Midway 70 Years Later: First Person POVs

Through the years (!) I’ve been writing this blog, a number of first person POVs have crossed the (virtual) desk – either sent directly to me or serendipitously.   As a historian by avocation I find I much prefer the first person narrative because all the after action reports and analyses, while no doubt offering a clear(er) view of events are frequently too clinical and we lose sight of the necessary grit and dedication to engage in the fight; why principals and juniors acted the way they did, selected one course of action over another, and relate the confusion, chaos and compressed time that is combat.   The clinical and the corporeal – together they offer a fuller perspective of actions taken or passed and hopefully, lessons for the future.   Collected here today, for your reading pleasure are some of the notable ones:

Another view of the strike by land-based forces operating out of Midway.   The Fortresses went in high – in keeping with pre-war doctrine and practice and tried to ‘pickle barrel’ hits on the Japanese fleet.   All bombs missed.   The Marauders had a different plan and a different weapon, a torpedo, to attack the enemy.   With the same results.   Spectacular, but no hits despite claims to the contrary:

In November 1941, the 38th BG (stood up in January 1941) began accepting Marauders with plans underway to deploy to a South American location to conduct ASW patrols against the growing German U-boat menace. The attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December radically altered those plans and the 38th was tabbed to be equipped with the B-26B which had long-range tanks with a view towards operations in the Southwest Pacific. As part of the buildup of forces on Midway, two 38th BG aircraft from the 69th Bomb Squadron and two from the 22nd BG (18th Reconnaissance Squadron) were fitted with external torpedo brackets, tested and dispatched to Midway on the eve of battle. What follows is an extract from the diary of Charles Lowe ” an aerial photographer and B-26 tail gunner assigned to the 18th Recon Sqdn, 22nd BG.
— SJS “Flightdeck Friday Special — Midway & Marauders: A Shore-Based Strike POV” – 5 Jun 2011

Hornet’s Air Group Commander, Stanhope Ring’s view:

Early on the morning of 4 June we received word that the Japanese attacking force had been located and that initial attack on Midway had been made. Course from Hornet’s position to the enemy was plotted and immediate preparations made to launch the Air Group. It was decided to launch the entire group as a striking force and to adhere strictly to the doctrine of radio silence. VT Squadron 8 was to proceed at low level. VB-8, VS-8, accompanying fighters of VF-8 and the Group Commander were to proceed at high level (20,000 ft.). Nearly one and a half hours were consumed in Group rendezvous after launching. All airplanes maintained moderate altitude (below 5,000 ft) until after rendezvous of the Group was effected.
–SJS   “Midway: A First Person POV” – 4 Jun 2011

…and from Enterprise, Wade McClusky:

Written narratives and biographies are important and a primary research source.   However, when one has the opportunity to listen to a narrative, especially of one who was there and played a key role in a major event   ” that is even better.   Courtesy friend and contributor to this blog, LCDR George Walsh, USN-Ret, himself a dive bomber pilot from the Pacific theater (SB2C Helldiver) comes a clip of a radio interview with then RDML Wade McClusky, USN-Ret conducted on the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and a few short years before he left this life for greener pastures.
” SJS “Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV ” Wade McClusky


Also another VB-8 SBD pilot from Hornet’s Air Group:

Suddenly, “Pilots Man Your Planes” was announced. We all wished each other good luck as we left the ready room for the climb to the flight deck and our SBDs. (And by the way, climbing up and down the ship ladders many times a day will get you in great physical condition! Carriers didn’t have escalators in those days.) I met my R/G, Radioman First Class Canfield at our assigned SBD and went over our mission and recognition charts with him. I don’t know which particular aircraft (side number) we flew that day my only record of that went down with the Hornet at the Battle of Santa Cruz.” CAPT Roy P. Gee, USN-Ret: Midway Veteran”   – 4 Jan 2010

Back to Midway and the Marines – who, along with the Marauders and VT-8’s brand new TBF Avengers, suffered mightily at the hands of Japanese fighters and AA fire:

On release at 400 feet, I pulled out right over the cruiser and was headed for the center of the fleet. One turn to join on two buddies at 240 knots convinced me that was no place to circle; a Zero passed right behind as I whipped into a tight turn. Then, at course 140 º, I headed home, passing just behind a destroyer. I stayed below 50 feet for about 20 minutes, in a straight course, only luck making harmless the numerous passes made by the Zeros. My gunner later told me he was too busy shooting to even inform me of the situation, and I was too scared and ignorant to turn around and look.Following the major’s instructions, I flew a compass course of 140 º, not bothering to compensate for wind, variation, nor compass. At the appointed time of 0900 I sighted a lagoon which I took to be Midway and let down, made my recognition approach and was greeted by fire from a PT. I immediately left the area and regained altitude to continue on course. (Woe was me! That was Kure reef, just 50 miles west of home.)
Countdown to Midway: Marines at Midway” – 1 Jun 2009