The Roundtable Forum

Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable


6 August 2010

Issue Number:  2010-26

Our 13th Year








1.  From Our Archives:  Attacked by SBDs!



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Ed. note:  in the following reprint from issue #2006-46, Bernie Cotton gives us an interesting anecdote from the Doolittle Raid.



28 September 2006

From:  FTC Bernard C. Cotton, USN-Ret


BOM vet, Mk 37 gunfire director, USS Hornet (CV-8)


During the Doolittle Raid just prior to launch, we were in our berthing spaces having just finished chow when GQ sounded.  Our spaces were two decks below the hangar deck and it was customary for the midships elevator to drop to the hangar deck.  This allowed all the personnel manning GQ stations on the flight deck and in the island to be lifted to the flight deck so they could all scramble to their GQ stations.


Well, I had a brand new ensign assigned as director officer and as we were climbing the after ladder to the director, two huge splashes erupted about 100 yards off our starboard beam.  This young ensign let out a war whoop and said to me, "My god!  They're on in range but off in deflection!"  [Referring to cruisers firing at the Japanese picket boats.]  I had to laugh because I had seen the Big E's two SBDs on ASW patrol jettison their depth charges, causing the huge splashes.


Just for info, while I'm on the subject of Mk 37  directors, that is not a fire controlman's only job.  The entire Mk 37 fire control system was maintained by him.  That system consisted of the director which fed target position to a Mk 1A computer.  The computer computed predicted target position at the end of projectile's time of flight, and with this info positioned the 5 inch gun mounts as well as setting the fuse on the projectile.  The entire system was kept level with respect to space.  That was accomplished by the Mk 6 stable element.  The train and elevation gun receiver regulators were also maintained by him as well as the director radars and the 36-inch searchlights.  The captain ordered them illuminated [at the BOM on June 6th, due to aircraft returning in the dark] which I set up in a huge vee.












-  Remembering Bernie

-  Link of the Week

-  Editor’s Notes



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Longtime Roundtable member and BOM vet Bernard C. Cotton, Chief Fire Control Technician, USN-Retired, passed away on July 29th at his home in Florida.  He was 89.  Bernie had been with the Roundtable since its earliest days and provided us with an abundance of insight on the USS Hornet (CV-8) in the Doolittle mission and the BOM, as evidenced by the message above.  His battle station was at a particularly advantageous position on the ship, in the Mk 37 fire control director high on the aft end of the island.  He had a view of the Doolittle launch that would be the envy of anyone.


Bernie joined the Navy in 1938, served briefly in an old destroyer, then was assigned to the pre-commissioning detail for the Hornet in 1941.  One of the new ship’s first tasks in February 1942 was a brief outing in Chesapeake Bay during which two B-25s made a successful test launch from the carrier.  Bernie felt that was a little odd at the time, but thought no more about it.  He would learn the reason for the unusual test two months later.


The Hornet was not attacked during the BOM, but Bernie had reason on June 4th to feel deep personal sorrow.  His brother Francis (“FX” Cotton) was an aircrewman/bombardier with Torpedo Squadron 8, and Bernie had watched all of VT-8’s TBDs launch that morning and fail to return by the afternoon.  He assumed his brother was lost with the rest of the squadron’s airmen that day.  His depression deepened by the hour until he rounded a corner on the ship and found FX sitting in a chair reading a comic book!  Bernie said, ironically, that he could have killed FX at the time.  He then learned that TBD bombardiers don’t fly on torpedo missions, which is why FX lived to serve a long naval career himself.


After escaping the sinking Hornet at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Bernie reported to another pre-commissioning detail, the USS Rockham (AVP-29), a small seaplane tender assigned to the Atlantic Fleet.  The ship made ten crossings to bring supplies to England, then became part of the invasion fleet supporting the D-Day landings.  After WW2 he was assigned to USS St. Paul (CA-73) which saw extensive action in the Korean War.  The remainder of his naval career included one more ship, USS Raymond (DE-341) plus teaching assignments at gunnery schools.  He retired from the Navy in 1958.


Bernie then commenced a long career as a naval ordnance systems engineer for two corporations, during which he was involved with the development of new missile and electronic warfare systems.


At this writing, Bernie’s final arrangements have not been announced, other than interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.


Farewell and following seas to a fine shipmate, honored BOM vet, and great friend of the Roundtable.  His name now joins his brother’s in the Remembrance section of the BOM Veterans List on our web site.



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Here are “then” and “recent” photos of both Bernie and FX Cotton, from the No Right to Win section of our web site:


Click here for the link of the week.



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~   Thanks to Bernie Cotton’s nephew and Roundtable member Joseph Smith in New Jersey for the news concerning his uncle.





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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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