The Roundtable Forum

Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable


26 November 2010

Issue Number:  2010-38

Our 14th Year








1.  From Our Archives: Was Yorktown Abandoned Too Early?

2.  Getting the Details Right



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Ed. note: VF-42 and Yorktown veteran Bill Surgi was one of the Roundtable’s most frequent contributors before his passing in 2003.  Here, Bill gives some first-hand insight on Captain Buckmaster’s decision to abandoned the Yorktown when he did.



12 November 2002

From:  AMM1 William Surgi, USN-Ret



In the early 1960s when I was getting started on The Battle of the Coral Sea Association, I was in San Diego with Cdr. John Trott at the officers’ club.  We had promoted a meeting of interested parties to begin the CSA.  While we had a group in conversation, Captain Buckmaster came in with a hasty gate to his walk, wanting to know if the author of the book Rendezvous at Midway was there, which was written by Pat Frank and Joseph Harington.  He understood that the authors would be there.  He came in with a raised arm, saying that he did have another command—the book mentions that he never received a command after Midway.  He said that the end of the war negated his command to have been in China.  I did meet with him at his home in Coronado.


Regarding the criticism of him on abandoning too early: I and others that were on the Yorktown saw the newsreel film of the British BB (I think was the Hood) sunk in the Atlantic.  It showed it rolling over and keel up with what few survivors crawling on its overturned belly, and then blow up with few survivors.  We think that Captain Buckmaster did not want to lose his crew that way, should CV-5 roll over.  When I got into the water all I wanted to do was to make some distance from it.




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Ed. note:  I mentioned in issue #36 that the Roundtable is a champion of getting all the details of the BOM right.  In issue #37, I commented on the impressive BOM artwork and dioramas by Konley Kelley.  But author Barrett Tillman and historian Mark Horan observed a couple of errors of detail in the example of Konley’s handiwork that I cited, a diorama showing George Gay’s TBD at the moment he launched his torpedo toward the Soryu.  Click here to see it again.  Can you spot something that may not be quite right?  Can you spot two?



19 November 2010

From:  Barrett Tillman


author, Clash of the Carriers, Whirlwind, et al


Konley Kelley surely does fine work; excellent TBD graphics.  But so many artists depict a torpedo launch far too close to the target.  I'd guess this is under 200 yards.  Typically, I think the Mk 13 dived to 150 feet and needed at least 200 yards to power up to running depth and arm itself. 



19 November 2010

From:  Mark E. Horan


co-author, A Glorious Page In Our History


I clicked on the link you provided for Mr. Kelley's work and could not help but notice the inaccuracy in his depiction of Mr. Gay's TBD during the 4 June attack.  All the [ship numeric designators]—the "8" in this case—were removed from all ComAirBatFor aircraft in April 1942, nearly two months prior to Midway.  When it flew on 4 June, Gay's TBD was carrying the code "T-14," [not “8-T-14”].

I recently was contacted by representatives of Hobby Master models concerning the correct markings for a 1/72 scale model of Gay's aircraft that they intend to make.  After providing the relevant information with historical references as to the markings, at a considerable investment in time, I was dismayed when their response was that they still intended to use the "8-" on the model because folks believed it was so marked and would be disinclined to buy something that they perceived as incorrect.  I responded that they simply needed to include the historical references for the correct markings.  Their further response was the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the facts conflict with the legend, print the legend."  I told them that if this was an example of the way they dealt with facts, I would have no further dealings with them, I would never buy any further products from them, and I would tell everyone of their response to historical facts.

Given the common perception that Gay's aircraft was marked "8-T-14" on 4 June, I can understand why Mr. Kelly decided to mark his model thus.  However, given that correct information on this matter has been available since the original publication of A Glorious Page In our History in 1990, the research behind [the TBD image] is not up to acceptable standards.  Sadly, it further perpetuates a significant error of history regarding Gay, his airplane, and their role in Midway history.



19 November 2010

From:  Konley Kelley



I've never heard that before [no ship numerals on the aircraft]. 

The bad news is I can't re-decal the scale model.  The good news is this image can be fixed in Adobe Photoshop, although it is a tricky fix with the angle/perspective of the numbers on the aircraft in this shot.

I've always wanted to re-do this image so now I have a good incentive.  It is all done with scale models, a camera and Adobe Photoshop.












-  The BOM’s Most Memorable Scene

-  Link of the Week

-  Editor’s Notes



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Six years ago the Roundtable conducted a survey of all members, asking what could be imagined as the most memorable scene of the Battle of Midway—the one that best depicts the battle’s importance or intensity, or its impact upon history.  The following were offered as suggestions, just to get the members thinking:


1.  Two VS-8 SBDs over the Mikuma and Mogami.

2.  The flag being raised over Midway immediately after the air raid.

3.  The TBD painting on our web site's home page.

4.  Howard Ady spotting two Japanese carriers.

5.  Bill Tremblay, somewhat wide-eyed, finding "attack" and "AF" in an intercept.

6.  Marines in doughboy helmets, at the start of the John Ford film.

7.  Lloyd Childers firing his .45 at a Zero.

8.  Hammann tied up alongside the listing Yorktown.

9.  Ground and hangar deck crews waiting for returning planes that never arrive.


The results were tabulated and reported via our e-mail circular (this was before the advent of the Roundtable Forum) and they also appeared in Chapter 11 of No Right to Win.


But that was six years ago.  As commented here recently, it’s amazing how our understanding and awareness of the facts of the BOM constantly evolve with the continuous focus that we have here.  Additionally, our membership has approximately doubled since then.  For those reasons, here’s an invitation for everyone to consider this subject again and send in a fresh opinion.  Knowing what we know now, what scene best typifies the Battle of Midway?


As before, your responses will be compiled and reported here.  All ideas are welcome.  To participate, click here or click “reply” on your new announcement message.



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Our link this week is a reproduction of Admiral Spruance’s foreword in Midway: the Battle That Doomed Japan by Fuchida & Okumiya.  Chances are you read it long ago, but it may be worth another look in light of the intense probing of command decisions at Midway that has occurred on the Roundtable and in recent BOM literature.  The admiral gives some detailed insight on his strategy in moving the fleet east on the night of June 4th, and ultimately abandoning the westward chase on June 6th.


Click here for the link of the week.



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~  When Mark Horan (above) mentioned that the lack of ship indicator numerals on BOM carrier aircraft has been known at least since the first appearance of A Glorious Page In Our History, I pulled out my copy to see where that was stated.  It may or may not be in the text somewhere, but you can see it in several photographs, especially that famous shot of two Hornet SBDs over the burning Mikuma on page 163 (in the 4th printing of the book, March 1998).