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Monday, June 5, 2017

Fw: TheList 4471

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The List 4471


 
To All,
I hope you all had a great weekend.
Regards,
Skip
This Day In Naval History - June 5
 
1794 - First officers of the U.S. Navy under the Constitution are appointed. The first 6 captains appointed to superintend the construction of new ships were John Barry, Samuel Nicholson, Silas Talbot, Joshua Barney, Richard Dale, and Thomas Truxtun
 
1917 - First military unit sent to France, First Naval Aeronautical Detachment, reaches France on board USS Jupiter
 
1945: A typhoon hits while Task Group 38.1 and Task Group 30.8 are off the coast of Okinawa. Task Group 38.1 passes through the eye of the storm at 7 a.m. that morning. Hurricane force winds of 70 knots (80.5 miles per hour), with gusts up to 100 knots (115 per hour) damage almost every ship in the task groups.
 
 
Today in History June 5
1099
Members of the First Crusade witness an eclipse of the moon and interpret it as a sign they will recapture Jerusalem.
1568
Ferdinand, the Duke of Alba, crushes the Calvinist insurrection in Ghent.
1595
Henry IV's army defeats the Spanish at the Battle of Fontaine-Francaise.
1637
American settlers in New England massacre a Pequot Indian village.
1783
Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier make the first public balloon flight.
1794
The U.S. Congress prohibits citizens from serving in any foreign armed forces.
1827
Athens falls to Ottoman forces.
1851
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes the first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin in The National Era.
1856
U.S. Army troops in the Four creeks region of California, head back to quarters, officially ending the Tule River War. Fighting, however, will continue for a few more years.
1863
The Confederate raider CSS Alabama captures the Talisman in the Mid-Atlantic.
1872
The Republican National Convention, the first major political party convention to include blacks, commences.
1880
Wild woman of the west Myra Maybelle Shirley marries Sam Starr even though records show she was already married to Bruce Younger.
1900
British troops under Lord Roberts seize Pretoria from the Boers.
1940
The German army begins its offensive in Southern France.
1944
The first B-29 bombing raid strikes the Japanese rail line in Bangkok, Thailand.
1947
Secretary of State George C. Marshall outlines "The Marshall Plan," a program intended to assist European nations, including former enemies, to rebuild their economies.
1956
Premier Nikita Khrushchev denounces Josef Stalin to the Soviet Communist Party Congress.
1967
The Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan begins.
1968
Sirhan Sirhan shoots Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy after Kennedy's victory in the pivotal California primary election.
1973
Doris A. Davis becomes the first African-American woman to govern a city in a major metropolitan area when she is elected mayor of Compton, California.
2004
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan dies at age 93. Reagan was the 40th president of the United States.
 
 
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Thanks to Jon. This part of the battle is not very well known.
 
Marine Aviators at the Battle of Midway
 
By Mike Johnson
Early June, 1942
The Japanese Empire was at the height of its expansion. One last, insignificant possession of the United States remained to be cleared from the western Pacific Ocean. A mighty Japanese fleet was steaming to do battle and capture Midway. If things went truly well, the Japanese would lure the American fleet into a decisive naval engagement. There was little doubt, at least in Tokyo, that the numerically superior, better-equipped, and much more experienced Japanese fleet would be triumphant.
The Japanese fleet included four of the aircraft carriers that had performed so ably at Pearl Harbor: the Akagi, the Hiryu, the Kaga, and the Soryu. These were accompanied by two huge battleships: the Haruna and the Kirishima. They proceeded as an integrated battle group, their speed constrained by the top speed of the battleships. The time advantage conceded to the Americans would prove costly.
The Japanese had planned on all six carriers from the Pearl Harbor raid, but Shokaku had been badly damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May. Zuikaku, while not damaged herself, had lost most of her planes and pilots and been forced to return to Japan for refitting. The United States lost the carrier USS Lexington. The Japanese were forced to turn back from their planned invasion of Port Moresby, so the Battle of the Coral Sea was a strategic victory for the Americans. Material loses on both sides, while certainly not trivial, were not decisive.
The Japanese were seeking a decisive victory at Midway.
So were the Americans.
The U.S. forces were deployed in two Task Forces. TF16, under Rear Admiral Spruance, had two carriers, the USS Hornet and the USS Enterprise. TF17, under Rear Admiral Fletcher, had the carrier USS Yorktown.
The fleets were on converging courses to history.
Midway Defenses
The defenses at Midway were meager, cobbled together quickly at the outbreak of hostilities -- the perfect metaphor for the American lack of preparedness prior to WWII.
The defenses included:
•           Ground Assets - Sixth Marine Defense Battalion (reinforced).
•           Naval Assets - Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 1 (MTBRon 1) with eight PT
Boats.
•           Air Assets - Army Air Force - Seventh Army Air Force Detachment with four
B-26 Martin Marauders and 19 B-17 Flying Fortresses.
•           Air Assets - Marine - Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221 with 20 F2A-3
Brewster Buffalos and seven F4F-3 Grumman Wildcats) and Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241 with 11 SB2U-3 Vought Vindicators and 16
SBD-2 Douglas Dauntlesses).
The Marine aviators would carry the brunt of the early fighting. VMF-221 would attack the incoming Japanese aircraft, estimated at 108 planes, 36 level bombers, 36 dive bombers, and 36 fighters. VMSB-241 would attack the Japanese surface fleet.
Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 VMSB-241 was equipped with dive bombers,
11 SB2U-3 Vought Vindicators, and 16 SBD-2 Douglas Dauntlesses. The SBD-2s and ten of the squadron's pilots arrived on Midway on 26 May 1942. Many of the pilots were untrained in dive-bombing, some had never flown their new aircraft, and gasoline was in short supply. Pilot training was a key concern going into the action.
The Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator
The Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless
Maj. Lofton R. Henderson, the commanding officer of the VMSB-241 attack, divided his planes into two groups. He led the first group, comprising 16 SBD-2s. The second group, comprising 11 SB2U-3s, was led by Maj. Benjamin Norris. The planes would attack by glide-bombing because of the lack of training in dive-bombing. They took off at approximately 0630 hours on 4 June 1942. The SBD-2s attacked a Kaga-class carrier. The after-action report indicates that the carrier was hit three times and badly damaged.
Later damage assessment would show that the attack had resulted in near misses but no direct hits. The SB2U-3s attacked the battleship Haruna. As in the case of the carrier, there were near misses but no direct hits.
All of the personnel of VMSB-241 performed in the best tradition of the Marines. They flew against overwhelming odds and aggressively attacked.
Half of the aviators were killed, including Maj. Henderson and Maj. Norris.
Total casualties were approximately 70%.
Those of you who have read of the battles and sacrifices on Guadalcanal know of the central role played by the airfield Henderson Field, named after Maj. Lofton R. Henderson.
Marine Fighting Squadron 221
VMF-221 consisted of 20 F2A-3 Brewster Buffalos and seven F4F-3 Grumman Wildcats. The Brewster Buffalo was no match for the Japanese Zero and was being phased out in favor of the Grumman Wildcat. At the time of the battle, most of the squadron's planes were Buffalos. The squadron's pilots were experienced in peacetime, but they had no combat experience.
The Brewster F2A Buffalo
The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat
Maj. Floyd B. Parks divided VMF-221 into two flights. He led the first flight, comprising 12 Buffalos, directly to the incoming Japanese. One of the 12 developed mechanical problems and had to return to base. Only one of the remaining 11 Buffalos survived. Maj. Parks and eight other pilots died.
Capt. Kirk Armistead led the second flight, comprising eight Buffalos and seven Wildcats. The second flight lost an additional four pilots and planes.
The after-action report filed by Capt. Armistead shows that VMF-221 inflicted serious losses on the enemy. Capt. Armistead included the following tribute:
The F2A-3 is sadly out-classed in all respects by the Japanese 00 Fighters.
Although all pilots of this squadron were aware of this fact, they drove their attack home with daring and skill.
The Japanese air attack did not achieve its goals because of VMF-221 and the ground defenses, and a second attack had to be mounted. In the confusion, with fuel and ammunition on the flight decks, the Japanese carriers were extremely vulnerable to air attack. Enter the American carrier planes.
The Naval Battle
In any short treatment of a consequential and complex event, much detail must be omitted. This essay concentrates on the Marine aviators from the ground bases at Midway. The Navy aviators from the three American carriers were faced with similar difficulties to what the Marines endured. They were vastly outnumbered, with less experience and lesser performance aircraft.
They, like the Marines, attacked without question and with great courage.
It was the Navy aviators who got through and destroyed all four Japanese carriers.
The following is from remarks given by former Secretary of Defense James R.
Schlesinger at a Battle of Midway commemorative dinner on 5 June 2003Through an extraordinary combination of the skill and courage of our pilots, splendid intelligence, prudent risk-taking by our commanders that paid off, and sheer good luck, the apparently inferior American forces were victorious. This victory occurred despite the inferiority of our aircraft, the ineffectiveness of our torpedoes, the substantial absence of backup surface ships, and our overall numerical inferiority. You know the rest!
Four Japanese carriers had been sunk. It all confirmed the dictum of Otto von Bismarck: "the Lord God has special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America." The Japanese offensive had now been blunted. The Japanese fleet turned back toward the Home Islands and the opportunity for victory had been lost forever.
The cost was high. Each of the three American carriers lost about 50% of its aircraft. Hornet lost 32 planes and 37 aviators. Enterprise lost 32 planes and 51 aviators. Yorktown lost 31 planes and 23 aviators. Yorktown was badly damaged by enemy aircraft and later sunk by a submarine, with a significant loss of life.
In Memoriam
The Old Burying Yard at Kittery Point is idyllically situated on the rugged coast of Maine. It is a small cemetery, maybe two hundred graves, on a granite outcropping overlooking the entrance to the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and Portsmouth Harbor. Many of the monuments are set off with American flags, signifying veterans, such as the gravestone shown below:
The simple stone is the marker for the Alvord family: Henry, Margaret, and their son John. The ever-encroaching lichen partially covers the inscription "IN LOVING MEMORY."
John Robert Alvord was a United States Marine, a captain, an aviator, and a warrior. He flew Brewster Buffalo MF3 of VMF-221 and fought and died at the Battle of Midway.
Captain Alvord posthumously received the Navy Cross "for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession." The Navy Cross is the second-highest medal of valor, the highest being the Congressional Medal of Honor. Twenty-two other pilots of Captain Alvord's squadron also received the Navy Cross, mostly posthumously.
Each year between Memorial Day and 4 June, I take the short drive up the coast to Kittery Point and visit the Alvord memorial. It is a time of reflection, patriotism, and pride in honor of those brave men and women who have served and continue to serve. Thank you.
Mike Johnson is a concerned citizen, a small-government conservative, and a live-free-or-die resident of New Hampshire. E-mail mnosnhoj@comcast.net.
 
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Another interesting piece on the Battle of Midway that I had not heard of
thanks to Dale and J
 
Slick,
 
Great article by Norman on the Battle of Midway.  I happen to believe it
was the most important and significant battle in America's history, at
least equal to the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.
 
There is one widely accepted thought Norman puts forward which is wrong. 
It has to do with the breaking of the Japanese code and finding out that
"AF" was in fact the island of Midway.
 
The fleet N2 was CDR Joseph Rochefort, we know him as the somewhat intense
un-military sort played by Hal Holbrook in the movie Battle of Midway.
 
As outlined by ADM Layton in his book "And I was There," Rochefort knew for
certain the battle was for Midway Island, but the Washington establishment
said no, the battle was going to take place at Dutch Harbor in the
Aleutians.  Rochefort was also dressed down for having his people working
on the Japanese code which revealed AF was Midway, that code was the
property of those in D.C.  Rochefort was to have his code breakers spend
time on another code.  In order to prove to those higher-ups in D.C.
exactly where the battle was to take place, Rochefort concocted the scheme
of asking Midway to incllude in their Daily Intentions Message they were
having trouble with their water plant.  He also asked that fact be sent in
the clear.  The Japanese took the bait and  reported AF was having trouble
with it's water treatment plant.  The D.C. leaders had to acknowledge they
were wrong and the rest is history.  There was a small diversionary attack
on Dutch Harbor.  The Japanese hoped to pull our forces to the Aleutians
giving them free access to Midway.
 
There is a lot of similarity to the mind-set we now experience from D.C.
and that of WWII.  In other words - things haven't changed.  The failing
torpedoes is another "D.C. knows best" that cost numerous American lives
during WWII.
 
BTW, you would think that Rochefort, the man that made the call about the
Battle of Midway, would have been properly rewarded.  Not much is written
about him after the battle, but because he embarrassed the D.C.
establishment with his correct call, before the end of the War, he received
orders to D.C.,  given a small office in the basement of the Pentagon and
quietly retired immediately following the war.
 
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Thanks to Barrett. Some more Battle of Midway info
 
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Perhaps a different midway story...ens gay returned to midway
Thanks to ted -
 
 02 June 2017
 
Golden Pelicans
 
All the ceremonies surrounding the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway are kicking off today. The vast distances involved meant that the epic struggle would play out over a week. In the parlance of today's warfighters, the "battlespace had been shaped" by the codebreakers of Station Hypo, the information had been passed cogently to the Commander of the Fleet, Chester Nimitz by Intel chief Eddie Layton, forces had been allocated and deployed after heroic efforts by the military and civilian workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The haze-gray combat forces were moving to engage the enemy. The die was cast, and all the Spooks could do in their Dungeon under the 14th Naval District Headquarters was to wait, and hope their analysis had been right. 
 
The celebrations will start today. The Dungeon will be open to a select group of visitors, since it was a space controlled by the Bureau of Reactors and normally under tight control. I understand that is going to change, and that is for the best. Our pal Mac Showers would appreciate people being able to see where he sat under the watchful gaze of Joe Rochefort, and adjacent to retired submariner and pulp fiction writer Jasper Holmes, and a spitwad shot distance from Tommie Dyer, who had been working the Japanese code problem since the mid-1930s. 
 
The Navy knows the curse of distance, and hence the Department's major observation is going to be the largest of them, and not in Hawaii. The Chief of Naval Operations will travel to San Diego for a ceremony on the flight deck of my first warship- the ex-USS Midway ar her berth in that lovely harbor. All the brass is going to be there as well to commemorate the greatest maritime victory since Trafalgar. 
 
It is a little bittersweet. I had intended to be on a jet headed west around this time today, heading not for the Golden State but for the lovely isle of O'ahu to celebrate with my son, and the various ghosts I have acquired through the years. 
 
Some of them are anonymous, or at least unknown to me and my shipmates who shared the Haunted Bunk Room at the Dispensary and temporary morgue on Ford Island. And of course the one's I knew best over a decade of conversation at the bar of the Willow Restaurant. It now seems like a magical time in life. I even had tickets to be at the 70th anniversary with Mac and his family, but I wound up in the hospital instead with the firm admonition not to sit in one place for very long due to the risk of blood clots. 
 
So, be prepared over the next few days to celebrate history and courage. You know, the characteristics so common in ordinary Americans, and so rare here in the Nation's Swamp. I thought I would start the cycle with an account of a visit to Midway itself, and the remembrance of one of the heroes, the lone survivor of Torpedo Squadron EIGHT, Ensign George Gay. I met George once. He was a good guy, and I bought his book, not knowing the connection he had to Station HYPO- the perfect cover. 
 
More on that in the next few days. 
 
With the Golden Pelicans at Midway
 
(The crew of the PBY Catalina that sighted the Japanese fleet on the eve of the Battle of Midway).
 
My 92-year-old drinking buddy Mac was one of the last survivors, and considering the significance of the 70th anniversary of the great battle, and the fact that so few of the participants are left, Mac is going to take his family out there. My boss Jake has been asked to make a speech, along with Mikey, the Director of National Intelligence, who I worked for a couple times in his amazing career. 
 
Jake had an interesting story and he began to tell it as he wagged a  finger at Liz-with-an-S behind the bar for another glass of IPA. He had made one-star while on the USCINCPAC Staff, and was the "duty Admiral" one weekend when a special flight was laid on to scatter the ashes of ENS George Gay, (the "Sole Survivor of Torpedo EIGHT") from the CINC's dedicated P-3 Orion aircraft on the waves where the battle was fought so long ago. After he was shot down with the rest of his squadron, he spent an eventful day amid the burning Japanese fleet. It was Gay's colorful eyewitness account of the sinking of three IJN Carriers that electrified the nation on the cover of Life Magazine.
 
Of course, it wasn't completely true. Gay's story was useful in that it provided an alternative explanation to why Admiral Nimitz knew so much about the devastating results of the battle rather than disclosing that we were reading their messages. George had a colorful story that did not include the details of the vulnerability of the JN-25 coding system used by the Japanese.
 
I met ENS Gay at one of the big EAA fly-ins at Oshkosh years ago, and he signed a copy of his book about the battle for me, "Sole Survivor." He actually made LCDR before the war was over, and despite a follow-on career flying for Trans World Airways, he would always be "ENS Gay," the only one of thirty squadron mates to survive the battle. I wish I had known the real story and asked him to hear it direct from the horse's mouth.
 
Jake noticed two older gentlemen who were on the CINC's plane. For the life of him, he said he could not recall their names, but the event of the day were interesting. A stone was dedicated at Midway, and a harrowing event followed on a long flight 700 miles to the west as an aircrewman attempted to deposit ENS Gay out the hatch. He asked me to check out the identities of the two older men- he thought they might have been the pilot and co-pilot of the PBY whose contact with the Japanese provided plausible cover for the JN-25 intercepts that enabled Mac and station HYPO to offer Chester Nimitz the chance to bushwhack the Japanese.
 
The flight Jake was on covered the thousand nautical miles to the northwest of O'ahu. Midway, outer rampart of the Hawaiian Island chain, had been recognized to be strategic as early as 1867 when the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, directed that Brooks Island, as it was then known, be claimed and surveyed for the United States. In 1869, Congress appropriated $50,000 for dredging an entrance channel to the lagoon. Over time, the atoll became a relay station for the trans-Pacific cable that linked the American colony of the Philippines to the Mainland.
 
Pan Am used the lagoon for a refueling station, and created a modest R&R and hotel facility in Mid-Pac. Pan Am was a great institution. I am sorry it is gone, though we saw remnants of their Pacific operations all over in our various deployments, including the ones in the Navy housing Area at Pearl City on Oahu. I bought a copy of "Shattered Sword," the latest in the long series of the history of the battle by Parshall and Tully, using extensive Japanese sources to re-familiarize myself with the details..
 
I personally found "Joe Rochefort's War" by Elliott Carlson published later to be much more approachable and human scale- and of course I feel like I almost know him from the stories from Mac.
 
Anyway, there are remarks to be drafted and stories to be told, so I thought I would take a whirl through the fight and get oriented so I could ask some pertinent questions to Mac, who was still alive and sitting at the Willow Bar, since he lived the experience.
 
By 1942, Midway had become the front line of the expanding area of the Japanese-controlled Pacific Ocean. Wake island, the next of the strong of pearls across the broad blue waves, was a thousand nautical miles to the WSW. It was occupied by the Imperial Army in the opening days of the Pacific conflict, the Navy and Marine Garrison fighting hard before surrendering to  overwhelming force.
 
The American spine had stiffened in the months of reeling defeat since the attack on Pearl- and the work of Station Hypo contributed to the ability to put maximum fire-power at the point of attack. The fight at Coral Sea was inconclusive, but shored up the route of the vital re-supply lines to Australia.
 
In May 1942, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was prepared to shift his offensive operations north and east from Coral Sea and knock out the USN once and for all.
 
His staff devised an intricate plan called Operation MI, to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet by attacking Midway. Using Midway as bait and gathering a vast naval armada of eight aircraft carriers, 11 battleships, 23 cruisers, 65 destroyers and several hundred fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, Yamamoto planned to crush the Pacific Fleet once and for all.
 
He would ambush the mauled American Fleet at Midway Island, and then secure a base for land-based aviation to regularly strike Pearl Harbor.
 
Alerted by his code-breakers that the Japanese planned to seize Midway, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief, Pacific Command, flew to the atoll on May 2, 1942, to make a personal inspection. He wanted to size up the defensive posture and the character of his Navy and Marine commanders on scene. Commander Cyril T. Simard, USN, was the air component commander, and Lt. Col. Harold D. Shannon was the Marine ground commander.
 
They gave the Admiral the grand tour.
 
Following his personal inspection, Nimitz took Simard and Shannon aside and asked them what they needed to defend Midway. They told him their requirements.
 
"If I get you all these things, can you hold Midway against a major amphibious assault?" Nimitz asked the two officers. "Yes, sir!" Shannon replied. 
 
It was good enough for Nimitz, who returned to Oahu. On May 20, Shannon and Simard received a letter from Admiral Nimitz, praising their fine work and promoting them to captain and full colonel, respectively. Then Nimitz informed them that the Japanese were planning to attack Midway on May 28; he outlined the Japanese strategy and promised all possible aid.
 
There were issues in the massive build-up. On May 22, a sailor accidentally set off a demolition charge under Midway's fuel farm. The explosion destroyed 400,000 gallons of aviation fuel, and also damaged the distribution system, forcing the defenders to refuel planes by hand from 55-gallon drums.
 
All the while the Marines continued digging gun emplacements, laying sandbags and preparing shelters on both islands.
 
Barbed wire sprouted along Midway's coral beaches. Shannon believed that it would stop the Japanese as it had stopped the Germans in World War I. He ordered so much strung that one Marine exclaimed: "Barbed wire, barbed wire! Cripes, the old man thinks we can stop planes with barbed wire!" The defenders also had a large supply of blasting gelatin, which was used to make anti-boat mines and booby traps.
 
On May 25, while the work continued, Shannon and Simard got some good news, courtesy of Joe Rochefort's band of code-breakers at Station Hypo. The Japanese attack would come between June 3 and 5, giving them another week to prepare.
 
That same day, the light cruiser St. Louis arrived, to deliver an eight-gun, 37mm anti-aircraft battery from the Marine 3rd Defense Battalion and two rifle companies from the 2nd Raider Battalion. Beginning on May 30, Midway's planes began searching for the Japanese. Twenty-two PBYs from Lt. Cmdr. Robert Brixner's Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44) and Commander Massie Hughes' VP-23 took off from Midway lagoon, then headed out in an arc stretching 700 miles from Midway in search of the main body of the invasion force.
(Midway Island- actually three small islands in a middling-large lagoon. Now administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the island was a key mid-Pacific naval bastion for a century. Our pal Sam Cox actually owns all the military stuff on the islands as Director of Naval History and Heritage. He told me he was going to be there this week, and I envy him.)
 
By June 1, both Sand and Eastern islands were ringed with coastal defenses. Six 5-inch guns, 22 3-inch guns and four old Navy 7-inch guns were placed along the coasts of both islands for use as anti-aircraft and anti-boat guns. As many as 1,500 mines and booby traps were laid underwater and along the beaches. Ammunition dumps were placed all around the islands, along with caches of food for pockets of resistance and an emergency supply of 250 55-gallon gasoline drums.
 
Six new Grumman TBF torpedo bombers arrived on the island that day, commanded by Lieutenant Langdon K. Fieberling. None of the TBF pilots had ever been in combat, and only a few had ever flown out of sight of land before. The TBF would later be named Avenger in honor of its combat introduction at Midway
 
Midway had practically everything it needed for its defense. Along with the 121 aircraft crowding Eastern Island's runways, Midway had 11 PT-boats in the lagoon to assist the ground forces with anti-aircraft fire. A yacht and four converted tuna boats stood by for rescue operations, and 19 submarines guarded Midway's approaches.
(CAPT Jack Reid, USN-Ret.)
 
On June 3rd, 1942, a VP-44 Consolidated PBY commanded by ENS. "Jack" Reid, was assigned sector search west by southwest, which was in the general area for a possible encounter with the IJN twin- engine"Betty" bombers that flew out of captured Wake Island. The crew hoped for an encounter with one of the Japanese aircraft. The night before one of the crew members had traded some beer for five new explosive .50 caliber shells from a B-17 crew. 
 
The ordnancemen on the crew had loaded them on the port waist gun.
 
The flight came to the end of their outbound 600 mile leg with no sightings. The crew urged Jack Reid to go further to see if they couldn't make contact with a "Betty." Jack checked with navigator Bob Swan and was assured that they still had plenty of fuel to go another 20 or 30 minutes on the present course. Jack agreed to the plan and told Bob," just give me as heading when we get to the end of the time limit."
 
The flight continued on for the allotted time and as Bob was about to give Jack the new heading for the dogleg and at that instant Jack spotted specks on the horizon. He gave the binoculars to the second pilot Gerald Hardeman saying: "Are those ships? I think we've hit the jackpot." 
 
Hardemen concurred.  Moments later John Gammell, in the nose turret, sang out "Ships dead ahead, about 30 miles dead ahead." a radio message was immediately sent to Pearl Harbor saying, "Sighted main body", minutes later, a second message, "Bearing 262, distance 700 miles."
 
Nimitz' headquarters at Pearl Harbor and Fletcher's carriers also received Reid's "Main Body" message. Since they expected Nagumo to be coming from the northwest, not west/southwest, this message briefly posed a problem. But Nimitz stuck with his intelligence forecast, and radioed back to the carriers "The force sighted is not, repeat not, the Main Body."
 
That is the essence of this story, the necessity of covering the vulnerability of the codes with plausible deniability.
 
Jack Reid scouted the force for another two hours, not knowing which part of the elephant of the huge Japanese formation he was observing. He kept the Catalina at low altitudes and came up from different positions, counting the sightings at each one and radioing the results. The long wakes in the ocean from the armada led him to either port or starboard of the ships. He knew full well, if detected, they would be hit by swarming Zero-sen fighters.
 
The force Jack's crew had sighted consisted of 17ships, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and transports headed for Midway. It was not the target that Joe Rochefort predicted carried the largest threat to the island- the fast carriers.
 
Commander Robert A. Swan, of Santa Rosa, California, was the navigator on 44-P-4. He always had a familiar smile, with a personality to match.  A Naval Reserve PBY pilot in 1942, Bob was the navigator on Jack Reid's Catalina.
 
44-P-4 landed back at Midway with little fuel to spare, and one of the two massive engines sputtered out after they landed in the lagoon. When asked why they were able to stay aloft for an additional 3 hours, Bob replied, "Raymond Derouin (the plane captain) has three dependents-a wife and two daughters. He always puts in an extra 50 gallons for each one."
 
Bob continued in patrol aircraft for the remainder of the war and stayed in the Naval Reserve after its conclusion, retiring as a commander. 
 
VP-44's greatest contribution to victory had been made, but the battle was only now being joined. On June 4, Reid and Hardeman flew more than 14 hours, again providing important contact reports. Indeed, he had become an important set of "eyes" for the US Fleet. His PBY was attacked by Zeros and by AAA on a Japanese cruiser, but Jack got his aircraft and crew to safety up in the clouds. Later he landed in the lagoon at Midway, and as he taxied toward Sand Island, one of his engines sputtered out for lack of fuel. Nonetheless, he was up and flying the next day, searching the Pacific for lost pilots and crews.
 
Jack Reid stayed in the Navy after the war and retired with more than 30 years services as a Captain, setting up his home in Aptos, CA.
 
The last members of 44-P-4 have passed on. Jake got a chance to meet them, and shoot the shit in the plane on the long flight west. I wish I had the chance, but you have to take what you can get. I still think about ENS Gay, and his card table at the Oshkosh Air Show, and the way he returned to the Battle of Midway from the back of the CINC's plane.
 (Battle of Midway National Memorial on the atoll).
 
On September 13, 2000, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt designated the lands and waters of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial, "so that the heroic courage and sacrifice of those who fought against overwhelming odds to win an incredible victory will never be forgotten."
 
The monument reads, in part: "They had no right to win. Yet they did, and in doing so, changed the course of a war."
 
This is the first National Memorial to be designated on a National Wildlife Refuge.
 
Numerous historic sites portraying man's history on the islands since the early 1900's are protected by the Fish and Wildlife Service, including several World War II defensive positions that were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Sadly, the structures on the island are slowly crumbling, since the primary mission of the island is to keep it pristine for the flora and fauna.
 
The murals from the old Base Theater are on loan to the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. They are impressive, and it is better to have them where they can be seen, rather than on Midway Island itself. The Fish and Wildlife people do not want us to scare the birds. 
 
Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
 
 
 
 
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