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."

9 MAY 2008..........ISSUE NO. 2008-19..........OUR 11th YEAR

=============== AROUND THE TABLE ===============

Members' topics in this issue:

1.  From Our Archives:  FDR and Pearl Harbor
2.  Declassification of Codebreaking Secrets

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1.  FROM OUR ARCHIVES:  FDR AND PEARL HARBOR   (see issues #16, 17, 18)

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2 May 2008
CDR Richard C. Epps, USNR-Ret
Northern California
BOM vet, RM3/c, USS Aylwin (DD-355)

I have a good copy of the subject book [Final Judgment, by Clausen & Lee; see issue #18] which I consider it to be a waste of good money.  Clausen was a San Francisco lawyer who was hired to do an investigation into the events that led up to our defeat at Pear Harbor.  It is evident from the book that he was given the job of whitewashing the U. S. Army of any responsibility.

Clausen is the type of lawyer who feels he can control any results of an investigation because he presents things as if they are true even though he is fabricating the actual facts.  He presents his case as if there can be no question that he is correct above any doubt.

I worked for twenty years as an electrical expert involved in investigating accidents and testifying in court.  I have run into this type of lawyer, and it always a big job to knock their arguments down.  Unfortunately, the Navy didn’t do anything to protect RADM Layton or CAPT Rochefort from the slander that Clausen delivered.
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2 May 2008

RADM D. M. (“Mac”) Showers, USN-Ret

BOM vet, analyst, Combat Intel. Unit, Pearl Harbor

I totally endorse Terry Higham's comments [in issue #18] re the Clausen-Lee book.  Clausen was on a mission to "make the Navy look bad" in order to vindicate anything being said or suspected about General Marshal.  Even more odd is that Bruce Lee cooperated with Clausen in writing the book.  Bruce Lee was the editor of Rear Admiral Layton's book, And I Was There, and he became a devoted follower of what the Navy did during the time described by Layton.  His participation in the Clausen book appeared to indicate that he had turned against the Navy and was now accepting the Clausen book as gospel.
There were reasons for this changed attitude that I know about, and I've always considered it to be unfortunate that Bruce Lee took that position.  He was a great editor, but a vindictive author.
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2 May 2008

Dennis Rodenburg

My early knowledge of the Midway codebreaking:  In high school history class, our teacher gave a very brief account of the Battle of Midway.  Since my dad was a VS-6 pilot in the battle, I paid attention and distinctly remember what the teacher said:  “We broke the Japanese radio code and therefore were able to defeat their navy at Midway.  This became the turning point of the Pacific war, which is all you have to know about the Battle of Midway."

That school year for me was 1959-60.  I got the impression that the codebreaking was common knowledge.  I mentioned the history lesson to Dad and he said, “Oh yeah, that's how we beat 'em."

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=============== NOW HEAR THIS! ===============

News & info in this issue:

-  The Roundtable's Marines at Midway, Part 9:  Ray Prior
-  Forum Notes

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Ray Prior was a corporal in the 6th Marine Defense Battalion during the BOM.  Here are his own words concerning Midway and the battle, written in 2004:

You had to have seen Midway as it was before the war to understand what happened.  From the power house to the southwest end of the island, it was nothing but piles of sand from 2 to 10 feet high.  We walked through it on trails.  There was one track that our old 1938 Ford pickup could travel with its big balloon tires.

“There were about 1200 civilian workers [in late 1941].  The colonel told them that he wanted them to finish the new barracks and to get the .50 caliber gun off the top of the building and set up for perimeter beach fighting, which they did in a couple of days.  A ship came along before Christmas and picked them up.

“The next five months we were able to fine tune everything.  That’s when we had a few old planes come in and they operated from the runway on Eastern Island.  Now we are ready as we ever will be. 

“Each island was run by a Navy commander.  When they hit us on December 7th, one of the first things hit was a Duck [utility aircraft] in the hanger.  It belonged to the Navy commander.  In the command post, the colonel turned to the commander and said, ‘there, you S.O.B., now you have to stay here and fight!’

“On June 2nd or 3rd, orders from headquarters were ‘the Japs are coming in force; ships, troops, etc.  Burn all of the island records, letters, etc., then they won’t have anything to crow about.  All personnel are to stay out of sight other than the men that are operating the guns.  I don't want to give them anything to shoot at.’  With the sand dunes as they were, that worked great.  They [the Japanese planes] went up and down and back and forth looking for something to shoot at.  There was one machine gun out in the middle near the command post.  One pilot spotted them and was going to drop a bomb on them.  The gunner kept a line of fire on the bomb and as it released, he hit it and it exploded.

“A couple of gun positions over on the southwest side hit a plane and the pilot tried to put it into the ammo dump.  It burned—nothing left of the pilot except the torso; no arms, legs, or head.  The three inch anti-aircraft gun knocked two or three out of the air when the planes came in.  They are in the [John Ford] movie.   In the lagoon, Marine pilots that had Zeros on their tails dove by the PT boats, and they worked them over.

“I am one of maybe five or so left from 300 men, pre-war [of the 6th MarDefBn].”

Ray Prior was born in New York state in 1924.  He entered the Marines in April of 1941 at the age of 16.  His mother had to sign papers authorizing him to enlist at that young age.  After training at Quantico and Paris Island, he arrived on Midway in August 1941.  After the BOM he served in several additional Pacific campaigns and left the service upon the expiration of his enlistment in 1945.  He then commenced a 35-year career with the New York Telephone company.  Ray departed for his final muster in February 2005, after several years as one of our honored BOM vet members.  (Sincere thanks to Jane Prior for assistance in preparing this article.)

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~  A passing mention in last week’s issue about the U.S. Navy “vetting” material published by the U.S. Naval Institute brought this response from USNI author Norman Polmar: 
With reference to the mention of codebreaking in the book The Big E, I can assure you that many/most books that have been published by the Naval Institute Press, including several of my own, have not been vetted or reviewed by the Navy prior to publication.  It is generally up to the individual author.”

~  I’m going to be away from home for an extended period starting tomorrow (May 10th), which means that there will be no Roundtable Forum next week.  Also, since all my computers are being left behind, please don’t send me any e-mail until the week of May 19th.  (My in-box will appreciate it!)  The next issue of the Forum is tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 23rd.  Thanks to all.  --RR

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