THE ROUNDTABLE FORUM
Official newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable
4 September 2009
Issue Number: 2009-34
Our 12th Year
~ AROUND THE TABLE ~
MEMBERS’ TOPICS IN THIS ISSUE:
1. Who Originated the “Midway Has No Water” Ruse?
2. A Dawn Like Thunder
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1. WHO ORIGINATED THE “MIDWAY HAS NO WATER” RUSE?
29 August 2009
From: Ronald Martell
Regarding the mystery of who really came up with the idea of having Midway report its water condenser problem: I have seen references to Layton, Rochefort and Jasper Holmes as being the originator of the ruse. I suspect that Holmes is the correct answer but do not know.
Ed. note: I responded to Ron that HYPO’s second-in-command Jasper Holmes credits Japanese language officer Joseph Finnegan with the initial suggestion that bogus intel could be fed to the Japanese, which HYPO would then intercept when the news was reported to Tokyo (see Holmes’ book, Double-Edged Secrets, p. 90-91). But since that conversation had occurred at the desk of Ensign Mac Showers who remembers the discussion vividly (see No Right to Win, p. 34-35), I asked him for his input. His position has always been that credit for the water ruse should go to Holmes himself. Here is Mac’s reply to Ron’s question, and this is actually two messages merged into one:
30 August 2009
From: RADM D. M. (Mac) Showers, USN-Ret
BOM vet, intel analyst, Combat Intel Unit (HYPO), Pearl Harbor
Remembering this event as if it happened yesterday, let me recount in detail just what happened, and then some further comments of my own.
I was sitting at my desk and Jasper Holmes was standing beside it talking with me when Rochefort approached and said, "Jasper, we've got to do something to prove to the world that AF is Midway." Jasper responded, "I've been thinking about that, and here's my suggestion." (Jasper then outlines his story, including the fact of a cable connection to Midway.) At the end of his suggestion, Rochefort said, "Very good, Jasper, very good." (Very genuine high praise from Rochefort!)
If Finnegan, Ham Wright, or anyone else was present, I don't recall. One or both of them may have walked up, because it always attracted attention when Rochefort was conducting a "huddle." But, if present, they certainly did not contribute to the scenario.
Rochefort then went to his secure telephone to Layton [CINCPAC staff intel officer and Rochefort’s interface with Nimitz] and recounted the idea. Soon afterward, Rochefort received permission from Layton to proceed with the plan. The “Midway has no water” message was prepared, and Rochefort took it to COM14 because it had to go over their communications system, and they certainly needed and deserved an explanation of what was involved.
If Finnegan had noted something about the Japanese on Wake intercepting it, that must have occurred separately, because I was never aware of the Wake role until the following day when the intercept arrived.
About 9:00 AM the following morning, Finnegan translated the message from Wake, and expressions of satisfaction reverberated throughout HYPO. At that point, Rochefort told all hands, "Let's just sit on this for a while to see if anyone else (Melbourne or Washington) comes through with it." This was typical of Rochefort, whose motto was, "We can do anything so long as one doesn't worry about who gets the credit.") Within an hour thereafter, Melbourne did send the same message [their intercept of the Japanese “Midway has no water” transmission] on the COPEK circuit, which served to put it in the hands of Washington without HYPO having to appear self-serving.
I believe Rochefort did call Layton with the results while awaiting the Melbourne input. After all, so far as we were concerned, this was simply confirmation of what we had believed all along. Washington was the doubter.
I have been told that after the Midway plain language report was received by COM14, a fresh water tanker was ordered to replenish Midway's water supply. This was also ordered by plain language message, but I don't think the tanker ever sailed. This follow-up action, I would suggest, was probably the cooperative effort of COM14 to give validity to the ruse.
Holmes, in his book, fails to take the credit he deserves for his role. I have always believed that this was due to his wish to not further upset Layton. Layton and Holmes were professional adversaries. Layton and Rochefort were best buddies, and Layton was jealous of Rochefort's close association with Holmes. (I could write at length on the subject of this relationship.)
Layton, in his book And I Was There, gave total credit for this action to Rochefort with no mention of Holmes. That was in Layton's notes and was included in the original draft of his book as written by Roger Pineau and John Costello. However, the co-authors had engaged me to assist them as they wrote the book after Layton's death, and this is one fact on which I insisted they make a correction, which they did. Originally, they had written (Layton speaking) "Rochefort came up with the idea," whereupon I told them the same story I recited to you, and they agreed to make a change.
So, Layton's book does correctly attribute the genesis of the plan to Holmes.
Ed note: once again, we are indebted to one of our Midway vets for exclusive insight that gives a more accurate view of an aspect of the battle than you’ll find in some of its respected histories. Like George Gay, Holmes wrote his book 37 years after the BOM, and it’s fair to speculate that his recall of some of its details across that span of time might not have been perfect in every case. Plus, as Mac suggests, Holmes may have been a bit modest in spreading credit for the crucial water ruse ploy among others.
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2. A DAWN LIKE THUNDER ( see issue # 2009-01 )
3 September 2009
From: Nancy Mahi
For some time I've been meaning to throw in my two cents about Robert Mrazek's A Dawn Like Thunder, which is one of the best books I've read about the BOM. I like the way the book is set up, and his writing style makes the book very readable, rather like a fast-paced novel.
Mr. Mrazek clearly did extensive research, particularly with interviews of veterans, and that added immensely to the book. I'm probably prejudiced because my uncle was one the pilots profiled, but I also appreciated that the author followed the men of VT-8 after the BOM. Sometimes people forget that Torpedo Eight did not end at Midway. The men who had been part of it continued to serve with distinction throughout the war, and several made a career of the Navy. I have been to two VT-8 reunions in the past several years, and they are the finest group of men it's been my pleasure to meet. It was gratifying to see them recognized in this book.
I also appreciated that Mr. Mrazek didn't sugar-coat his findings. He told the truth and that's the way it should be. The book is readable, informative, and fair. I highly recommend it to any Roundtable members who haven't yet read it.
Ed. note: Nancy’s uncle, TBD pilot Grant Teats, flew with Waldron from the Hornet at the BOM.
~ NOW HEAR THIS! ~
NEWS & INFO IN THIS ISSUE:
- Remembering Bob Hendrick
- Link of the Week
- Editor’s Notes
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REMEMBERING BOB HENDRICK
Sixth Marine Defense Battalion veteran John Gardner reports that Robert E. Hendrick, a fellow 6th MDB vet and long-time Roundtable member, departed for his last muster on February 27th of this year.
Bob joined the Corps in 1939. After boot camp he had the good fortune to be assigned to sea school, which trained him for duty with a shipboard Marine detachment. He was assigned to the battleship USS Idaho, which he recalled fondly. The Idaho transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet, and Bob especially remembered the grand times he had during the 1939 World’s Fair at San Francisco.
The Idaho went to Pearl Harbor when the Pacific Fleet was homeported there in 1940. In April 1941 he was transferred to the newly-formed 6th MDB at San Diego, which was slated to relieve the 1st MDB on Wake Island. However, the 6th was redirected to Midway, and Bob arrived there on September 22nd. Because of his experience on the five-inch guns of the Idaho, he was assigned to Battery “B” on Eastern Island, which had the same type of gun.
Midway was expected to be an element of a big fleet exercise around the end of the year. When Bob returned from a Sunday stroll around the island on the morning of December 7th and found everyone in full battle gear at the guns, he thought “man, they’re really playing up that big exercise.” As the day wore on, rumors abounded concerning sunken ships at Pearl. The Marines made bets with each other as to whether it was real or just part of the exercise. All bets were settled that night when two Japanese destroyers began to bombard the atoll. Bob was the trainer (azimuth operator) on one of the guns, and the battery was credited with two possible hits on one of the enemy ships.
Bob’s principal memory of the BOM was the Japanese bomb that hit the new PX, which drenched him with a downpour of beer and soft drinks. He was promoted to sergeant after the battle, and transferred out of Midway in April 1943 for assignment to Field Artillery Ordnance School, then to the newly formed 5th Marine Division. The division put out to sea with a huge fleet early in 1945 without the Marines being told where they were going. They soon found out as Iwo Jima came into view. Bob went ashore on the fifth day as an ordnance chief with the 13th Artillery Regiment. His unit escaped Iwo with few casualties, unlike the calamity suffered by the Marine infantry regiments.
The 5th Division was training for the invasion of Japan when the war ended in September. After a few months of occupation duty, Gunnery Sgt. Hendricks returned home and left the Corps in 1947 after eight years of service. He studied business in college and soon began a long career in the newspaper industry, from which he retired in 1982. For many years he was well known among his fellow Marine vets for his tireless efforts in connection with annual MDB reunions and in editing and producing an association newsletter.
Farewell and following seas to a fine Roundtable vet and honored Midway Marine.
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LINK OF THE WEEK
Here’s a good collection of USS Hornet photos from the NavSource web site. Several of the more familiar images are included, but there are many that will be new to a lot of our members.
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