THE ROUNDTABLE FORUM

 

Official newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable

 

http://www.midway42.org

 

"To promote awareness and understanding of the great battle and to honor the men who fought and won it."

 

21 August 2005....................Issue No. 2005-32....................Our 8th Year

 

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.............................................. AROUND THE TABLE ...............................................

 

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MEMBERS' TOPICS IN THIS ISSUE

 

1.  Breaking the Japanese Code:  Who Knew?

2.  Coral Sea:  Getting It Right

3.  The Saga of Norman Pichette

4.  New BOM Vet Member:  GEN Earl Anderson

5.  New Member:  Bryan Murphy

6.  New Member:  Bob Bryson

 

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"Breaking the Japanese Code:  Who Knew?"   (see issues #29, 30, 31)

 

    Ed. note:  RADM Showers adds an important point to this discussion:  it was quite possible for knowledge of the upcoming battle to be widespread in the U.S. fleet without revealing that such knowledge was the result of codebreaking.

 

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15 August 2005

From:  Mac Showers    macrain@att.net   (BOM vet, Combat Intelligence Unit, Pearl Harbor)

 

    I must comment on Dan Kaseberg's interesting commentary in Forum #31.   His sentence states, "we THOUGHT (emphasis mine) that the codes had been broken, especially when we were given a list of their forces."  That was a good guess, but far different than being TOLD.  There could have been a number of other sources for that detail.  Speculation, even when correct, can never replace fact.

    It may be useful to give the Roundtable Admiral Nimitz's reason for doing what he did, and the security considerations that supported that action.   The complete story on the Japanese Midway force was provided to the commanders of the U. S. task forces in an ULTRA summary sent out by CDR Layton [CINCPAC intelligence officer].   Admiral Nimitz was a strong advocate of his fighting forces being told what they were about to encounter.  He made a trip to Midway and told the troops there that they were about to be attacked, and he then reinforced the island defenses to provide maximum capability to defend.

    Following that, a non-ULTRA message was sent to the fleet providing our forces the details of what they were about to confront, as a means of preparing them for the seriousness of the situation.  Would anyone involved have been satisfied with less?   Admiral Nimitz was a leader, not a bystander!  His purpose was to instill maximum confidence in the ability of the U.S. forces involved to accomplish their mission successfully.   I argue that, as a leader, he was totally correct and successful.

    Speculation as to the source of the information is certainly appropriate, but speculation will never replace knowledge, and it didn't in this case.  Moreover, there was no known compromise to the enemy.  Hence, it makes no sense to me to say that, in effect, "we knew it all the time."

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    It now occurs to me that expectations of a major clash at Midway would certainly have developed as far back as May 2nd, when ADM Nimitz visited the atoll and asked its commanders what they needed to resist a Japanese amphibious assault.  Speculation would have spread far and wide when those assets started arriving in force over the next few weeks--all without anyone revealing anything about codebreaking.

    In the last issue, Yorktown vet Dan Kaseberg suggested that VT-3 gunner Lloyd Childers might have some recollections on this matter.  Here is Lloyd's response:

 

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17 August 2005

From:  Lloyd Childers   lloydchilders@comcast.net   (BOM vet, ARM3c, VT-3, USS Yorktown)

 

    The only list of enemy forces that I saw was at the early morning briefing of 4 June 1942 in the Yorktown ready room.  I was surprised at the numbers; however, the names meant nothing to me. I am certain that I heard nothing about "breaking the enemy code" until long after the end of WWII.

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"Coral Sea:  Getting It Right"

 

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27 July 2005

From:  Pete Newberg   kk6hu@bak.rr.com   (BOM vet, EM3c, USS Yorktown)

 

    Don Thomas, author of the recently published Mayday Mayday, flattered me by asking for my comments about his new book covering the Coral Sea battle.  That said, I have never read anything about the events aboard the Yorktown on 7 May 1942 that rang true in my memory.  There was a great deal of confusion at the time and that may be why.  I even re-read Morison's history before responding to Don's request, in order to verify that Morison didn't get it right either.  I was on the flight deck of the Yorktown that day and that evening and feel confident that my memory remains accurate.  My reply to Don follows, and I would greatly appreciate critical response from the Roundtable.

    [Letter from Pete to Don Thomas]    NOTHING BUT CONFUSION:   on board the Yorktown, 7 May 1942 in the Coral Sea, about 1800 hours--it's been an eventful day.  Tomorrow will be worse. Lexington and Yorktown air groups attacked and sank the Japanese carrier Shoho this morning. In addition, two more enemy carriers with strong support have been located and lie within strike distance.  All aircraft have been recovered and air operations, for the moment, have been secured for the night. We know that they know where we are.

    Im a newly made electricians mate assigned to a flight deck repair party for general quarters (battle stations). Tension skyrockets all over topside when a group (4 or 5 as I recall) of unidentified aircraft appear, port side amidships, flying parallel and reverse to our course, just out of gunnery range. One of them began signaling by blinker light. I distinctly recall shouted comments from the signal bridge:  we cant make it out!

    Both Lexington and Yorktown launched fighters immediately.  By that time it was pitch dark and we were faced with a night recovery, something that the Yorktown had never done, at least as long as I had been aboard. In any event, I found myself watching our fighters by the blue of their exhausts when some additional exhausts of a slightly different color and shape appeared in our landing circle. Orders were radioed to our pilots to turn on their running lights, which they did, leaving the other exhausts in the dark. But only for a moment, after which the strangers lit up and again, as with their exhausts, they looked somewhat different.

    In the meantime, the landing signal officer was having major problems trying to take our guys aboard in the dark. The only visible light on the ship was the dim landing light illuminating his position port side aft. When I looked to see what was going on, he was trying to raise an oncoming airplane that continued to come in too low. In the last few seconds, when the pilot was about to plow into the stern under the flight deck, he pulled up and off to port. The signal light flicked briefly on red circles painted on his wings. Then, as is often said, all hell broke loose! The next plane in the landing circle was fired on by the destroyer in plane guard position about 1000 yards aft. Seeing this, Yorktown began firing all automatic weapons at this unfortunate airplane as he flew down the starboard side. It happened to be one of our fighters.

    Thoroughly shot up but still barely flying, that F4F burped and snorted its way around the landing circle and came aboard in a crash landing with one mad, wounded pilot. After this, all other aircraft, ours and theirs, disappeared. To my knowledge they were never rescued by either side.

One of our lost pilots that night was an Australian by birth. Someone in his family once asked me what I might be able to tell them about that night. It seems that one of our pilots had told them that he was shot down by friendly fire from the Yorktown. You might imagine how pleased I was to tell them that that report was not true. By the way, the Lexington flooded their flight deck with lights and landed returning aircraft with no problems.

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    Pete Newberg is the secretary of the USS Yorktown (CV-5) association.  The new book by Don Thomas doesn't appear on Google or Amazon--Pete says it may be self-published.  It's a small paperback.

    Special note for CV-5 vets:  Pete is especially interested in your comments and recollections regarding the incident related above.

 

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"The Saga of Norman Pichette"

 

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14 August 2005

From:  Johan Lupander   pandionutv@tele2.se   (Sweden)

 

    There were many valorous deeds during the BOM.  Mostly they were done in the heat of battle to inflict casualties on the enemy.  Therefore, the deed of Seaman Norman Pichette, to save the life of a wounded shipmate and performed over a period of perhaps a quarter of an hour and without the urgency of ongoing combat, has impressed me very much.

    Pichette (age only 18) was a member of a 20 mm gun crew and had been severely wounded in the abdomen by a bomb splinter aboard Yorktown during the dive bombing attack at noon on June 4th.  He was carried to sickbay and it appears that some hasty surgery was performed on him prior to the abandonment of the ship some hours later following the torpedo plane attack. Pichette was left for dead or dying in sickbay when it was evacuated.  So was another seaman, George Weise, who suffered from a skull fracture and broken bones.

    When Pichette realized that they had been left for dead in the abandoned carrier he succeeded in ascending three deck levels (presumably along steep and tilting ladders in near-total darkness) to reach the hangar deck. When looking out, he saw a destroyer (Hughes) and fire a machine good in order to attract attention.

    The Hughes sent a boat to retrieve Pichette, who was unconscious by then.  He revived briefly and had the strength to tell the medics about George Weise's plight. Weise was also picked up and survived, which Pichette did not.  The CO of Hughes directed that a full search of Yorktown be made to ensure that no additional survivors had been left.  The information on the state of the carrier impressed the CO that Yorktown was salvageable; information which he passed on to ADM Fletcher.  Although a salvage operation had already been decided on by Fletcher and Buckmaster, it would appear that the report from Hughes' CO put a bit more urgency into the preparations for salvage.  If so, Pichette's deed could have had quite some significance had Yorktown ultimately survived.

    This story has impressed me very much. Anybody who has had abdominal surgery can probably understand what it took to climb those stairs with a fresh wound.  Firing the gun may have entailed cocking it with the handle, probably also a very painful undertaking for a man thus wounded.

    Questions:  (1)  Does anybody have more information on this subject, such as details on Pichette's wound?  (2)  Was the medical officer of the Yorktown ever censured for abandoning wounded seamen to their fate?  (3)  Did Pichette receive any posthumous decoration?

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    This is one of the more interesting and famous anecdotes from the BOM.  Robert Cressman covered the subject rather completely in That Gallant Ship (see pp. 118, 158-159, and 166-167).  Briefly, the fact that there was no actual combat at that time doesn't eliminate the sheer chaos extant in abandoning a listing carrier.  Also, Pichette was checked by a junior medical officer during the abandon ship process, and he (Pichette) was seen to get out of his bunk on his own power and begin to exit the compartment--the medical officer then (understandably) turned his attention to a man who was more severely wounded, struggling to get him topside to safety.  Since Pichette had last been seen on his own feet, the assumption was that he'd gotten out on his own.

    I doubt that the ship's senior medical officer was in any way reprimanded for any of the events of that day--I would think the opposite would be true.  Does anyone have specific info?  Johan also has a good question regarding any posthumous medals for Pichette--who can answer that one for us?

 

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"New BOM Vet Member:  GEN Earl Anderson"

 

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21 August 2005

From:  Earl Anderson

   

    I would be happy to join.

Best wishes,

"A"

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    It is a distinct honor to welcome GEN Earl E. Anderson, USMC-Ret, to our roster.  He comes to us upon the recommendation of Mac Showers.  General Anderson was a captain in the Marine detachment aboard USS Yorktown during the BOM.  He continued his distinguished service in the Corps through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, retiring in 1975.  I recommend that everyone review his full biography at this URL:

 

http://www.keystonemarines.com/article.php?story=2004052113244554&mode=print

 

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"New Member:  Bryan Murphy"

 

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14 August 2005

From:  Bryan Murphy   tmurphy8@cox.net

 

    I'm interested in all parts of the history of the Pacific side of WW2.  My main interest is in the first year of war--the great sacrifices of those men at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and at Midway.

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"New Member:  Bob Bryson"

 

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13 August 2005

From:  Bob Bryson   bob@adventuresinsavannah.com

 

    I am glad that I found out, belatedly, where this forum disappeared to.  I was a previous member up until the time Bill Price went into the hospital.  I got an email from his daughter about this but that was the last contact I had.  Glad to know that such a wonderful group didn't just disappear.

    On a sad note, I am sorry to see that we have lost so many wonderful "characters" since I was last here.  I hope that a belated heartfelt "sorry" will still be appropriate.

    I split my time between Savannah, GA where I have a business and Daytona Beach, FL where my wife holds down the fort until I get this going the way I want it to.

    I served on active duty in the army from 1970 till 1974 and in the National Guard until 1993.  Had a lot of different MOSs while in the Guard but as the saying goes, once an infantryman always an infantryman.  I did get upgraded to Mechanized Infantry when I got to old and lazy to walk.

    My interest in the Battle of Midway goes back to the second book of military history I read.  The first one got me interested in the air war in Europe and all things B-17.  The next one was Miracle at Midway.

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................................................. NOW HEAR THIS! ..................................................

 

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NEWS & INFO IN THIS ISSUE

 

--Last Muster for Walt Grist

--Last Sortie for Dave Walkinshaw

--The Silent War Against the Japanese Navy

--TV This Week

 

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LAST MUSTER FOR WALT GRIST

 

    With deep regret, I announce the passing of MSGT Walter C. Grist, USMC-Ret, who was a great guy, a proud Marine, a key member of this Roundtable, and a personal friend.  Walt was his usual spry self up until a couple weeks ago, when a nagging abdominal disorder sent him to the hospital for surgery.  Resulting complications took him from us last Saturday morning.

    In addition to his active participation with us, Walt was a permanent member of the organizing committee for the annual BOM anniversary dinner in San Francisco.  All of you Midway vets who have attended that event in recent years did so as a result of Walt's activities on the committee, which mainly involved maintaining the BOM vet database and ensuring each vet received an invitation.  He will be sorely missed there as well as here.

    Walt has been a mainstay on the Roundtable for as long as I can remember and before.  When we had to rebuild the roster almost from scratch in 2002 due to Bill Price's illness, Walt's help was invaluable--most of you Marine vets among our membership are here because Walt either brought you aboard himself or made sure that I did.

    He joined the Corps in the summer of 1941.  After boot camp at Parris Island, he was sent to aviation mechanic's school in Chicago, where he was on 7 December.  On Midway, he was a hydraulic mechanic with VMSB-241, and later worked extensively on SBDs, SB2Cs, TBFs, and F4Us.  At the end of the war he was with a Marine fighter squadron preparing for the invasion of Japan.  He subsequently served tours in Korea and Japan as a jet mechanic and as an instructor in the Naval Air Technical Training Command, retiring in 1971.  He then worked as a systems engineer on the Titan ICBM projects.  In recent years he volunteered extensively as a docent on the USS Hornet (CV-12) museum ship at Alameda.

    Walt's son tells me that internment will most likely be at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Francisco (Walt once said, "a lot of my friends are there").  There are no funeral details yet, but if anyone would like to be promptly informed, send me an e-mail and I'll pass the word to you as soon as I get it.  The Roundtable has many members in northern California who might want to pay their final respects to a fine Midway Marine.

 

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LAST SORTIE FOR DAVE WALKINSHAW

 

    Bill Vickrey reports the passing of another Midway vet, CAPT David J. Walkinshaw, USN-Ret, on 30 June.  Dave, a member of our roster, was a PBY pilot with VP-91 during the BOM, flying patrol missions into the Midway area from Kaui, Hawaii.  While I don't have much info on Dave's career, one interesting detail emerges from the obituary provided by his family:  he married a WAVE control tower operator who he first encountered on the radio early in his flying career.  His wife Esther passed away three days before he did.  Fair winds and following seas, sir......

 

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THE SILENT WAR AGAINST THE JAPANESE NAVY     (see issue #31)

 

    Pete Shumbo found a lot of glitches in the "Silent War" document that I recently revised.  With his help, I gave it a thorough proofread and (hopefully) fixed them all.  If you read it after last week's announcement and ran into any of those problems, give it another look.  It should be okay now--if not, please let me know.  You can access it from our home page (first item under SPECIAL FEATURES), or here's the direct URL:

 

http://www.midway42.org/silent_war.html

 

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TV THIS WEEK

 

    Here are television listings of possible interest for the week of Monday through Sunday, 22 - 28 August.  The times shown below may not be the same in your area--be sure to check your local guide.  (Thanks to Greg Gaynier for help in compiling this list.)

 

Channels:  AMC = American Movie Classics, DC = Discovery Channel, HC = History Channel, TCM = Turner Classic Movies

 

Schedule note:  "12:00 AM" means the start of the date shown (0000 hours).  "12:00 PM" means noon.

 

Monday, 22 August

 

  12:00 PM   (HC)   Conspiracy:  FDR and Pearl Harbor.   This first appeared on the History Channel last October, and was the subject of intense review in the Forum.  The heart of the program is Robert Stinnet's infamous book Day of Deceit, in which he concocts the notion that FDR knew in advance that the Japanese were about to attack Hawaii and conspired to let it happen to serve his personal war aims.  The first 30 minutes of the program consists of Stinnett arguing his case, followed by 30 minutes of very effective rebuttal by genuine experts on the subject like Stephen Budiansky.  This program would be of minor interest if Stinnet's fable hadn't been accepted as factual by much of the public (for example, check the reviews on Amazon.com).  If you didn't see it before, catch it this time and learn how easy it is to sell a book by inventing your own facts and ignoring the real ones.

    If you have our Second Edition Archive Disk, see 2004 issues #25, 31, and 32 for more.

 

  2:00 PM   (HC)   German and Japanese Kamikazes.  This one last appeared in July 2004.  If you didn't know about German "kamikazes," the program is an eye-opener.   

 

  4:00 PM   (HC)   Tora Tora Tora: the Real Story of Pearl Harbor.  This is a very good documentary on the subject, not the 1970 "Tora3" move.

 

  6:00 PM   (HC)   Conspiracy:  FDR and Pearl Harbor.   (Repeated, see above.)

 

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    For a glossary of abbreviations, acronyms, and terms used in The Roundtable Forum, click the following URL or go to our home page and click "The Roundtable Glossary" link.

 

http://www.midway42.org/glossary.htm

 

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