Official newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable
“To promote awareness and understanding of the great battle,
and to honor the men who fought and won it.”
26 SEPTEMBER 2007..........ISSUE NO. 2007-36..........OUR 10th YEAR
=============== AROUND THE TABLE ===============
Members’ topics in this issue:
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16 Sep 2007
(co-author, Shattered Sword)
I just returned from the Nimitz Museum Symposium on the turning points of WWII, the Battle of Midway and the Battle for Guadalcanal. I presented an overview of Japanese strategy and battle planning for the operation, accompanied by Donald Goldstein's talk on the American planning, and a talk by Robert Mrazek drawn from his forthcoming book on Torpedo Squadron Eight. We then all three had the privilege of asking questions of our veteran panelists: Harry Ferrier (radio operator aboard a VT-8 detachment TBF Avenger), Sam Laser (Yorktown gunnery dept.), Mac Showers (HYPO analyst), Dusty Kleiss (SBD pilot), and Kaname Harada (Soryu Zero pilot), who came all the way from Japan, accompanied by Jiro Yoshida of the Zero Pilots’ Association. The Midway portion of the symposium was very well attended, and a good time was had by all, I think.
The night before the symposium kicked off, I came to the realization that Harada-san had actually fought directly against both Harry Ferrier and Dusty Kleiss during the Battle. Harada flew three CAP missions that day, first tangling with the VT-8 Avengers. During his second mission he encountered VT-3. After landing aboard Hiryu once Soryu was hit, he was subsequently re-launched, only to face Dusty Kleiss' composite air group which destroyed Hiryu. He subsequently ran out of fuel, ditched, and was recovered by destroyer Makigumo. The museum's director of programming moved quickly to publicize the reuniting of these three former adversaries for the first time. There were several photo ops with Ferrier, Kleiss, and Harada-san.
For my part, I was very happy to have a chance to re-connect with my friends Harry Ferrier and Mac Showers. And I also got to meet Sam and Dusty for the first time. Sam and I traded good-natured jabs over some of my conclusions in Shattered Sword, and I had the pleasure of also meeting his son, a trial-lawyer (like his father) living in Texas. Dusty, for his part, expanded my knowledge of dive-bombing technique. I was very grateful to make the acquaintance of all these fine gentlemen.
For those of you who haven't been to the museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, it is splendid. The exhibits are wonderful and very well presented. I'm looking forward to the museum's forthcoming 30,000 sq. ft. expansion, which will allow even more of its extensive collection to be displayed.
Ed note: check out the Admiral Nimitz Museum on the web: http://www.nimitz-museum.org/
=============== NOW HEAR THIS! ===============
News & info in this issue:
- Last Sortie for Dick Woodson
- Forum Notes
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LAST SORTIE FOR DICK WOODSON
With profound regret, I announce the passing on 21 September of Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Richard T. Woodson, USN-Retired. Dick Woodson flew as a radioman-gunner for pilot Don Kirkpatrick with VS-8, USS Hornet, at the Battle of Midway. He went on to fly throughout the rest of war, and was grievously wounded in October 1942 at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. After months of recovery, he was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet where he served as an Avenger aircrewman in daring anti-submarine sorties from an escort carrier. There is a detailed synopsis of his wartime experiences posted on our web site, and in respect for this fine Midway veteran, I urge all members to read it now. You can find it easily from our home page by clicking “Veterans Stories” under the VT picture, or here’s the direct URL:
While we honor every one of our Midway veterans to the maximum extent possible on the Roundtable, we were particularly fortunate to have Dick on our roster. That first became evident when he began to provide us with some important details concerning the operation of the YE/ZB homing system used by BOM-era carrier aircraft to find their way back to the ship. YE/ZB issues have figured prominently in our discussions of various BOM events, particularly those involving the Hornet air group. Dick’s nuts-and-bolts descriptions of how the shipboard YE system worked with the airborne ZB receiver has helped immensely in understanding its vital role in aerial navigation, and why in many cases it aided the airmen’s cause and why it may have failed them in others.
But Dick will be especially remembered on the Roundtable for his crucial eyewitness testimony concerning the Hornet air group’s flight on the first day of the carrier battle. The controversy concerning which way the HAG went that morning began in the early 1980s with Bowen Weisheit’s research, which alleged they flew west from the Hornet, not southwest as related in traditional BOM histories. The difference between the two courses is a major issue, as has been reviewed extensively on the Roundtable and in No Right to Win. Dick’s vital contribution to the discussion lies in the fact that his testimony is wholly independent of the claims made by Weisheit—Dick had never heard of the author or his book until I mentioned them to him. The key fact is that while flying the HAG’s base course that morning, Dick saw Waldron and VT-8 break away to the left, not to the right as recorded by RADM Mitscher in the Hornet’s official after-action report. That seemingly minor point is the heart of the matter, which is readily seen by comparing the two courses. See pages 132 and 135 in No Right to Win, or compare pp. 118-119 of Morison’s history, Vol. IV, to p. 218 of A Glorious Page In Our History (4th printing).
Dick was not the least bit ambiguous about which way VT-8 turned that morning. Here are my notes from a 2005 oral interview with him on this subject, and this is very close to verbatim. “RW” is Richard Woodson and “RR” is me:
RR: “You’ve previously told us on the Roundtable that you saw Torpedo Squadron 8 break off to the left, is that correct?”
RW: “Yes, they turned away from the rest of the air group on a bearing of about 30 degrees to the left of our heading.”
RR: “You’re quite certain that they turned left, not right?”
RW: “Yes, and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing, so I asked Kirk.”
RW: “Don Kirkpatrick, my pilot. I asked him where VT-8 was going; I thought we were all supposed to stay together. He said we were, and he had no idea what Waldron was up to. Of course, our squadron stayed with the group commander, like we were supposed to.”
RR: “It’s interesting that you saw them go left, since the traditional version in the history books is that they broke to the right in order to close the enemy on a northwesterly track.”
RW: “No, they broke left. I know, because when we’re formation flying, the pilot is too busy watching out for our planes off his port and starboard wing to notice a whole lot in the distance. It was up to us gunners to be alert for such things. I was facing aft like I always did and I saw VT-8, below and a little behind us, veer off to the left. It was a deliberate turn, too—they stayed nicely in formation.”
RR: “Wait a minute—you were facing aft. So do you mean you saw them go to your right relative to you personally, but to the left relative to your aircraft?”
RW: “That’s correct. The definitely broke left from the course we were flying.”
A memorial service for Dick will be conducted on Sunday, 30 September, 10:00 AM, at the Reardon-Payton Mortuary, 511 North A Street, Oxnard, California. Military honors will follow at 10:30. Interment of cremated remains will be privately conducted by the family. For more information, call the mortuary on 805-483-2233.
Dick’s daughter, Nancy Talley, sent me his obituary which I’ve posted on our web site’s “Image Board” page. Click the “Image Board” link under the VT picture on our home page, then go to Link 17. Or, here’s the direct URL:
Mrs. Talley also invites Dick’s friends and shipmates to send her reminisces and tales about him for possible inclusion in the memorial. You can e-mail her at: email@example.com
I have added Dick’s name to the memorial section of our web site’s “BOMRT Vets List” page.
Fair winds and following seas, Chief.
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~ I’m sending out this issue of the Forum a couple days earlier than usual in order to afford members an opportunity to send condolences or other messages to Dick Woodson’s family in time for the memorial service. You can do so via his daughter’s e-mail address or possibly by contacting the mortuary (info above). Barring unforeseens, issue #37 will be out on its usual Friday date next week.
~ Student members of the Roundtable are encouraged to participate in our 10th Anniversary Essay Contest, detailed in last week’s issue. All other members are urged to support it by promoting it among the students in your family. For full details, check our web site by clicking the “special announcement” link on the home page, or here’s the direct URL: http://www.midway42.org/contest.html
~ British military author Peter C. Smith is looking for contact information for the family of Enterprise air group commander C. Wade McClusky. If anyone can help in that regard, please contact him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
~ TV this week: “Kamikaze” on the Dogfights series, History Channel, Friday 28 Sep, 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Then, the 1976 Midway movie once again on AMC, Saturday 29 Sep, 5:00 PM and 11:00 PM.
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Get the Roundtable’s Book:
NO RIGHT TO WIN: A CONTINUING DIALOGUE WITH VETERANS OF THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
Click for full information: http://www.russbook.com/
(If you cannot access the above web site, send a message to the editor for full details on No Right to Win.)
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For a glossary of abbreviations, acronyms, and terms used in The Roundtable Forum, go to our home page and click the “Roundtable Glossary” link, or here is the direct URL:
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The Roundtable Forum, the Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable (“the Forum”) is distributed by e-mail to registered members at approximately one-week intervals. An abridged edition is also posted on our web site. For information on joining the Roundtable and subscribing to the Forum, click this URL: http://www.midway42.org/how_join.html.
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