly and attack enemy carriers when definitely located….” Task Force 16 then went to 25 knots and turned southwest to close the distance to the intercept point.

Spruance considered launching immediately, however Captain Browning, his Chief of Staff, convinced him to hold in order to get within range of the torpedo bombers. Browning calculated the launch could commence at 0700 and be completed at a point where TF16 would be 155 miles from the calculated intercept point, barely within torpedo plane range. After launch TF 16 would close the interception point to reduce distance for the returning aircraft.

Even though Hornet had no previous combat experience, and its flight deck crews much less practiced than Enterprise’s, Hornet’s launch was completed without complications whereas Enterprise’s was delayed. The Hornet Air Group (HAG) formed up and at 0746 departed for the enemy. There was a problem, however.

All pilots on Enterprise and Hornet calculated the closest interception point as being approximately 240 True based upon the sighting report. This was also the solution Lieutenant Commander Waldron calculated. Reporting to the Hornet’s bridge for last-minute instructions, he was told to fly course 265 by HAG Commander Ring. Objecting to this heading, Waldron attempted to get it changed to 240 but was overruled by Captain Mitscher. Either Ring had miscalculated the heading to the Japanese carriers or Ring/Mitscher had decided to disobey Fletcher/Spruance’s order to attack those specific two carriers and instead go after the two unreported carriers, which they thought may be trailing the leading two carriers Based upon the fact Ring had gotten the HAG lost during pre-deployment training in the Gulf of Mexico, he was not known for his navigational skills, so it was left to Waldron to figure out which was true.

Captain Mitscher’s after action report stated the HAG departed on a heading of 239. This was not challenged by any of the official Navy reports or the various books on the battle until 1982 when Bowen Weisheit investigated the loss of his friend Ensign Mark Kelly, who was a fighter pilot with the HAG. John Lundstrom first published Weisheit’s research in his groundbreaking book The First Team. Weisheit then published his book The Last Flight of Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Junior, USNR.

The Midway Roundtable examined these issues. In December 2021 Ron Russell wrote a thorough analysis of Weisheit’s recordings and transcripts that he had obtained from the Naval History and Heritage Command and provided links to these files on the website. One of the more interesting interviews was Weisheit’s interview with retired Rear Admiral Rodee who stated the HAG flew 260 or 265. In my humble opinion given the information in these files, the details of the conversation on the bridgewing as reported by Robert Mrazek in his Appendix 1 and the Sources pages of his book A Dawn Like Thunder, and Commander Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story book that stated the first group of Navy torpedo bombers attacked from the Northeast, it was pretty definite to me they had departed on course 265 and that Waldron had broken southwest. Something I have also not seen in any of the analysis is this: If the HAG had flown 240, and given the fact that VB-6, VS-6 and VT-6 definitely flew 240, it is interesting that none of the HAG ever saw another aircraft after they departed on the way out and none of the aircraft from the other air groups ever saw any of the HAG! Rodee also says that when they turned, they flew south for about 10 to 15 minutes before heading back due east, that they saw Midway smoking, but didn’t see any other airplanes. It is definitely true that if the HAG flew 265 out and roughly the reciprocal back, no other air group’s aircraft would have been in that area, hence no sightings would have been made.

In Ron Russell’s analysis the only support for Captain Mitscher’s heading of 239 came from Ensign Clay Fisher who had flown wing on Ring and said they had taken course 240 and he had seen smoke (from the burning fuel tanks on Midway) during a portion of the outbound flight. In June of 2014 Ron Russell published a very well-done chart that he had initially completed in 2007 but chose not to publish it for seven years published. He concluded:

“The conclusion is that, based on Fisher’s recollections regarding his view of the smoke and his elapsed flight time before seeing it, and assuming those recollections are accurate, course 240 d.t. is quite likely while course 265 d.t. does not seem possible. The one weakness in Fisher’s recollections is flying at 14,000 ft. instead of 20,000 ft. His closest approach to Midway appears to be about 160 to 170 miles at Point B. One can only conclude that Midway might have been visible at that altitude and distance, but at 20,000 ft. it seems likely that the smoke and perhaps Midway itself would indeed have been quite visible.

If one accepts that the smoke seen by Fisher was indeed from Midway's burning oil tank, then the only possible scenario that's consistent with his recollections is the HAG on course 240, with Fisher flying at 20,000 ft. That's the only set of facts that makes the smoke visible to the pilot at all three points (A, B, and C) of references: 8, 9, and 10 o'clock relative to his heading. Smoke could not possibly be visible at the 8 o'clock position on course 265 (D), which defaults one's conclusion to course 240.”

Ron used the well-known equation for calculating the distant horizon: Distance in Nautical miles equals the square root of 1.35 times Altitude in feet. Of course, cloud cover and other atmospheric conditions can also impact visibility, so this equation only works for optimal conditions. Fisher was unsure of his altitude, so Ron did the calculations at both 20,000 and 14,000 feet.

In my research I saw numerous sources that said the Hornet dive bombers flew at 19,000 feet and the VF8 fighters 2-3 thousand feet above them. So, I went with Lundstrom’s Page 334 and calculated maximum distances at 19,000 and 22,000 feet of 160.1 miles and 172.3 miles. Per Ron’s chart Point D is 207 miles away from Midway so at 19,000 feet Midway was 207-160.1= 46.9 miles too far away to see. However, the thing that Ron did not consider in his analysis was that Fisher was seeing the smoke from the burning fuel tanks and not Midway Island.

The distance equation can be inverted to calculate how far an observer on the ground can just see a column of smoke. The inverted equation is Altitude in Feet equals Distance squared divided by 1.35. Plugging in 46.9 miles the equation says that an observer on the ground can see a 1629 foot high column of smoke from 46.9 miles. So the combination of Fisher’s altitude and a minimum height of a smoke column of 1629 feet shows that Fisher could have seen this smoke at point D!

So how high would the column of smoke rise before dissipating? That is not easy to say because the strength of winds at various altitudes could disperse the smoke and must be considered. However, on page 142 of A Dawn Like Thunder Ensign Earnest recounts his return to Midway. His compass and other instruments were not working so he decided to climb. At four thousand feet he broke through his local cloud layer and to his relief sighted smoke to his southeast: Midway! Again, if you redo the calculations for Fisher’s altitude of 4000 feet (he does not say how high the smoke extended ABOVE 4000 feet) that produces a distance of 73 miles. Using the scale on Ron’s chart point E (the furthest point that Fisher could still see smoke) the distance to Midway is 237.8 miles. So, adding 160.1 to 73 equals 233.1 miles. If the smoke column was only 1972 feet and not 1629 feet and not even the 4000 as confirmed by Earnest, this could be seen at point E.

The final thing to consider is wind conditions. We know that the surface wind at TF16’s launch location was only 4 knots from 140. Tomonaga reported he had completed his attack on Midway at 0645. The HAG formed up and departed at 0742. Fisher’s point D was 90 minutes from 0742 or approximately 0912. At 4 knots between 0645 and 0912 the smoke from Midway could have traveled 11.27 miles closer to Point D if it doesn’t totally dissipate. Then you have the report from Tomonaga on page 145 of Shattered Sword that said the wind at 12000 feet as he approached Midway was 9 meters/sec (20.132 mph) from 090. This shows that the winds at 12000 feet were blowing west…basically along the track the HAG took on course 265. No one can be sure how high the column of smoke rose or traveled before it dissipated but these two data points provide an additional margin in support of these calculations which would not have been true if the winds had been coming from the opposite direction and blew the plume south.

The bottom line is that based upon Fisher’s altitude, the height of the smoke plume based upon Earnest’s story, and Tomonaga’s report, Fisher could have seen smoke on a departure course of 265 at points D and E, which corroborates eyewitness accounts and the consensus of historians that Mitscher and Ring did not order a departure course of 239-240.

Calculations based on Fisher Sightings

26 February 2024
From Ron Russell

Tom, good analysis and interesting conclusion at the end. My only caveat would be that my 2021 Weisheit Transcripts article includes a re-thinking of my earlier dissection of Clay Fisher's data that I now believe contains a key error. I had originally allowed that 240 (or 239) seemed plausible from Fisher's given details, but I subsequently realized that my estimate of his distance from Midway had been seriously underestimated and that smoke from Kido Butai's melee with Midway's bombers was far more likely, given his position at the time and the relative bearing of the smoke he saw. Here's the link in case anyone reading this hasn't seen it, and it's also on the website at: The Roundtable (tab) > Special Features > #10.

--Ron Russell

VT-3 attack

26 February 2024
From William Longton

I would like to bring something to the Roundtable that has had me perplexed for sometime now. Hopefully, someone can help me to understand it.

When Yorktown's air group attacked Kido Butai, they approached it from the ESE. Initially, they encountered Hiryu's combat air patrol, who was in turn engaged by Jimmy Thatch's fighter escort. Finding the Hiryu so well protected, Cdr Leslie and Cdr Massey moved on to attack Soryu. VT-3 was anhilated in the attack. Here is the confusing part. Akagi's Capt Aoki reported having to run away from torpedo planes coming up from the south, who sped passed his ship and moved on northward. Members of VB-6/VS-6 reported seeing torpedo planes in the vicinity of their targets as they were going into their dives. It is obvious that these torpedo planes must have been from VT-3 or VT-6 as by this time VT-8 had been obliterrated and VT-6 had concluded their attack. So, here is my question: who were these torpedo planes? Were they leftovers from VT-6 buzzing the area or were they break-offs from VT-3 who had come the 10-15 miles from Soryu down to Akagi before the dive bombers pushed over?


Announcements and Questions

Book Question

16 February 2024
From Ron Thorson

I've been with the Round Table 20+ years and many years ago there was a BOMRT forum issue that noted availability of a book from the Bowen P. Weisheit estate:

The Last Flight of Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Junior, USNR

Would you have any insight to any current availability? I do not know why my BOM reference library does not contain a copy of this; however, I would like to correct that! I understand it has been many years but thought BOMRT would be the most knowledgeable way to track it down. Thank you.


Ron Thorson
U.S. Navy (Retired)

This was a book published privately and is very hard to find. However on ocasion one is for sale on Amazon or other used book sellers. Expensive but normally you can't find a copy and if you do should grab it.