The Battle of Midway Roundtable
In the Tower on Sand Island
by Col. John F. Miniclier, USMC-Ret
written 2 October 2006
edited by Ronald Russell
I was a Marine PFC on Sand Island during the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942. My battle station was the searchlight control tower, next to the laundry building. The wooden tower was camouflaged with nets and was about 30 feet tall, making it the same height as the top deck of the power plant, where the searchlight was located. We lived on the bombproof deck in the power plant. Don Drake was with me there.
On the morning of June 4th, I climbed the tower with the NCO in charge, Corporal Randolph Hippe. We had our World War I type helmets (I still have mine, hanging on the wall at home). I carried the standard-issue 1903 Springfield rifle plus ammo.
The control tower had a good binocular, so we were able to spot the Japanese planes as they initially approached. I reported the sighting to our headquarters command post via the phone line. I still have my notes that I made on a card showing the type of planes that we identified.
We could see the bombs dropping and it looked as if we were in their path. One hit the fuel tank, and smoke from the burning tank is seen in most of the photos of the atoll during the battle. The next bomb hit the side of the laundry building, adjacent to the power plant. During this run by about 32 planes, the string of bombs went straight toward the seaplane hanger. One enemy plane flew by us at about the same height as the tower. I believe he was on a run to assess damage.
This action followed attacks on the Japanese aircraft by our own Marine fighters. At 85 years old, I don’t recall many of the details, but I do remember some of our planes going down as they approached Eastern Island, and I remember seeing Zeros strafe some of our pilots while they were hanging in their parachutes. I reported it to the HQ CP.
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Editor’s note: Miniclier may have observed the death by strafing of VMF-221 commander Major Floyd P. Parks. The incident was witnessed by others on Sand Island—see Miracle at Midway, pp. 203-204.
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