The Roundtable Forum

Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable


12 February 2010

Issue Number:  2010-06

Our 13th Year








1. Judgment Without the Crystal Ball

2.  Life Magazine Photos of USS Enterprise


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5 February 2010

From:  Alvin B. Kernan

New Jersey

BOM vet, AOM3/c, VT-6, USS Enterprise (CV-6)


Given last week’s material, would you be interested in the following from a member of the torpedo squadron that lost ten of 14 planes attacking Kido Butai while calling futilely to Gray, “Come on down, Jim.”


Captain James Gray has been getting support, but no one seems to have looked closely at the critical matter of his fuel consumption on the morning of June 4th at Midway.  Gray and his fighters were airborne at 0745 and went up to 22,000 feet where he saw a torpedo squadron low and followed it directly to the target, which he saw clearly for an hour beginning at 0910.  So he likely saw both the Torpedo 8 and Torpedo 6 attacks.  He circled until 1010 when he radioed the Enterprise, “This is Gray.  We are returning to the ship due to lack of gas.  We have been flying over the enemy fleet.  They have no combat air patrol.”


By this time Gray had been in the air a bit more than 2 hours and 30 minutes.  He said in his after-action report that by the time he radioed he had used two-thirds of his 144 gallons of aviation gasoline.  He also said that because his group was flying a new model, heavier plane, the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, his fuel consumption was greater than he anticipated, and he was surprised at how much he had burned when he checked his gauge.  It should be noted that he had previous flying time with the Dash 4.


With more guns and folding wings, the Dash 4 did weigh a good deal more than the F4F-3, but when Gray came back aboard the Enterprise at 1055, after a total flight time of 3 hours and 10 plus minutes, he should have had a fair amount of gas in his tanks.  A telling standard exists.  Fighting 8, flying the same late model F4F-4s off the Hornet, climbed to the same altitude as Gray, got lost, but stayed in the air from four to four and a half hours before they crash landed with only vapors left in their tanks.  The junior pilots went down first; the experienced a half hour later.  So Gray, an experienced pilot, should not have been short of gas.  But In his after-action report Gray emphatically stated that at the end of his watch over Kido Butai his group was “approaching the limits of our fuel.”



5 February 2010

From:  Paul Corio



Neither hindsight nor a crystal ball is required to justify criticism of Gray’s failure to aid the TBDs at Midway.  As he circled high over Kidu Butai, Gray had ample reasons and evidence at the time to believe there was a very high probability that TBDs were under fighter attack under the clouds below.


Gray didn't need a crystal ball to have assumed that the TBD squadron he last saw disappear under clouds on the exact course that took him right over Kido Butai was attacking as he circled.  What else could he have thought they were doing down there?  Armed with that assumption, and seeing no Zeros at his attitude the entire time he orbited, where could Gray have thought the Zeros were but under the clouds swarming that TBD squadron?  The CAP had to be somewhere—was there any other viable assumption to be made other than that the Zeros were attacking the TBDs?


In fact, Gray’s hindsight at the time—the success of the TBDs at Coral Sea—should have given him even more reason to assume that the Zeros would be laying for and strongly confronting any attacking torpedo squadron.  Taken together, doesn’t this all constitute sufficient evidence available at that time for Gray to have at least sent some of his number down to investigate?


As for giving up tactical advantage, Clayton Fisher pointed out that had any of Gray's fighters dived down, they would have had the advantage of both speed and altitude over Zeros that were flying low and slow as they attacked the lumbering Devastators.  Fisher said it best when he stated “I think we all expected the fighters to fight until they ran out of ammo or got shot down, even if they might not have enough fuel to make it back to their carrier.”  Dick Best similarly maintained that the fighter pilot’s job was to “die getting the bombers to the target.”  These were concepts that were held by BOM combatants, not historians at the time of the battle, and their criticism of Gray was based on those concepts—no crystal ball or hindsight needed.



5 February 2010

From:  Scott Kair



There certainly existed legitimate question as to whether Gray underperformed as leader of the VF-6 escort on the 4 June morning strike.  You explained it without turning it into an apologia.


Losses of SBDs in the unescorted afternoon strike on Hiryu also provide vindication.  According to A Glorious Page In Our History, (Cressman, et al, p. 136), 25 SBDs were intercepted by 12 CAP Zeros that followed them down from 19,000 feet.  Three were shot down outright and 6 airmen were KIA.  Four more SBDs were damaged, three of which were written off upon return.  Granted, the Japanese had learned to look up by afternoon, but the available CAP was also severely diminished.


Gray’s alleged refusal to fly CAP over Yorktown baffled me, too.  Cressman states on p. 135 that Gray launched in the 1450 CAP rotation, was vectored to Yorktown’s vicinity at 1600, and chased two floatplanes until he ran low on fuel and ammunition.




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29 January 2010

From:  Jim Hanford



On numerous occasions, I've surfed through the LIFE Magazine photo archives, and had never seen these photos.  As many BOMRT members know, surfing those archives can be frustrating; the search engine isn't always helpful, and I suspect many of the captions are incorrect.  This week I attempted to locate the 31 March 1941 edition of LIFE in which these and the earlier-cited (including color) photos appeared, hoping I might find clearer captions.  My local librarian helped me find that issue on the web.  [ click here ]

I found another issue, 28 October 1940, that also carried photos from Enterprise, including a TBD that went over the port side, hanging by the arrester hook while the three-man crew clambered out and up to the flight deck.  The caption said something like, "The pilot is saved first, because he's the most valuable, followed by the bombardier, and finally the gunner."


Many of the photos mentioned above have been or soon will be posted in the Yahoo group, “Shattered Sword,” which you have cited in a past newsletter.  [ click here for the Yahoo group ]












-  Chaplain Linzey

-  Link of the Week

-  Editor’s Notes



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My first meeting with Stan Linzey was aboard the USS Hornet (CV-12) museum ship at Alameda in 2002.  He participated in the special memorial services on the ship during the weekend of the 60th anniversary of the BOM.  It was a marvelous event with a Navy band and hundreds of guests and spectators on the hangar deck.  Stan and the other Midway vets who were present were all resplendent in dress uniforms or formal attire, including the impressive 60th anniversary medallion that each wore around his neck on a multicolored ribbon.


I got to see him in person on several other occasions when he would officiate as the chaplain at BOM anniversary and related events.  It was during one such meeting that I learned about his book, God Was At Midway, which is a fine autobiographical account of a young man with a strong Christian focus who was caught up in the horrors of war, including the saga of USS Yorktown at the Coral Sea and Midway.  He was a member of the ship’s band aboard CV-5, and that always brings to mind his explanation of what it was like to be a musician on a carrier.  It went something like this:  “From watching the movies, you might think that the ship’s band forms up on the hangar deck and plays overtures during battle, or perhaps ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ Well, we were actually a lot closer to that than one might think.”  In reality, of course, the bandsmen were sailors first during general quarters, and Stan’s battle station was with a repair team on the third deck.  That put him just about opposite the waterline, where Japanese torpedoes would strike during the second attack from the Hiryu.


Stan survived the BOM and left the service temporarily to follow his calling into seminary school.  He became an ordained minister and quickly set about to achieve his second goal, a career in the Navy.  He had said that, aside from being on a sinking ship and floating in an oil slick, he’d always felt that he belonged in the Navy.  He served a total of 28 years (9 enlisted plus 19 as a Chaplain Corps officer), retiring in 1974 as a captain.


Stan always impressed me as being in remarkably good health whenever I saw him, but late last year he began to notice some uncomfortable symptoms that turned out to be a cancer that had been silently progressing for much too long.  He underwent surgery in December to remove a tumor, but the malignancy had spread to other parts of his body, leaving no realistic hope for recovery.  He died on February 4th at the age of 89.


I’ve written the following line many times in this forum and will do so again, so it may appear that it’s becoming a little too automatic or insincere.  It isn’t.  With all the sincerity that I can muster, from one sailor to another as he embarks on his final voyage, I sadly say:  Farewell and following seas, Captain Linzey.      —RR



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Here’s a photo of Chaplain Stan Linzey as I best remember him, at the 60th BOM anniversary observance aboard the Hornet in 2002.


Click here for the link of the week.



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~  The Navy League chapter at Phoenix, Arizona will hold a special luncheon to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the BOM on Saturday, June 5th.  Any BOM vets who might attend are cordially invited, and the sponsors would like to hear from anyone else who also might serve as a guest speaker.  Check your “new issue” announcement, or click here for more info.


~  Here is our list of 68th BOM anniversary commemorations and related activities that have been reported to us.  Please click this link to add or update an event.  E-mail contacts for each event are included in the “new issue” announcement sent to Roundtable members.  Non-members can request info here.


1.      May 31 - June 5:  “Return to Midway” Pearl Harbor symposium and Midway tour.  For details, click here (.pdf file)


2.      June 5:  Navy League BOM luncheon, Phoenix, AZ.


3.      June 3 - 6:  Annual Yorktown CV-5 reunion, Little Rock, AR.






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


Unless otherwise noted, all original content in this issue of The Roundtable Forum, the Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable is copyright 2010 by Ronald W. Russell (see the “About the BOMRT” page).  Permission to forward, copy, or quote from this issue is granted if the following citation is included:  The Roundtable Forum, official newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable,”


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