June 1942 (4)

Aidway Atoll airfield; Sand Island is in the background.

Midway Atoll airfield; Sand Island is in the background.

The Japanese First Carrier Strike Force, under VAdmiral Chuichi Nagumo, included the vessels: Akagi, Kaga, Hityu and Soryu.  The fleet was sailing toward US Task Force 17, under RAdmiral Fletcher, and RAdmiral Spruance’s TF-16.  A lone PBY Catalina caught sight of the enemy at 0430 hours, 4 June 1942.  The Japanese carriers launched 108 planes to attack Midway Island and its installations; 7 scout aircraft flew off to locate the US fleet.

 

Vought SB2U Vindicator taking off from Midway. The 3rd Marine Sq. of MAG 22 were made up of obsolete Brewster Buffalos and Vindicators.  During the decisive battle of 3-6 June, all Marine aircraft proved ineffective or were destroyed.

Vought SB2U Vindicator taking off from Midway. The 3rd Marine Sq. of MAG 22 were made up of obsolete Brewster Buffalos and Vindicators. During the decisive battle of 3-6 June, all Marine aircraft proved ineffective or were destroyed.

The first US aircraft to lift off were 19 B-17s that tried in vain to hit the targets at 10,000′.  Later, 4 new PBYs were ordered to load torpedoes for a low pass, but this only caused damage to a tanker.  At 21oo hours, on the the Yorktown, Lt. Dick Crowell told his flight crews, “The fate of the US now rests in the hands of 240 pilots.”

At 0545 hours, the PBY flown by Lt. William Chase radioed: “MANY ENEMY PLANES HEADING MIDWAY BEARING 320 DEGREES DISTANT 150 MILES.”  Twenty miles ahead of Chase, Lt. Howard Ady saw what he would describe as the curtain rise on the ‘Biggest Show on Earth’ — Nagumo’s striking force.  He then turned back in the cloud cover and radioed the intelligence.

On Midway, the PBYs took off, 6 Navy Avenger torpedo planes and then 4 Army B-26 Marauder bombers.  The second wave followed with 16 Marine Dauntless dive bombers, the Army B-17 Fortresses and 11 Marine Vindicator torpedo bombers.  The Marine ground troops manned their stations as the 27 Wildcat fighters and Marine Buffaloes ascended to 12,000′.

Seaplane hanger on Sand Island in flames.

Seaplane hangar on Sand Island in flames.

Japanese Lt. Tomonaga led his Kates in and hit a seaplane hangar, oil tanks and set the hospital on fire on Sand Island.  On Eastern Island, the powerhouse and Marine CP (Command Post) were hit.  They were not as successful as they originally hoped and Tomonaga radioed the Akagi at 0650 hours: ‘SECOND ATTACK NECESSARY.’  Ten minutes later, 6 US Avengers attacked the Akagi, but only one aircraft would return.  The 4 B-26 bombers, manned with inexperienced men, also failed.  Adm. Nagumo changed his course.

Adm. Spruance ordered TF-16 to begin take-off at 0700 hours from the Hornet and Enterprise.  They were spotted by an enemy scout plane: Nagumo was stunned by the report and ordered the 3 other carriers to keep their torpedoes and go after the US fleet 200 miles away.  The commanders on both sides of the war were in a rough situation – land, sea and air space all had to be covered.

USMC field message from Maj. James S. O'Halloran: Battery E, 3rd antiaircraft Group, 3rd Defense Batt. reporting at 1600 hrs. on 4 June: "Three enemy planes seen shot down from this position - one by fire of this battery. Fourth plane seen trailing heavy smoke toward south, losing altitude fast. 262 rounds H>E> expended, no casualties. Everything now in readiness for further assaults.

USMC field message from Maj. James S. O’Halloran: Battery E, 3rd antiaircraft Group, 3rd Defense Batt. reporting at 1600 hrs. on 4 June: “Three enemy planes seen shot down from this position – one by fire of this battery. Fourth plane seen trailing heavy smoke toward south, losing altitude fast. 262 rounds H>E> expended, no casualties. Everything now in readiness for further assaults.

On the advice of Commander Genda, Nagumo ordered his planes down to change their payloads again.  His flight officer said, “Here we go again.  This is getting to be like a quick-change contest.” (He was given ½ hour to complete the job.)  Amid the chaos, Nagumo overlooked a message that arrived from his scout plane, ‘TEN ENEMY[U.S.] TORPEDO PLANES HEADING TOWARD YOU.’ (There were actually 15).

To Be Continued…..

Click on images to enlarge.

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Bill Mauldin’s Military Humor – 

Ground (577x800)

“Gee, I didn’t realize how rough you boys lived on th’ ground.”

Pilot (588x800)

“You might hafta catch a boat. One of them kids ya chased off th’ field wuz the pilot.”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Henry Ayon – El Paso, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Arnold Bell – No. Haven, CT & FL; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO21_gun_salute

William Clement – New Plymouth; NZ; RNZ Army # 35804, WWII, 25th Battalion

Wayne Dodson – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Thomas Hazell Jr. – Arlington, MA; US Army, Korea,

Gloria Hoffman – Boynton Bch., FL; civilian employee Pentagon, Signal Corps, WWII, Miss USA War Bond Queen

Barbara Miller – St. Paul, MN; American Red Cross, WWII

Leonard Nimoy – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, Sgt., (beloved actor)

Noble Powell – Eugene, OR; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Frank Slatinshek – Alexandria, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Korea

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 2, 2015, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. Great story gp, looking forward to the continuation, that story actually does build up in a crescendo of urgency on both sides.
    Liked your bottom cartoon, know of a few military situations that had that same scenario.
    Cheers.

    Like

  2. I’ve heard of Atoll often over the years. It was nice to finally see a photo. I probably saw this in geography class, but that was over a half a century ago! Great article. Thank you.

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  3. Pierre Lagacé

    The veteran I have been meeting since 2010 has flown 37 missions.
    He wants to do a final mission.
    I will tell you more.
    Just let’s say you are on the list…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s such a deadly story and so very engrossing. There’s no such thing as ‘irrelevant detail”.

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  5. Reading WWII stories here reminded me that I have not watch WWII movies for a long time but I just watch Fury. I think is not a bad one and really enjoy it.

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  6. Another great dose of history. Amazing that handwritten message survived.

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  7. It all boils down to priorities really, as in “What’s really important here?” and getting them right. I imagine new limousines for the president and his staff (one each only—there’s a war on and belts have to be tightened, don’t forget) and gold-plated plumbing everywhere is more important than a working aircraft for a bunch of dum’ grunts on an atoll a million miles away in the middle of nowhere …

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  8. I think a lot of us will feel the loss of Leonard Nimoy. I didn’t realize he had served in the Army. But then, as you know, a lot of the old Hollywood actors gave their service.

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    • I thought Ihad remembered seeing his name when I was doing a Guest Post for Judy over at Greatest Generation Lessons, but it wasn’t mentioned for that article being as he was not in during WWII. Thanks for coming by, Linda.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for this great post, GP. I always read each name on the Farewell Salute because it is so personal, so real. Interesting (and surprising and sad) to find Leonard Nimoy on the list this time. Looking forward to seeing what happens next….

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    • Thank you so much, for everything – but mentioning the farewell Salutes means the most. To know that even one person reads their names makes this entire blog worthwhile!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Can hardly wait for the next post…

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  11. Shame on you… leaving us in suspense. 🙂 I felt sorry for the pilots in the Buffaloes. I’m sure they realized it was likely a one way trip…

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  12. Mauldin’s humor was always on point.

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  13. What is it about the written word that makes such a great impact? “Ten minutes later, 6 US Avengers attacked the Akagi, but only one aircraft would return” … one sentence amid the horror of war just brings it home.
    Thanks for including the photo of Midway. I’m not sure I’d seen one before of a place I’ve heard about for years.

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    • I was actually surprised when I located that picture. With planes in and out of there all the time, you’d think there would be more of them on-line. Thanks for reading, LB, and commenting. I wish I had more time on the computer to comment on every blog I read, but it is not possible.

      Like

  14. Nice post but it ends like an old fashion movie serial. Actually nice touch. And nice comment on Leonard Nimoy.

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  15. Sigh…”Yes, leaving them wanting for more” Glad that he overlooked that message in that 1/2 hour. You are a good writer and as Paul Harvey use to say “And now for the rest of the story” 🙂 I will be wait like the others till the end of the week, Everett!

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  16. My uncle , Capt. Daniel J. Hennessy , USMC. , led a squadron of Brewster ( Buffalo ) fighters up from Midway . One pilot survived .

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  17. I agree with Curt…we were cut off right in the middle of the action.
    Intermission time.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Father Paul Lemmen

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

    Like

  19. Like all good writers, GP, you left us hanging with the torpedo planes heading toward Nagumu… –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Another fascinating instalment that I really enoyed. The planes involved are a bit of an identification challenge. I’m not too sure that I’d recognise a Vought SB2U Vindicator if one flew over in the next ten minutes. Hopefully the Marines now have better equipment than Brewster Buffalos and Vindicators!!

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  21. I love this story. I have read so much about this battle, but I am reading this like it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

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  22. Wünsche dir eine glückliche gute Woche lieber Gruß Gislinde

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  23. My Dad was on the Enterprise. He said he had mopped that wooden deck many times and walked it for debris . Really enjoyed the story. The history is fascinating . Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope we’ll see more of you; we have a great bunch of people joining in on the conversations. I thank you for stopping in. If you have any stories from your father – feel free to include them here. If you have a post referring to him or the events – send a link for all of us!!

      Like

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