The Roundtable Forum

Official Newsletter of the Battle of Midway Roundtable


3 December 2010

Issue Number:  2010-39

Our 14th Year








1.  Was Yorktown Abandoned Too Early?

2.  Getting the Details Right



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27 November 2010

From:  Stephen D. Regan


author, In Better Tempest: the Biography of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher


It was interesting to see that there is still some discussion about the abandonment of Yorktown at Midway.  Yorktown was abandoned when the list reached 26 degrees.  Buckmaster's staff and Fletcher's staff calculated that the ship would probably capsize quickly and soon.  These guys were professional sailors who had studied naval science, commanded ships, and were experienced at sea.  All involved reached the same conclusion—it was time to abandon ship.  Fletcher himself told Buckmaster that he was convinced that it was time.  He knew he must move his command and he sure didn't want the Yorktown crew to die awaiting the probable capsizing of the ship.

Critics of the abandonment also tend to ignore how badly the ship was damaged at Coral Sea.  Photos clearly indicate that the ship was barely able to sail, launch, and retrieve planes.  Beyond that, the ship was a mess; however, Nimitz knew that he needed that carrier and figured the internal repairs could be completed after the BOM.  Yorktown was already in a precarious situation prior to the battle.  The unknown factor in damage control was that the ship was already severely damaged prior to being attacked, and no one could possibly know with assurance how much the ship could sustain. The unknown factor plus the 26 degree list made abandonment the only choice.




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2.  GETTING THE DETAILS RIGHT   ( See issue #37, 38 )



26 November 2010

From:  Craig Burke



First, as an avid modeler and devotee of the Battle of Midway let me say how much appreciation I have for Konley Kelley‘s model rendition of the attack of George Gay’s TBD on the Japanese fleet at Midway.  It captures well the heroic attempt of Torpedo 8 to launch their torpedoes.  I think the carrier “looming large” is expressive of the pilot’s viewpoint, regardless of the distance it conveys.  It still looks to me to be roughly 500 yards to the carrier.  There are so many things that Mr. Kelley got right, including the twin defense guns (prior to Midway they only used one), the top-color on the underside of the outer wings, shell splashes from enemy gunfire, etc.


But I found two additional errors than those mentioned.  One, the torpedo lacked the plywood “box” attachment to the tail that helped keep it straight while in the air and as it hit the water (it was designed to break off upon hitting the water).  Another is the lack of a red center in the American insignia on the bottom of the wing.  It is not widely known, but the Hornet’s TBDs did not get around to having their red centers purged from the underwing insignia.  Everything else was done, but not those.


The only attack aircraft to have the Hornet’s “8” were the Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers operating from Midway Island itself.  I don’t buy the explanation that “the public” would have expected the “8” to be there [on the Hobby Master TBD model mentioned by Mark Horan in the last issue].  How would they have known if no photos of the Midway carrier planes ever showed them?  The famous photo of Hornet SBDs over the derelict cruisers didn’t have the carrier numbers; what other photos would “the public” have seen that might give them reason to “expect” the number?


Anyway, fine job Mr. Kelley.



25 November 2010

From:  Fred Branyan



Other malfunctions with the TBD model, not the diorama:


The LSO stripe was only on some of the SBDs on CV8—no TBDs.


As clearly shown in the stills from Chris Hawkinson's site, the prop tips: if they had any blue at all, it was located on the inboard side of the yellow stripe.  Considering how hard it would be to detect any shade of blue except very light blue once the props started turning, I highly doubt that the prop tip colors were anything other than yellow and red.



Ed. note:  to see the propeller tip colors on a VT-8 TBD as cited by Fred, click here, then scroll down to photos #7 and #13.  Also, note the photo at the bottom of the page showing a VT-8 TBD with folded wings.  The underside roundel does not appear to have the red spot as suggested above by Craig Burke.  Has anyone else heard of that issue with regard to VT-8?










-  The BOM’s Most Memorable Scene

-  Link of the Week

-  Editor’s Notes



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As announced in the last issue, a member survey is now underway on the subject of the most memorable scene of the Battle of Midway.  Several responses were received this week, and the participation of every member is encouraged.  To review the announcement, click this link, then scroll down to “Member Survey.”


In light of various fresh analyses of the BOM that have appeared in recent years, there might be some events that qualify for consideration in this survey that you normally wouldn’t have considered.  For example, how about that famous film clip of First Division infantrymen storming Omaha Beach in June 1944—an event that arguably would not have happened (at least, not then) without victory at Midway.  Or, how about the well-known film of Red Army troops halting at the Elbe River in 1945, where they linked up with British and American forces and effectively ended the war in Europe.  Without victory at Midway, the Red Army very likely might have halted at the Rhine instead of the Elbe, or perhaps even the Atlantic.  (See No Right to Win, p. 228 for the explanations.)


Whatever scene you choose, responses will be welcome throughout December, with the results published early in January.



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This week’s link comes from Nancy Casey, the daughter of a Yorktown officer who left the ship prior to Midway.  This picture shows seven pilots from the Yorktown during the ship’s stop at Tongatabu after the Coral Sea battle.  Info provided with the photo indicates that the third pilot from the left is Harold L. Buell of VS-5, who would become the author of Dauntless Helldivers.  None of the other six are named, and Nancy is wondering if anyone on the Roundtable can identify them.


Note that the first, fourth, and fifth pilots from the left are warrant officers.  The others are all ensigns.  While the clarity of this photo isn’t the best, it seems that only the WO on the far left is wearing pilot wings, although that’s uncertain with #4 and #5.  Also, Nancy points out that one or more of these men could be Lexington survivors.


To get a good look at each man, click the first link below and then click the center of the image after it opens in your browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox).  That will enlarge it and you can scroll across the line for a closeup of each one.  The other two links are cropped closeups, in case you can’t do it with your browser.


All comments about this photo are welcome.  You can also contact Nancy directly via her e-mail address in your “new issue” announcement .


Click here for the link of the week.


Closeup left.


Closeup right.



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~  Roundtable member Nick Spark, of Periscope Films, has announced a new Blu-Ray DVD production of the Victory at Sea television series from the 1950s.  VAS was a very well done (for its era) documentary of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps throughout all of World War II.  The new DVD brings all of the advantages of Blu-Ray HD to your screen (you must have a Blu-Ray DVD player for your TV, or a Blue-Ray DVD drive in your computer).  For more info, see the Amazon listing, or contact Nick directly as shown in your “new issue” announcement.


~  In the last issue, the archive message from Bill Surgi mentioned that the experience of HMS Hood, lost in the Atlantic with nearly all hands, may have influenced Yorktown’s C.O. to abandon ship at Midway rather than risk a similar fate.  Surgi remembered newsreel film showing the tragedy.  Four of our members pointed out that the film in question had to be that of the loss of HMS Barham, rather than Hood.  Point well taken, but I suspect that Surgi was also thinking of the Hood at the time, whose loss in May 1941 made major news in the U.S.  While the carnage aboard Barham was ghastly, something like 300 of her crew did survive.  Only three escaped the Hood, and Surgi had reason to believe it was that sort of calamity that Captain Buckmaster had in mind.


~  Here’s the film clip of the explosion and sinking of HMS Barham, with thanks to Roundtable member Chris Bucholtz.


~  Although not mentioned by Surgi, one has to believe that Captain Buckmaster also had a fresh memory of the Lexington in mind when he decided to get the crew off the Yorktown.