June 4, 2013
Vol. 2 Issue 34
The Point of No Return Story by MC3 Phillip Ladouceur
Part 7 in a Series
he Americans had their three aircraft carriers ready, the Enterprise and Hornet in Task Force 16 under Rear Adm. Raymond Spruance’s command, and the Yorktown with Rear Adm. Frank Fletcher. In addition, they had a fourth ‘carrier’, the unmoving, but also unsinkable, Midway Island. On Midway there was a motley collection of aircraft. From Army B-17 bombers, which were never meant to attack naval targets, to SB2U Vindicators, which were so old that their frames were covered in cloth. Army, Marine and Navy pilots, none of whom had ever practiced any sort of joint operation,
flew them. In fact, no one had flown a joint operation before. It was new and desperate, but it showed that the American forces were willing to adapt and try new things. At 4:30 a.m., Adm. Chūichi Nagumo ordered the initial attack on Midway. Each of the four carriers of the Kidō Butai launched half of their aircraft, holding the other half in reserve until the American carriers could be located. They also sent out eight search aircraft, though one of them launched 30 minutes late. At the same time, 11 American search aircraft were launched from Midway. At 5:30, one reported two Japanese
Continued on page 3
STAND Story by MCSN Derek Harkins
he United States Navy and the Marine Corps fall under the command of the Department of the Navy and share many traditions. However, many elements of their training and structure can differ due to their differing missions. This can create potential challenges for Sailors and Marines while working in a joint operational environment, such as aboard an aircraft carrier while underway. “[Sailors and Marines] might have a different background, or a different military upbringing,” said Sgt. Kevin Abcock, an aviation safety equipment mechanic aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68.) “They might not know [other services’] rank.” Aboard Nimitz, Sailors and Marines in many different fields work alongside each other to accomplish their goals and complete the missions of the ship. “We’re up on the flight deck with them and coordinating with each other,” said Cpl. Zachary Gajus, a Marine aboard Nimitz. “We share equipment, knowledge and experience,” said Abcock. According to Aviation Ordnanceman Kristopher Martin, a Sailor aboard Nimitz, service members from the Navy and Marine
Commanding Officer CAPT Jeff S. Ruth
Corps can benefit from working together, both through experience and by better completing their separate and shared goals. For example, the more strict military structure valued by the Marine Corps can have a positive influence on a junior Sailor. “Marines are good mentors for military bearing,” said Martin. “We get a lot of help from them, but we help them a lot too.” Gajus noted that the Sailors help the Marines in the new environment presented to them by ship life and operations. While the basic and technical training of the Marine Corps may utilize some Navy terminology and knowledge, Sailors often receive training more focused on ship life during Recruit Training Command, “A” school and while working aboard a ship. “I’ve learned a lot about moving around safely on the flight deck from the Sailors,” said Gajus. “We may have slightly different methods of working, but the result is ultimately the same.” According to Abcock, In spite of any frustrations that may stem from differences between the two services, those differences ultimately help Sailors and Marine learn from each other. Members of both services can gain valuable experience by cooperating and observing each other. “Working with Sailors has helped me with my patience,” said Abcock. “They bring different points of view and perspectives.” These different views and perspectives are combined to complete operations ashore, in the field and in the fleet. Though divided by branch, the mission of the Department of the Navy unites Sailors and Marines.
Executive Officer CDR John Cummings
Editor MC2 (SW) Jason Behnke
Command Master Chief CMDCM Teri McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer LCDR Karin Burzynski
Lead Designer MC3 (SW) George J. Penney III
Nimitz News accepts submissions in writing. All. submissions are subject to review and screening. ”Nimitz News” is an authorized publication for the members of the military services and their families. Its content does not necessarily reflect the official views of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, or the Marine Corps and does not imply endorsement thereby.
Continued from page 1 carriers with flight decks empty, meaning enemy aircraft were on their way. Radar at Midway soon picked up the incoming force, and fighters scrambled. Japanese bombers heavily damaged the base, and most of the defending fighters were shot down or badly damaged. But the airfields remained usable, and the tanks of aircraft fuel remained undamaged. American aircraft could still land and refuel. The rest of the Midway aircraft, launched at the Kidō Butai, arrived at different times. They had no practice in attacking together and were easily picked off by the Japanese fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
At 7:15 Nagumo ordered his reserve aircraft to prepare for another attack on Midway. Then, between 7:45 and 8:00, he received word that the search plane that had launched late had sighted American ships. Nagumo had to quickly decide what to do. He could launch his reserves and attack the American ships, but his first strike force was coming back from Midway, and needed to land. He could not land his planes while having the others launch. At 8:35 he decided to recover the first strike force, and then launch. But by then, the Hornet and Enterprise’s aircraft had been heading his way for 30 minutes.
hen the attack was launched from the Hornet, Lt. Cmdr. John Waldron, squadron commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, felt they were going in the wrong direction. He disobeyed his orders, pulled his squadron away and set them on a new course. As it turned out, Waldron had been right, but arriving with only 15 torpedo planes, there was little he could do. “We will go in. We won’t turn back,” he said over the radio. He couldn’t wait for reinforcements, because they would either run out of Continued next page
Continued from page 2 fuel or be shot down. There was only one option. “We will attack. Good luck.” The assault started. But well before getting in range, the Japanese fighters were on top of them. The rear-seat gunners opened fire. A Japanese plane went into the sea. “See that splash? I’d give a million to know who done that!” said Waldron. On a sheet of paper, Waldron had typed up his views for all of his pilots in a training session the week before. It read in part: “My greatest hope is that we encounter a favorable tactical situation, but if we don’t and worst comes to worst, I want each of us to do his utmost to destroy our enemies. If there is only one plane left to make the final run-in I want that man to go in and get a hit.” But they were soon overwhelmed. Only one man, Ensign George Gay, survived. Waldron had disobeyed orders to find the enemy. Had he survived he may have faced a court-martial. They scored no hits. Neither did the other torpedo squadrons from Enterprise and Yorktown that followed them. In part it was the fault of the Mark 13 torpedo, which often malfunctioned and was soon to be replaced. Of the 41 torpedo planes launched from the three carriers, only four made it back. But since 7:00 a.m., 94 aircraft had attacked the Japanese carriers. They had worn them down. They helped keep the Kidō Butai off balance and unable to launch a counter-strike. They forced the enemy fighters to use up fuel and ammunition.
Lt. Cmdr. Waldron And so instead, Waldron posthumously received a Navy Cross. All of the attacks up to now had been feints and jabs. The knockout punch was about to land.
he submarine Nautilus had attempted to attack a Japanese battleship earlier in the day. The Japanese destroyer Arashi had attacked with depth charges and lagged behind the rest of the Kidō Butai. As Arashi headed back to rejoin the main force, Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, with two squadrons from the Enterprise, spotted its wake. At the time he was running low on fuel, having spent so much time searching for the Japanese carriers. He had persisted in looking a little longer, and been rewarded. At 10:22, McClusky and his divebombers arrived. The Japanese, with no radar, had missed their approach.
There was no time for them to get ready. It was at the perfect moment. The carriers of the Kidō Butai were at their most vulnerable. Fuel hoses were stretched out, bombs and torpedoes were out being loaded onto aircraft instead of safely stored in magazines. Their anti-aircraft guns were still pointed out flat over the water for the torpedo planes. “It looked like a beautiful silver waterfall, those dive-bombers coming down,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Thach, witnessing it from his fighter. The dive-bombers scored hits on the Kaga. Minutes later, they hit the Akagi and the Sōryū. All three carriers were so badly damaged that they were out of commission. Only the Hiryū remained. This was accomplished because of the sacrifice of the men who’d thrown themselves at the Kidō Butai all morning. It was accomplished because of McClusky’s unwillingness to give up the search. The Japanese battle plan had been predicated upon the assumption that Americans lacked the will to fight. The plan had fallen apart.
they were hitting, the Yorktown was damaged enough to put her out of commission, listing badly to port. The Japanese now thought that only the Hornet remained. The crew of the Hiryū’s morale briefly rose, but that afternoon she was spotted, and an attack from the Enterprise sank her too. As night fell, Fletcher, having transferred off of the listing Yorktown, gave operational command to Spruance. They’d won a great victory, but they still expected the invasion to continue. The battle wasn’t over quite yet.
iryū launched two waves at the Yorktown, hitting her with three bombs, thinking they had sunk her, as they thought they had sunk her at Coral Sea. But damage control efforts were so successful that when the second wave hit, the Japanese pilots thought they were attacking the Enterprise. But no matter what ship the Japanese pilots thought Page 5
Photos By MCSA Kelly Agee (Top Left) MC3 Raul moreno Jr. (Right) MC3 Derek W. Volland (Bottom Left)
Sailors heave in a line during a replenishment at sea (RAS).
Sailors advance into a smoke filled space during a mass casualty drill.
Sailors provide simulated medical attention during a mass casualty drill.
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