Roundtable Forum
Our 25th Year
December 2022

In this issue.

Roundtable Opening Remarks
The Charge of the Devastators
Ring's Lost Letter
Enterprise Order of Battle at Midway
The Sailor Who Discovered ADM Yamamoto’s Plans to Attack Midway

Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

Welcome to the December issue of the Battle of Midway RoundTable newsletter.  This month starts off with a series of questions on a work in progress about the Devastators role during the battle.  I also included a link to an article about Stanhope Ring's lost letter that I thought appropriate given the first article.  Most members may have read it but for those that haven't here is your chance.

We have a few pictures of a model based on Dick Best's SBD as well as an article on the sailor who first discovered one of the intercept messages leading up to the battle where AF was first mentioned.

I have also started working on a few more things on the site that need updating.  I added a couple books to the library and will add more as I round up the new publications in the past couple years.

I have started to sort through my downloads of Chris Hawkinson's Battle of Midway Web Site that unfortunately was taken down some years ago.  I am going to try to produce a reasonable copy of it here on the RoundTable.  It will probably take some time to recover all the pages intact but it had a wealth of information not found elsewhere.  I also downloaded the Yahoo Shattered Sword group and will look to extract the information contained within the pages.  It also had a lot of info in that group not found anywhere else.

That's it for now.  Enjoy the new year and may it be happy and healthy for all.

The Charge of the Devastators/Flight to Nowhere

1 December 2022
From Paul Corio
Lexington, Kentucky

I have recently begun work transforming my screenplay "The Charge of the Devastators" into an action novel. I'm making changes throughout to improve the accuracy of what I'm writing.

As I revisit the Flight to Nowhere, a number of questions arise.

I had always assumed that Waldron argued with Ring on the bridge of Hornet about the direction they were to take. If this is true, then the eventual course of 265 that Walter Rodee wrote in his log book and others testified to would have been intentionally chosen on the bridge when the Squadron Commanders met. That raises the question, as was examined in No Right to Win, as to why Ring would possibly take such a deviant course that would actually put his intercept point behind (north of) the last known position and track of the Japanese fleet.

On the other hand, the idea that Ring, being such a poor navigator, intended to go on a course of 240 but lost his way would seem to refute the notion that there was disagreement on the bridge between his course and Waldron's. But if that's the case, why would Waldron bother to pull Gay aside and tell him that Ring was going to be taking the group in the wrong direction before they even launched? Could a discrepancy of just six degrees from the supposedly intended 240 heading and the 234° that Waldron eventually went on have prompted him to tell Gay before launch that he was likely to break off and take Torpedo 8 on the course his instincts told him to go?

With Hornet air operations officer Foster, Walter Rodee and several others testifying that Ring took the squadron almost due west at 265 to 270°, you have to wonder why Fisher and others from the HAG didn't note the major discrepancy from the course they (Fischer, Rodee, Ruff Johnson and presumably Waldton) plotted before launching -- which was similar to the 240 course the other air groups took-- and the 265 course the HAG actually took, apparently chosen by Ring.

I'm not able to determine whether Sam Mitchell or Ruff Johnson survived the war, but certainly Fisher and Rodee did. I wonder if there was any evidence ever reported by them or others to back up the generally assumed idea that Waldron argued with Ring on the bridge about the course they would take, and lost that argument, which would back up the notion that Ring intended to fly in a more westerly track to begin with?

Final question, and I guess this is a doozy. Given all that is known or said about Ring -- that he was an ambitious officer who became an aviator to advance his career (rather than because he loved to fly) and that he was a shoddy pilot and navigator who many fellow HAG aviators thought (correctly as it turns out) would get them killed one day -- has anyone ever suggested that Ring intentionally took the absurd track of 265° because he figured he would in fact NOT find the Japanese on that heading, which would save his life and preserve his beloved career?

Best Regards,
Paul Corio

Editors Note:  First you might want to read Ron Russell's update to his excellent analysis of the Flight to Nowhere here:  Flight to Nowhere Update   This might answer any number of questions for you.

To your first point.  Hornet was a new carrier and had no experience at all in combat operations except to carry and launch the Doolittle Raid.  And since her deck was filled with B-25 Bombers her air group could not even practice or conduct patrols for half the journey.  And at this time the US operated carriers in individual task groups for the most part even when two or more carriers were in the same operational area.  So each carrier was on their own as to how to use aircraft in an attack or defense and relied on their own air operations to plan combat operations.  The fact that Fletcher ordered Enterprise and Hornet to close and launch as soon as within range meant that although the two carriers headed in the same direction and more or less were within close proximity to each other no coordination took place between the two carriers.

As to the discussions on the bridge of the Hornet before the launch there has been some conflicting accounts on exactly what was discussed and for that matter who was there.  Certainly the attack plan was discussed and Ring would have been there as he was the Hornet's Air Group commander and would lead the mission.  He was also senior officer among all the air groups even though he was not in overall command of the strike for Task Force 16.  Exactly what was discussed is not known as there is no real surviving accounts except Hornet AAR and there is no mention of any discussions on the bridge let alone arguments.  Were the Squadron commanders also present and if so did they have any input.  Again possible but how much they contributed is not known.  When the contact report by Ady of two Japanese carriers was made the Japanese fleet had just launched the Midway strike and was on a course towards Midway and were considerably south of where they were by the time the two US carriers launched strikes.  Since only two Japanese carriers were reported and there was some thought that the Japanese might operate their carriers in two groups, two in a forward group and the other two traveling some distance behind in a support role, Enterprise and Hornet made two very different plans of attack.

Enterprise decided to plot the furthest distance the Japanese fleet could advance towards Midway from the location where they were spotted and at the point that Enterprise's strike group could intercept, that being flying on course 240.  If the Japanese fleet was not there they would turn north to continue to search as the Japanese fleet could not possibly be further south.  That is exactly what McClusky did although he did continue a few miles further west before turning north to search and then finding nothing turned for home.   Enterprise could have missed the Japanese fleet to the south if not for some good luck.

Hornet on the other hand decided to launch somewhat north of the point where the Japanese fleet was spotted earlier that morning.  This might have been in anticipation of the carriers reversing course after recovering their strike or possibly to look for the presumed trailing two carriers.  The actual the reason is not known.  Given that the Japanese had launched a strike at roughly the point they were discovered it also made perfect sense that they might remain in the area to recover the strike when it returned.  This was the first combat contact and not much was known aboard Hornet, or anyone for that matter, about how the Japanese operated.  Certainly there was little time for Fletcher to brief anyone except Nimitz on what he had encountered at Coral Sea and even so it was not entirely clear if the way they operated there was any indication of what they would do now.

How much of the decision to fly course 265 was Ring's and how much of it was Hornet's air operations is not known.  But Mitscher was certainly involved in the decision and likely had the final say.  Although that again is not known.  What is known is that whatever course Ring took once he reached the intercept point and found nothing he turned south.  Now given that he was on a course of 240 turning south would have made no sense.  Even he could do the math and know that the speed of the Japanese fleet could not possibly take them further south.  In his letter after the war he said having found nothing at the intercept point he turned south to look for the Japanese fleet.  But he had to have known that he was very much north of where he claimed his intercept point was.  Otherwise if he had been on a 240 course it would have made perfect sense to turn north to continue the search just as McClusky had done.  But he didn't.  He turned south.

Again course 265 was probably not Ring's decision entirely or possibly at all.  Mitscher in command would more than likely made that final decision.

So as to your last point.  Did Ring purposely fly due west or course 265.  Well yes.  Those were probably his orders and he more than likely agreed with the decision.  That was why he was so adamant to have Waldron stay with him.  But I disagree with your question claiming that Ring took course 265 specifically to avoid the Japanese fleet.  His failure to find the Japanese fleet and given that McClusky might also have missed and the US would lose all three carriers to none for the Japanese would have been a career ending decision.  The Lexington's loss just a month prior was still fresh in everyone's mind and was proof that the Japanese carriers were a serious threat.  He was after all a Naval officer and his one, and and it turned out his last, chance of striking the enemy of his nation was not likely something he wanted to miss.  Plus to fly a different course than Mitscher ordered and then fail to make contact with the enemy would certainly have had severe consequences. To claim that he intentionally flew a different course to avoid the Japanese fleet that morning is really not warranted at all.


Ring's Lost Letter

Editors Note:  In 1999, Fifty-Three years after he wrote it and Fifty-Six years after the battle a letter written by Stanhope Cotton Ring was discovered in a Sea Chest he shared with his wife by his daughter when she was going through her mothers belongings after she had passed away.  The 22 page hand written letter described his participation on the morning of June 4th, 1942.

This is not exactly news but I thought including it here for those that might not have known about it was appropriate due to the questions brought up in the previous article.  Does it prove Ring flew course 265 that morning.  No.  He maintains he flew the more Southernly course of 240.  But as explained in the previous article does give some indication he knew exactly what course he took.

This was published in the Naval Institue Proceedings magazine in 1999 shortly after it was discovered.

Enterprise Order of Battle at Midway   (See prior article in the January 2022  Issue)

15 December 2022
From Artur Golebiewski

Thank you Thom, that is excellent news. As my semi-retirement project I will be able to recreate the model of the Enterprise with all the SBD's staged for that memorable take of. It was probably the most devastating strike of the whole war. Just 30 odd planes accounted for two fleet carriers. Over 200 at the Marianas in June 1944 could not even sink one and that was with vastly superior planes and much weaker enemy.

I suppose they would be likely to have been lined up on the deck in the same way as in the list. Command section up front with 500=2x100lb bombs, then all of VS6 with the same ordinance and lastly VB6 with the 1000lb bombs led by Dick Best.

Now, here is another interesting dilemma. You are surely aware of the Golden Wings era when the carrier aviation was coded according to section colors. Supposedly you guys talked about it in January 2022. It all relates to the one picture showing a command plane with red undercarriage.

"In the January 2022 issue of the BOM Roundtable, there is a link to a color film, that may be Dick Best's "B1" landing on Enterprise. This would be the only known image of Best's Dauntless. The side number cannot be seen, but the plane has double LSO stripes, and red landing gear struts. In correspondence, Dick Best himself said that the landing gear legs were painted in the squadron, in what any fan of the Yellow wings era would recognize as the Section colors used in the 1930's. In the list, plane numbers 1-18 were marked as sections, in order Red-White Blue-Black-Green-Yellow, with the Section leader having both in that color, the 2nd plane with the left strut so painted, and plane 3 with the right strut painted in the section color. I had never heard of this detail, or ever seen it on any model of a Bombing 6 Dauntless.

I just finished a model of Dick Bests B1 and one of Dusty Kleiss' S7 and I decided to do the color undercarriage. Here are a few pictures. I also did one of Dusty's with two blue undercarriage legs.

I was wondering what your thoughts are on the validity of this claim that even as late as BOM VB6 and VS6 still used the color coding.

Artur Golebiewski

Editors Note:  Barrett Tilman pointed out that the US did sink one Japanese CV at the Marianas.  The Hiyo was lost to the air attack in the evening of the 20th.

The Sailor Who Discovered ADM Yamamoto’s Plans to Attack Midway

18 December 2022
From Ron Walters

Not sure if these details are already covered in books on the battle or discussed on the excellent site. Huge fan.

While working on garbled JN-25 coded messages at Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne (FRUMEL), YN2 William H. Trimblay recognized the code group “ATTACK AF.”

FRUMEL immediately forwarded the discovery to Station HYPO in Hawaii and OP-20G in Washington DC. The United States was now aware of the first part of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s Battle Plan in the Pacific. The BIG question, however, was where and when will the attack take place!

The attack location and time were confirmed when the American base at Midway Island sent out a false message, deliberately using a low-grade encryption system, stating U.S. forces were short of fresh water and to send a water barge. As planned, the Japanese intercepted the message and reported to their chain of command that “AF” was short of fresh water. Navy radio intercept operators intercepted and broke the Japanese message, confirming Midway Island was the location of the attack.

The cryptanalysts at Station Hypo Hawaii were also able to give the date of the attack (June 4 or 5) and provide the order of battle of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Shortly before YN2 Tremblay’s discovery of AF, he along with 17 other cryptologists stationed at Corregidor, Philippines were evacuated onboard USS Permit (SS 178) on March 16, 1942, arriving in Melbourne, Australia on April 19. This was the second group to evacuate due to the Japanese landing on Bataan. The first and third group was evacuated by the USS Seadragon (SS 194). All three groups relocated to Melbourne and remained there for the remainder of the war intercepting IJN communications and reporting on their operations and movements throughout the Pacific.

YN2 Tremblay served in the Navy from 1939 to 1966, retiring as a lieutenant. He died on March 10, 2002. The significance of YN2 Tremblay’s discovery cannot be overstated!

P.S. Prior to and during the war, selected Yeomen (YN) and Radiomen (RM) specialized in radio intelligence. Although they did an incredible job supporting the war, these Sailors found it difficult advance to the next paygrade because they were working out of rate. The Yeomen performed cryptanalysis duties, running the IBM tabulating machines, while Radiomen were intercept operators, intercepting IJN communications. This was the primary reason for the establishment of the Communications Technician (CT) ratings in 1948.

Source: Command Display, Corry Station

Announcements and Questions

Battle of Midway coin

28 November 2022
From Howard Ady III

Editors Note:  Link sent for those interested in collecting.  No endorsement.  Just an FYI.

The Silver Waterfall added to the Library

Editors Note:  I added the novel The Silver Waterfall to the library as well as the historical account by the same title.  The novel has a review by Ron Russell which appeared in the May 2020 newsletter.  There is a link to the review on the books entry.  Goto to our library page here  and scroll down to the fictional section.  The historical book is just above it at the end of the history section.