The Battle of Midway tooks its toll on our carrier fleet. In this article, my father looks at the History Channel's presentation of that battle in which he participated as a member of the Enterprise's crew. He's pictured here post-war with his pride and joy!
1. The facts as presented about the Yorktown are not quite correct. Yes the damage control people on all the ships deserve a lot of credit. You will see later on how they saved the Big "E". After the Yorktown was hit she took a port list of about 30 degrees and was on fire. A destroyer snuggled up on her Port quarter to assist in fighting the fire. A Jap submarine was ready for the kill. When they fired the torpedo hit the stern of the Destroyer. The destroyer had her armed depth charges in their racks on the stern also. The destroyer went down and when she did the depth charges went off and blew the bottom out of the Yorktown and abandon ship was ordered.
2. Yes, the flight deck has a layer of steel, not very thick, with the TEAK wood deck on top of it. I have a piece of the original planking of our ship. It is in about 3 inch squares in various lengths, much like a 2 X 2 but thicker. As a little story about it, the Admiral's Pantry was just below the flight deck. The Admiral had a Chinese Cook. On a crash landing on the flight deck a plane nose up and the prop penetrated the flight deck and was sticking thru into the pantry. I don't know what the Cook was saying but it was not complimentary and he was never in the area again during flight quarters.
3. Torpedo Planes. All the carrier squadrons started the war with the old, TBD's. (Torpedo Bomber built by Douglas) They were three man crews, Pilot, Radioman and a Gunner. After all of the squadrons were destroyed at Midway, all of the torpedo squadrons were equipped with TBF's(Torpedo Bombers by Grumman. Later on Martin helped build them and they were the same plane know as TBM's) They too were three man crews, pilot Turret Gunner (50 Cal) and a stinger gunner/radioman, which was in the belly just fwd of the tailwheel. (30 Cal). They were very large planes and the first one to land aboard went over the side. Crew was rescued. They had an enclosed bombbay where the torpedoes were hung, in lieu of the external racks on the old TBD's. The TBM's were with us thru the entire war and were often used as glide bombers on land targets. We lost all but 3 of our 18 TBD's at Midway. Torpedo 8 from the Hornet lost all 18 and I do not know how many the Yorktown lost.
3. Yes, dive bombing was hard on the old body at pull out. But I would like to point out that when we nosed over into the dive, the pilot opened the dive brakes, which were perforated flaps that split both above and below the trailing edge of the wings. They slowed us down a lot for more accurate bombing. Also we had the displacement gear which looked like a wishbone that the bomb was mounted on. When released it moved the bomb out beyond the prop which allowed for better bomb guidance. Whereas the Japs had to start their pull out to keep the bomb from going thru the prop. Our dive bombers thru the war up until the last year were SBD's (Scout Bombers by Douglas). The wings did not fold on them. Later the last year of the war they were slowly replaced by SB2C's, (Scout Bombers 2nd series by Curtis). The 2C's had folding wings. When I returned to the States I was in a 2C squadron and I did not like them near as well as the SBD's. No the rear seat gunners did not shoot their own tail assemblies off as there was an interrupter on the gun ring. They were twin 30's. I think early on there were some tails shot up and that brought on the interrupters.
4 . As for the Zero's chewing off our tails, it was usually a misjudgment of distance rather than deliberate. A few, when out of ammo did take the drastic action and yes they too crashed as you cannot chew off a tail and survive.
5. Like us when the Yorktown was lost the other two carriers in the task force had to land their aircraft. On the old straight away flight decks there were crash barriers, which consisted of a double cable on hydraulic stanchions that were brought up by the arresting gear crews and they were always up before a plane landed in case he missed all the arresting wires and these barrier cables would twist around the props to stop the crashing plane from going on forward into the already parked aircraft. But when it was necessary to land the extra squadrons, the air officer would direct the barriers not to be brought up, creating an extremely dangerous situation. It is obvious that none of us could operate with a large number of extra aircraft. So a Chief Aviation Machinist Mate would look over each plane landing and if it was pretty well shot up he would let the crew get out and then order the flight deck crews to push the damaged plane over the side. The Japs had a bigger problem, because ALL of their carriers were either sunk and too badly damaged to land aircraft. Their squadrons went into the ocean. There were life rafts in the water from both sides. Theirs was a rather pinkish color and ours were yellow. Quite a sight.
6. As far as I know the Japs never did find out until after the war that our people had cracked their code. That is another story for another day as to how that helped us at Midway.
Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
|Reviewed by Boots Dorfman
|Man, is this ever good stuff! I don't have cable, so I have no idea what inaccuracies were presented in their production, but what your write here jibes with everything I know about WWII in the Pacific Theatre. As a boy, I read "The Big E," the bio of the Enterprise from keel laying to scrap heap, so I know a little about this stuff.
Your note about the role of damage control is true as can be. I forget which battle it was, but at one point the Enterprise's rudder was jammed. To fix it, two guys had to get into a gear assembly box and labor like demons in confined space. As if that weren't bad enough, engine heat caused the temps in the box to go up over 140 degrees; the author's comment was that the men in the box were being cooked alive. But they fixed the damn thing, the Big E did not run over half a dozen other ships as it might have, and the day was saved.
I talked to one guy who served aboard the Hornet, from the Doolittle raid through her sinking at, I believe, Vera Cruz. Before the sinking, this old boy was literally slapping tape over holed wings on attack craft (providing of course there was on interior damage) so they could be sent back into combat without behaving erratically. God bless our mechanics (who often performed miracles in the middle of very confused and desperate circumstances) and God bless damage control parties. They, every bit as much as the actual combat warriors, win battles.
|Reviewed by John Martin
|I’m really enjoying your Dad’s accounts. There is something else I noticed about the “History“ channel, myself. They do tend to leave out a lot of important facts. I saw an hour special they did on George Washington. There was not a single mention of God, his faith in God, or his calling upon God as he did so many times in the revolution. With that big part of his life missing, none of it really seemed to add up.|
|Reviewed by Malcolm Watts (Reader)
|Thanks for sharing your father's memoir with us. Get him to sit down and write his WWII story from enlistment to discharge if he has not already done so. I got my uncle, who was in D-Day, to do this and now we have some amazing stories that would be lost now that he has passed. Enjoyed the story of Mid-Way. Malcolm Watts|