The Battle of Midway Roundtable
"Decision at Midway"
By Captain James S. Gray, Jr.,
This is not an official after-action
report, but it does give a detailed narration of the action of VF-6 at Midway on
the first day of the carrier battle.
It was written by James Gray, who as a lieutenant had been the squadron
C.O. during the BOM. He wrote it in
1963, over 20 years after the battle.
It was privately distributed rather than published, and the original copy
is held at the U.S. Naval Academy museum.
It’s been cited as a reference in notable histories of the battle, such
as The First Team (John Lundstrom, 1984) and A Glorious Page In Our
History (Robert Cressman et al, 1990).
The original document contained numerous spelling errors and is a bit difficult
to read due to its length and paragraph structure. This version has been edited to
correct the errors and to present it in a format that is easier to read on a web
page. Paragraph breaks have been
added where appropriate, and subheadings have been inserted by the editor in
order to separate Gray’s somewhat rambling narrative into logical segments. The editor has also inserted
numbered endnotes at key points where statements by Gray require correction or
comment. Beyond that, the words
that follow are exactly as written by Gray.
“Decision at Midway” in this format
(word-processed to a digital document, with spelling and punctuation
corrections, reformatted paragraphs, and inserted subheadings and endnotes) is
copyright 2009 by Ronald W. Russell, Lodi, California USA. Permission to copy and quote, in
whole or in part, is granted providing that
source citation is made to: “The
Battle of Midway Roundtable, http://www.midway42.org." For comment or inquiry to the editor,
1. “ONLY A FOOL
RUNS OUT OF GAS”
Among the records of varying historical importance which repose
in the United States Naval Academy Museum at Annapolis is "The War Record of
Fighting Squadron Six." This is a
diary type document in which the squadron's duty officers summed up each day's
activities during the seven months of World War II, on and subsequent to
December seventh 1941. Fighting Six
was embarked in the USS ENTERPRISE.
Since it was informally maintained and not a required item by the instructions
from higher authority then in effect, this document found its way to the museum
rather than to the national archives.
It is unfortunate that battle reports and messages in the record
do so little to explain the "why" of decisions or actions taken in the heat of
battle or under the yoke of great responsibility. Great men who played prominent parts
in the writing of history are able to recast the details in later years through
the publication of their memoirs.
Less important men who through circumstance made a small appearance upon one of
the great stages of history are less fortunate.
As commanding officer of Fighting Squadron Six at the Battle of Midway it
was my privilege to play a small part.
There were many, many factors which would seem to have absolutely
no bearing on the action of 4 June 1942 which served to influence decisions
taken on that day. Early training
in aviation, previous experiences in combat, the Battle of the Coral Sea less
than a month earlier were such factors.
It will presently become evident that it is appropriate to consider some
of these before reviewing in detail the part played by Fighting Six as escort to
the initial ENTERPRISE strike group at the Battle of Midway. Neither these nor the squadron's
"War Record" were considered by Morison, Bates or any of the other numerous
authors or students of the battle.
In his "Climax at Midway" Thaddeus Tuleja comes closer than most.
In his excellent book, “The Big E,” Commander Edward P. Stafford,
USN makes the following statements concerning the pre-launch activities in
ENTERPRISE and the initial action on 4 June 1942.
After breakfast Lindsey and Jim Gray held a conference. Gray's Wildcats were to fly cover
for Lindsey's Torpedo planes. Gray
would stay high to keep the altitude advantage he needed over the agile Zeros
and would dive to the attack on receipt of Lindsey's signal for assistance...
At 1110 Jim Gray caught sight of the enemy carriers. He looked
below him for the torpedo planes and saw the tiny wide winged wedges disappear
into a cloud, headed for the target.
This tactic, he remembered, had been used at Coral Sea where the
Devastators of the YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON had successfully used cloud cover in
making their approaches. The flight
of fighters armed their guns and flew on toward the enemy, awaiting Gene
Lindsey's call to action.
It never came...One after the other the Devastators slid,
cartwheeled, dived into the sea as fighters’ bullets found the engines or the
controls or the gas tanks or the pilots...
Gene Lindsey and his gunner died under the bullets of the
fighters or in the resulting stone wall collision with the sea...Jim Gray
circled with ten fighters five miles overhead.
Between the scattered clouds he could see the curling wakes and flashing
guns of a fleet under attack. Some,
at least, of the frantic radio transmissions made by the torpedo pilots must
have filtered into his radio, which was tuned to Lindsey's frequency. But he did not receive the
prearranged distress signal—and he had a dual responsibility. In a decision which has been a matter of bitter controversy with
naval (aviation) ever since, Gray elected to keep his fighters high, preserving
their altitude advantage, in order to cover McClusky's dive bombers in their
If there is "bitter controversy in Naval Aviation ever since,"
let it be known that the controversy is between those who know the facts of the
matter and those who don't. Suffice
to say, Captain George D. Murray, Commanding Officer, USS ENTERPRISE, and Lt.
Commander Wade McClusky, the air group commander, never questioned any decision
made by any of their flight commanders.
Later that year when he reported at Pensacola as Chief of Naval Air
Training, Vice Admiral Murray ordered the writer to serve as squadron commander
of the fighter training squadron there.
But this is ahead of our story.
Let us go back to Milwaukee County Airport in 1929, before it was known
as General Mitchell Field. It was
there that the writer learned to fly as a flight student under the late "Speed"
Holman (with whose Laird biplane he was first to win the Thompson Trophy Race
three times), the late Stan La Parle, and Frank Ernst (who now nears the senior
pilot position at Northwest Airlines if he doesn't already hold it). Part and parcel of the fundamentals
which these pioneers drove home to their students was "Only a fool runs out of
gas in an airplane." This was
stressed as forcefully as "don't lose flying speed." On navigation training flights at
Pensacola years later it was given the same weight. Over a fleet engagement still much
later at Midway these words were to play a part in my decision to remain at
altitude for reasons which will soon be apparent.
2. THE DASH FOUR
The introduction of the F4F-4 "Wildcat" into Fighting Six took
place after the Marcus Island raid in March, to the tune of howls of anguish
from the pilots due to the heaviness of the aircraft. This was in contrast to simultaneous
expressions of pleasure at having received for the first time a fully combat
ready fighter. Until April of 1942
we had fought in the F4F-3A which was without self-sealing tanks or armor plate. Thanks only to home-made armor
fashioned behind our seats from boiler plate obtained from the ENTERPRISE engine
room, had several of us returned safely from the Marshall strike in thoroughly
perforated airplanes. There we
learned that we were no match for the Zero in maneuverability. Thanks to their pulling up in front
of our guns after completing firing runs on us, we had been able to make some
kills against the Japanese.
We tried to improvise additional gasoline capacity since the
additional weight (nearly eight thousand pounds from the 7400 with which we flew
in a fully combat loaded "3A") seriously reduced our range. The record reads on 22 April 1942,
"Fighting Six is now working on a monstrosity to put more gas in an F4F-4. Okay if it weighed nothing full."
Our fears concerning fuel limitation were not without foundation. On 4 June, the day of the battle,
Machinist W. H. Warden (we had enlisted pilots in those days) landed in the
water out of gas although he had been airborne well under three hours on a
combat air patrol over ENTERPRISE which involved nothing more than circling
overhead. The escort fighters on
the initial strike had been airborne longer than Warden by the time they were
recovered at 1250 on the day of the battle.
That fuel was a major problem was further corroborated by the
fact that the Fighting Eight escort group under Lt. Commander S. G. "Pat"
Mitchell failed to head for home soon enough, and the entire flight landed in
the water out of fuel.
3. THE ROLE OF A
There is a factor concerning the proper use of fighters which is
appropriate here. On 7 December 7
1941, the following entry was made in the War Record.
No planes launched to attack the Japanese planes rendezvousing
over Barbers Point. At 0830 all
fighters were available, engines running and pilots in planes (fully
armed)...the order was given to launch the four plane combat air patrol and to
send the rest of the fighters down number one elevator. Maintained combat air patrol over
ship until sunset.
Since we were in the cockpits of our planes with radios turned
on, just south of Oahu, we could hear the frantic messages of men under mortal
attack as our aircraft, launched but a few minutes before, stumbled into the
middle of the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor with no warning of any kind. We knew that there were Japanese
aircraft to be countered and we wanted to go after them. Our skipper, Wade McClusky, asked
Captain Murray and Admiral Halsey to launch us for what we hoped would be a
field day. The admiral reminded us that these fighters were for the defense of
own fleet, and this is what they would be used for. We were bitter
and we had difficulty sharing the admiral's view, but history has
left no question that the admiral made the correct decision.
The following excerpts from the War Record indicate exactly how
unhappy we had been at not getting into action over Pearl:
22 December 1941.
Everyone seems to feel it's the war between the two yellow races. Wake was attacked this morning and
probably surrendered with SARATOGA but 700 miles away and us steaming around in
circles east of the 180th...
23 December 1941.
Wake is gone, Singapore, Hong Kong
and Manila are all seriously threatened.
We still haven't dared to stick our necks in to fight.
When we were over the Japanese fleet at Midway with ten aircraft
and the major slice of ENTERPRISE's protection, Admiral Halsey's advice that
these aircraft were meant primarily to defend the fleet added considerable
weight to its leader's belief that this unit must not run short of fuel.
4. COPING WITH
On May 28th we received a pilot aboard who had participated in
the Battle of the Coral Sea. We
spent many hours trying to learn in detail what had happened there. This pilot, Wileman by name, drove
home several points which greatly influenced our plan of action at Midway. Wileman told us that every time one
of our fighters had gotten off by himself and had tried to mix it up with the
Japanese Zeros, he was either lost or badly shot up. Dick Bull, one of my classmates at
Annapolis and at Pensacola (who was very experienced since he had been flying
privately before he entered the academy in 1932) was last seen alive chasing
after a pair of Zeros between the clouds.
It was the fighters and the dive bombers as they reached their push over
points which had taken the losses in the Coral Sea. The torpedo planes had flown using
cloud cover to make their attacks and returned practically unscathed. The LEXINGTON torpedo planes made
their attack on their target (which was later identified as the carrier SHOKAKU)
through a hole in the clouds.
5. AIR GROUP
Incident to our years of training together in Air Group Six1,
we had considered the proper tactics to attack a fleet. (In those days the turnover was very
slow in contrast to the present. My
tour in Fighting Six lasted over three years, or a year longer than any duty
assignment held in twenty-odd years of service since.) Without an external bomb load, the
fighter was considered almost useless against a major ship unless it could
strafe a carrier with a full deckload of aircraft. No bombs were carried by the
fighters at Midway.
Most of the ships of the Japanese fleet at Midway were screened
from us because they were under cloud.
Through thin patches we could occasionally see the wakes of some of the
ships, and the one carrier that we could see in the clear did not have planes on
deck. We could see no airborne
aircraft at all. Had the dive
bombers shown up before our gas remaining required that we return to ENTERPRISE,
we should have gone down for the purpose of spreading the A-A fire and to guard
their tails from any Zeros which might come in on them as they arrived at the
push-over point. On the sixth of
June we used this tactic successfully when Fighting Six strafed accompanying
destroyers as the dive bombers plastered a MOGAMI class cruiser. The pictures of the results compose
a large part of the small Battle of Midway photographic portfolio.
These then are some of the ingredients which played a part in our
actions of 4 June, 1942. May we now
consider the actual sequence of events as the vivid memories of over twenty
years are called upon to record them for the first time since the squadron
“Narrative of Events” (which is in the archives) was prepared by me as
The preliminaries of the battle are not reported correctly by
Commander Stafford. Gene Lindsey,
as he noted, had cracked up coming aboard when he flew out from Ford Island a
few days earlier to head for Midway.
He had been the first plane to land, and we were all seriously jolted
when we saw him go over the side as we circled waiting for our turn. Gene had made a slow approach and fell off in a stall as he came over
the ramp. He and his crew were
rescued, but he had been badly cut about the face and badly shaken up. He was left pretty much to himself
to rest and repair as we steamed to our date with history. My conference concerning the procedure to be followed in escorting
the torpedo planes was with Lieutenant Art Ely, the operations officer. Contrary to Commander Stafford's
statement in “The Big E,” I never saw Gene Lindsey from the time of his crack-up
until the Midway launch, save to mention in the mess how pleased we were of his
Art, and the exec, Lem Massey2, concurred that we should put the fighters high for the benefit
of the dive bombers since at the Coral Sea action it was pretty much proved that
U.S. fighters had to have altitude over the Zero to be of any use at all. The subject of possible cloud cover
never came up. Art was to say "Come
on down, Jim" in the event he thought he needed help.
6. THE EVE OF
There are enough war stories on the shelves to cover adequately
the pre-battle thoughts and actions of men who may not see another sunrise after
the next. Most of these were
written by men who lived this experience.
Still, we have yet to see one which could describe the activities of Air
Group Six on any "strike night" or the night before the Battle of Midway. These pilots were a keenly trained
collection of professionals who for the most part had spent a year or more
working together for just this chance to make a major score against the
There were no religious services so far as memory serves. We were too busy. Guns were loaded bullet by bullet with loving care. (Several of us lost out on sure
kills in previous actions when nothing happened as triggers were pressed.) Firing circuits were checked. No dirty airplanes ever flew from
ENTERPRISE in those days. Plane
captains took pride in keeping their aircraft gleaming and sleek. Many bought wax with their own money to outdo the others. Charts and plotting boards were
cleaned and prepared for the morning's data.
By the time all of the preliminaries were in hand, most were too
exhausted to do more than turn in and go quickly to sleep. It is doubtful that there were any
atheists in ENTERPRISE on the night of 3 June, 1942. The prayers which were routine from
all of us were a little more intense perhaps.
At breakfast the next day, the small talk was hardly different
from any other morning. “One eyed
sandwiches” were an ENTERPRISE favorite, and that's what most of us had (a slice
of toast holed to
accommodate an egg which is fried in butter therein until the
egg is “over medium”
and the toast golden brown).
Collins, the chief wardroom steward, was gifted in being able to keep a large
number of constantly starving aviators happy with his offerings of good food. If one of our wives could do the
“one eye” as well, we never identified her.
7. THE FOURTH OF
Until launch at ten o'clock3, the entire activity was
a repeat of the same things we'd done over a hundred times before. 4 June, 1942, was a warm, rather
damp, hazy day with considerable numbers of low cloud patches. The meteorological record undoubtedly reposes somewhere in
Washington, but there is no need to dig it out. After takeoff we made our standard rendezvous, and on getting over
the low cumulous it became a clear, beautiful day. Our group joined without difficulty
in five two-plane sections.
We started our long climb immediately on join up, getting about
half way to our desired altitude of about twenty two thousand feet by the time
the torpedo planes were formed. A
formation of TBDs (code for "Devastators") was seen at this time to be joined up
and headed for the enemy. Since
they were without fighter escort we took station over them and continued to
climb. We had a considerable speed
advantage so it was necessary to "S" turn back and forth, even in the climb, in
order to keep the torpedo planes in sight.
It was impossible to tell one torpedo outfit from another at
altitude so it actually turned out later that it was Torpedo Eight over which we
flew since they had fifteen planes in formation (Torpedo Six was able to get off
only fourteen) and they flew a bee line for the Japanese fleet. For a while we tried to cover
another outfit on diverging course, but it was too far behind us to continue. We learned later that Torpedo Six
made a considerable dog leg to the southwest, overshooting by an estimated fifty
miles then searching to the northwest and finally attacking toward the
northeast. This added three sides of a square to their approach path.4, 5 The foregoing
accounts for my not having heard anything from Ely. Our torpedo planes didn't arrive at
the target until well after we had reached the limit of our fuel safety margin
and were hightailing it for home.
We had little difficulty in following the torpedo planes below
us. The low scud was above them but
less than a quarter of the sky was overcast—until we arrived in the area where
we were expecting the Zeros to come diving out of the sun at any moment. As we neared our estimated time of
arrival in the vicinity of the fleet, we continued to S-turn as much to keep
from being ambushed as we did to see our torpedo planes. Then, as if in an answer to our
prayers, a huge area of solid overcast was noted ahead to the westward. Once the torpedo planes were safely
under that they could use the clouds for cover, and we could concentrate on
keeping the area sanitized for the dive bombers.
We watched the torpedo planes disappear under that solid sheet of
cloud, and at our altitude there was precious little we could do for them
thereafter. We maintained course
until LTJG J. C. "Jack" Kelley came on the air with "there they are at one
o'clock down, skipper." We thought
he meant aircraft, and aboard my plane the guns were recharged as an extra
precaution that the two dummy rounds with which each belt was led had been
worked out in favor of live rounds.
We could see the Japanese fleet.
8. OVER THE ENEMY
There is no question that all of us knew we were "on" in the world's center ring
that day. Seeing the white feathers
of ships’ wakes at high speed at the far edge of the overcast, and realizing
that there for the first time in plain sight were the Japanese who had been
knocking hell out of us for seven months was a sensation not many men know in a
lifetime. Our necks were working
overtime as our eyes searched every sector for McClusky and Co. and for the
highly respected Zeros.
For some time we had been flying a dead reckoning course since the torpedo
aircraft were no longer with us. We
closed the Jap fleet until just outside their anti-aircraft range—easily
determined by bursts which were let go at our flight for the purpose of
determining just this from their point of view.
entered a gentle left turn in order to try to spot the dive bombers. While in the turn the Zeros were
slaughtering our torpedo planes under the cloud layer beneath us. Our radios were working perfectly on this flight and it can be said
that Torpedo Eight went to glory with teeth clenched tightly and hands on
trigger and throttle. There wasn't
one peep from any of them during their run in.6 Jack Kelley later said he heard
someone mention Zeros, but that was it.
completed a few circles making trial radio calls to the group commander without
success. We were receiving the "YE"
signal from ENTERPRISE loud and clear, so we weren't the least bit concerned
with navigation. We tried to call
the ship to report our YE sector as an aid to the others, but our transmitters
wouldn't cover the distance. We
could hear the ENTERPRISE, but she couldn't hear us.7
attention went in a
routine manner to the gas gauge.
The jolt which one receives upon noting that from a completely unsuspected
source there is now a critical problem was mine at that moment. Fuel was at about half of what we
had been used to having at the completion of some two hours of flying. The problem now became one of
whether or not to make a strafing dive on the carrier which we could see clear
of the clouds. If the SBDs were to
arrive, mixing it up with the Zeros other than a firing pass was out of the
question. In a dogfight, throttles
are "two blocked" at full and propeller revolutions are at high R.P.M. Under this kind of demand, gasoline
disappears as though there is a hole in the tank. We simply were now without that
capability. YE is line of sight.
While we could hear ENTERPRISE at altitude we should lose it down low. These, too, were considerations
which were going through my mind as we circled.
Returning from the Marcus strike some months before, the writer
missed the ship by but a few miles because it was hidden in a rain squall. Only because Admiral Halsey broke
radio silence less than a thousand miles from Tokyo to bring me in did the Air
Group Six roster still include my name.
None of us cared to get that low on fuel ever again.
Since there would be no margin for error were we to get down low
at this distance, the sensible thing to do was to fuel, or so it seemed at the
time. After what seemed an eternity
waiting for the SBDs, we headed for ENTERPRISE and landed aboard just a few
minutes later since it was "down hill" all the way. We had been airborne about three
hours—some more, some less since the leader hit the deck at recovery time and
not everyone got aboard on the first pass.
9. “THERE WAS
VERY LITTLE THAT WE COULD HAVE DONE”
It wasn't until after sunset and our last combat air patrol was
on deck that we heard the details of the day's work (we all made at least three
flights that day). When news
reached us that the torpedo boys had been nearly wiped out, the shock was as
total as that which one could expect from a death in his immediate family. These were shipmates and dear
friends of many years. To lose so
many in a single day was devastating.
We were too tired and too busy to do more than feel the pang of an aching
heart. The Battle of Midway
continued through six June and Fighting Six was very much involved in the entire
Some weeks later we were headed for home aboard MOUNT VERNON. Ensign George H. Gay, Torpedo
Eight's only survivor, was aboard, and so naturally we asked him how the
Japanese could have been so successful when there was so much cloud cover about. He conceded that with fighter
tactics as we knew them, there was very little that we could have done between
the overcast at eight hundred feet and the water. It was through Gay that we learned
that Lt. Commander Waldron had led a "book" style attack on the Japanese,
deploying from a vee of vees to a line abreast, barreling in at full throttle
"on the deck." Unfortunately, full
throttle in the TBD wasn't too much over a hundred knots. This meant that the very
maneuverable Jap fighters had just enough room to make high side approaches,
picking off the single torpedo planes one at a time, for a grand slam. Gay admitted that had they remained
at cloud level, they probably could have gotten close in before being knocked
down, but with the torpedoes then in inventory the maximum drop altitude was
something under a hundred feet. One way or the other, since they had come down low to drop, our
torpedo planes had "bought it" that day.
It was at Midway that Jimmy Thach used the "Thach Weave," which
he had devised, to keep himself and his flight in business when he was under
fire by Zeros at low altitude. This consisted of keeping another plane or section in view off to one
side so that each could watch the tail of the other, and then weave over to
shoot off any violators. Jimmy and
Co. had all they could do to get out of there with their own necks, much less
help out with the torpedo planes.
His 'weave' was like today's angle deck carrier—so simple that all of us
wondered why we hadn't thought of it long before. Thanks to this tactic and with the
solidly built "brick out house" Grummans, the Zeros never again bested U.S. Navy
fighters in World War II.
Sunday morning quarterbacks are as active after a sea fight as
for any football game. Although the
C.O. and nearly every member of the squadron was decorated for his part in the
Battle of Midway, there were those who made it clear that they could have done
better. The foregoing is our story
and while it is unfortunate for us that the spotlight of history burned less
brightly in the actions before Midway and after—particularly in '44 and '45 when
we were knocking hell out of them—only with the benefit of
foresight equal to hindsight could we have acted more wisely than we did. Without question we should have
immediately pushed over to strafe Japanese ships by way of creating a diversion
to help our torpedo people. Since
we believed the Zeros to be at altitude up in our area, hunting for our dive
bombers, we had no inkling of the picture down below until
it was all over.
All of us feel deeply for the days of living which our shipmates missed and the
years of sadness which their loss brought to those dear to them.
At Pensacola we were too busy to have our thoughts anywhere but
to the future. At Barin Field we
would often do over two thousand hours of flying in a twenty four hour period. The squadron worked an "eight day
week" or every eighth day off. This
meant that the senior people never had a day off. Notwithstanding, thoughts did go
back to Midway and "If I had only known..."
The Navy needed fighter pilots and thousands of them in 1942-43. Training duty was Naval Aviation's
highest priority, with one exception: in December 1943 night fighter volunteers
were needed to stop Japanese fliers whose tactics had shifted to the darkness. As much to get some rest as to get
another shot at the ones who got away, the writer went back to ENTERPRISE and
tried his utmost to make payment in full for any debt he may have owed the
gallant torpedo pilots of the Battle of Midway.
1. Regarding “Air Group 6”: Here, Gray is using nomenclature
that became correct late in 1942, but actually is not accurate for the Battle of
Midway. At that time and before,
the air wing aboard Enterprise was known simply as the Enterprise
Air Group; frequently abbreviated as EAG.
For example, Wade McClusky was referred to as the CEAG. Gray wrote this document long after
the war, so he is simply remembering a familiar protocol that existed during its
latter half and beyond.
2. Gray does make a notable error
in this and the preceding paragraph.
He is remembering LT Art Ely and LCDR “Lem” Massey as the VT-6 operations
and executive officers, respectively, which was true before the BOM. But by the time of the battle,
Massey had become C.O. of VT-3 and Ely had advanced to X.O. of VT-6.
3. The ships of the U.S. task
forces maintained +10 time on their clocks, which applied to the Hawaiian zone. Midway actually lies in the +12 time
zone, so “ten o’clock” in Gray’s narrative is 0800 Midway time.
4. The statement that VT-6 “made a
considerable dog leg [turn] to the southwest” raises the question, “turn from
what?” Does Gray mean that VT-6
deviated southwest from its base course of 240 degrees true? Or is he saying that upon launch,
VT-6 headed southwest relative to his own initial base course (specifically,
that of VF-6 while tracking VT-8)?
If it’s the former, there’s nothing in the historical record that says VT-6 made
such a turn. In fact, the 50-mile overshoot and “three sided square” described
here more resembles the track of McClusky’s SBDs than that of VT-6.
5. If Gray is saying VT-6 headed
southwest upon launch relative to himself and therefore to VT-8, then the
Hornet air group (with VF-6 overhead) was obviously on a course that was not
southwesterly. That would have to
be 265 degrees true, the westbound track postulated by Bowen Weisheit in The
Last Flight of Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Junior, USNR.
6. This suggests that different
radio frequencies were used by the Hornet and Enterprise air
groups. Transmissions were heard
from Waldron by other Hornet airmen, at the time he broke away from the
group’s base course and during his run-in on the Japanese fleet. Then, Gray states above that
he did receive a transmission from VF-6 pilot LT(j.g.) Kelley, indicating that
Gray could receive on his own squadron or air group’s assigned tactical
The Enterprise actually heard at least three clear transmissions
from Gray, commencing at 0952.
Gray’s communication problems apparently were due to his aircraft’s radio
receiver rather than its transmitter, or to Gray’s operation of his receiver. Another possibility, however
unlikely, is that his aircraft transmitter was tuned to a frequency that
Enterprise was monitoring but which did not match the air group’s tactical
frequency. In any case, the fact
that Gray heard a good YE signal indicates he was easily within receiving range
of the Enterprise.
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