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Hornet Air Group, Midway


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I find Stanhope Ring’s Flight to Nowhere at Midway an interesting subject.  For those not familiar, Hornet’s air group, except for Torpedo 8, completely missed the target on Jun 4.  There is a lot of speculation about why they missed.  The Japanese were at 240 deg bearing.  The going theory is that Mitscher sent the planes out at 265 deg to find 2 un-spotted carriers following behind, as this was thought to be Japanese doctrine.  This pissed John Waldron of VT-8 off, so he split off, and we all know what happened to him.  Lots of aviators died in the main group as well, lost at sea after running out of fuel. The theory goes that Mitscher bullsh***ed the after action report.  

Some good reading:

https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2012/may/mitscher-and-mystery-midway
 

http://www.midway42.org/RoundTableBook/Update_Flight_to_Nowhere.aspx

Stanhope Ring was Hornet’s CAG, and here is his 1946 account, which doesn’t square with a lot of other pilots there or an objective analysis of what more likely really happened:

https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1999/august/lost-letter-midway
 

 

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Posted (edited)

The questions about Hornet’s flight arose when a guy named Bowen Weisheit, friend of an Ensign Markland Kelly, lost at sea, looked into where Kelly’s VF-8 squadron mates ditched, and were rescued by a PBY.  Apparently the rescue locations did not match the official story, leading him to believe HAG did not actually fly the course in the official after action report.  He interviewed some of the pilots of VF-8, and some of them said they flew 265 True, not 240.  There are recollections of Waldron in Torpedo 8, breaking radio silence to argue with Ring, and then separating his flight to the left.

Some of the pilots, like Clay Fisher, who was Ring’s direct wingman, on the other hand, insisted to the day they died, they flew as per the official accounts at 240.  He cites that he saw the smoke from Midway, something that historians and analysts say would have been impossible if they had flown straight west.

I had read Mitsuo Fuchida’s book, and also Prange’s book, but 30 or more years ago.  The controversy wasn’t part of my understanding of the battle until I read Shattered Sword, within the last 5 years.  As an aside, Shattered Sword also shreds Fuchida’s contention that the Japanese were ready to launch a strike at the moment the SBDs arrived overhead.  The authors found the deck logs of the Japanese carriers, and according to these, the only planes on deck were a few CAP fighters in rotation.

Edited by Sea Serpent
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Posted (edited)

I really am not sure what to think of John Waldron, the head guy in VT-8. He’s considered an American hero.  But I think he was smart enough to know that he and his entire command were likely to die, especially after splitting off from the rest.  I think of George Custer.  Custer probably thought he was going to win, but ended up losing over a third of his command and himself.  Waldron lost all but one guy out of 30, for zero results. 
 

add:  I think Waldron telling Ring to piss off, and disobeying orders to remain with the group, was stupid.  It’s my understanding that VT-8’s sacrifice, an hour before the dive bombers came in, had little effect on the subsequent distraction of the CAP popularly attributed to their failure to intercept Enterprise group.  It is however, fair to say that VT-3 (Lem Massey) and the six fighters from VF-3 (Thatch) that escorted them, at least in my current understanding of the battle, were providing substantial distraction to the CAP just before the SBDs came overhead.  Somewhere in that time frame, Yorktown dive bombers also arrive to hit Soryu.

Edited by Sea Serpent
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