During World War II, the war in the Pacific was strategically relegated to second place by the United States in favor of its primary fight against the Axis powers in Europe: Germany and Italy. Yet a decisive victory by the Japanese over U.S. naval forces in the Pacific would have almost certainly prolonged World War II, if not place into question the war's successful outcome of Germany's and Japan's unconditional surrender.
On June 11, 2008, President George W. Bush issued a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Interior. The memorandum included a proposal to evaluate the possibility of designating, by Executive Order, that the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship USS MISSOURI Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and USS BOWFIN Submarine and Museum and other distant Pacific World War II sites such as Wake Island, the Midway Islands and Guam in the Mariana Islands and other sites be placed under the umbrella of one National Monument. This unique concept would preserve for all time the magnitude and scope of the war in the Pacific, beginning with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; spanning the ocean southwest to Guam, which was seized by the Japanese on December 10, 1941 and not retaken by the Americans until July 21, 1944; traveling northeast to Wake Island where the heroic defense of this island lasted until December 23, 1941; then northeast to Midway Atoll, where the turning point of the War in the Pacific was fought to a decisive victory by the United States on June 4, 1942; and traveling southeast to Pearl Harbor, where the peace treaty by Japan and the United States was signed aboard the USS MISSOURI on September 2, 1945. The epoch battles of the war in the Pacific would be brought into comprehensive perspective by the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS BOWFIN Submarine Museum. Pearl Harbor would represent a lasting and worthy tribute to the men and women who fought and died in the Pacific to keep America safe for democracy. There is an important point to be made here, that is: that the secret to the preservation of democracy in the United States lies in the past. The present must reflect the good and noble of the past if the future is to hold the promise that all Americans seek.
By June 5, 2007, the International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) had successfully completed its week-long series of events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Midway in Hawaii and on Midway. The next day the Foundation hosted a preliminary meeting for interested parties to discuss the issue of a single National Monument to commemorate the war in the Pacific in World War II . In attendance were James M. D'Angelo, M.D., President, IMMF; Admiral Ron Hays, USN (Ret.), Director Pacific Aviation Museum; Captain Donald Hess, USN (Ret.), President, USS MISSOURI Memorial Association; Ms. Rebecca Hommon, Counsel, Navy Region Hawaii; Mr. Daniel Martinez, Chief Historian, National Park Service, USS ARIZONA Memorial; Mr. Richard Rodby, ARIZONA Memorial Association Board Member; Ms. Christine Sims, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, IMMF; Mr. Barry Stieglitz, Project Leader, National Wildlife Complex, Hawaiian and Pacific Islands; Mr. George Sullivan, Chairman, Arizona Memorial Association; and Mr. Peter Young, Chairman, Board of Land and Natural Resources.
A noteworthy feature of the meeting was the realization that the USS Arizona Memorial has never been designated by Congress or by executive order of any president to be an official National Park.
The Memorial has existed up to this point by a successful cooperative agreement between the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service. The status of the Memorial could change were the National Monument status to become a reality. In this regard, the IMMF, represented by Captain James A. Noone, USNR (Ret.), Vice Chairman of the IMMF and myself will be meeting with representatives of the Department of Interior and Department of Defense, and staff members of Hawaiian Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka on July 14-15. Details will follow in the next issue of the "Midway Sentinel."
On December 7, 1941 the first wave of 189 Japanese aircraft had as its objective to attack multiple U.S. air bases in Hawaii in addition to destroying the United States fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. Ewa Marine Corps Air Station lay in the southwest corner of Oahu and was the only marine air base on that island. Marine Air group (MAG-21) consisted of forty-eight aircraft, twenty-three of which were the new SBD dive-bombers and F4F fighters.
At 0753, six of the Zero fighters accompanying the Japanese torpedo bombers to Pearl Harbor peeled off to dive down and attack the Marine aircraft on the ground. All of the Marine aircraft were destroyed on the ground as well as a Red Cross truck and a fire engine.
The IMMF strongly believes that Ewa Marine Corps Air Station should be saved and placed on the list for National Monument status. The Foundation has begun the process to help save this historic site which was an integral part of the "Day of Infamy."
|||Dan Van Der Vat, Pearl Harbor, (Ontario: Madison Press Books, 2001), p. 95.|
|||Other Attacks, USS Arizona Memorial, 2008, p. 4.|
Vice Admiral William D. Houser, USN (Ret.), on behalf of the IMMF, was mainly responsible for the efforts that encouraged the U.S. Navy to inculcate the Battle of Midway into the Navy culture. The story that follows is the fruit of the seeds the U.S. Navy and he sowed years ago.
The USS GONZALEZ is a guided-missile destroyer, DDG 66 in today's modern Navy. The ship was named in honor of Sergeant Freddy Gonzalez, the only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient during the Battle of Hue City in the Vietnam War. In May 2008, The USS GONZALEZ united with the USS HUE CITY, a guided-missile cruiser CG 66 in the eastern Mediterranean, in a special tribute to the men of the past.
The GONZALEZ had another opportunity to link the present with the past, this time to commemorate the Battle of Midway in June 2008. Its commanding officer, Commander Brian Fort, had written a pointed article on the Battle of Midway for the well-respected Naval Proceedings magazine in 2007; and now he was prepared to commemorate the Battle of Midway in a unique way. He was determined to link the present with the past in a meaningful manner.
On June 1, the ship conducted its inaugural swim call of 2008 in honor of Ensign George Gay, the only survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8, (VT-8) which had unsuccessfully attacked the Japanese Task Force on the morning of June 4, 1942. The swim call was entitled the "Ensign Gay Commemorative Swim Call." The call was a great success.
The ship's crew also decided to recreate the navy's attire using old photos from the past. Stories were recalled from the sailors' families who had served in the Pacific during World War II. Photographs were taken of crew in their attire as a lasting memory of their remembrance of a battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.
On June 4, 2008, the GONZALEZ started the day by printing the words from Walter Lord's inscription on the cover on his book Incredible Victory in their Plan of the Day and in the Daily Operational Report to Commander Sixth Fleet. That night a Midway Night Dinner was held with the men dressed in working khaki uniforms with a black tie and the women dressed as Waves (Women Accepted for Emergency Volunteer Service) in a very 1940's atmosphere. All in all, one could conclude that a link that binds well can form a chain of incredible strength. The IMMF and the Battle of Midway veterans, living and deceased, that the Foundation represents offer to the commander and the crew of the USS GONZALEZ their most sincere thanks and appreciation.
The Foundation has decided to retain the same format in its critical review of "Myth and Myth-makers." However, the critique will extend over a greater number of issues of the newsletter due to the recent issues addressed above.
Assertion: "The sacrifice of Torpedo Eight was not in vain, since it pulled the Japanese CAP down to sea level, thereby allowing the American dive-bombers to attack." Not True. VT-8's demise happened a full hour before the decisive attack, giving plenty of time for the Zeros to resume their correct stacking had they maintained discipline. Rather, VT-8's contribution was the same as VT-6's - disrupting the counteroffensive activities of the Japanese carriers."
Discussion: The events on the morning of June 4, 1942 require some explanation. First, the United States torpedo bombers (TBD-1) that attacked the Japanese carriers between 9:20 -10:20 that morning originated from three American carriers: USS Hornet (VT-8), USS Enterprise (VT-6) and USS YORKTOWN (VT-3). Second, the Japanese Navy feared the American Torpedo bomber over the dive-bomber. Third, the U.S. torpedo-bomber attacks had the potential to effect the outcome of the battle in two ways: (1.) Effectively disrupt the Japanese counter-offensive capability - that is to launch its own aircraft in a coordinated attack on the U.S. carriers; (2) effectively bring down the Japanese Combat Air Patrol (CAP) to sea-level.
VT-8 represented the first wave of carrier-borne torpedo planes and they arrived on the scene at 0920. It appears safe to conclude that the main contribution of VT-8 was twofold. First, to disrupt the ongoing Japanese operations taking place to arm and spot their planes from the hangar deck to the flight deck. This was due to the violent turns needed for the carriers to avoid incoming torpedoes. [It is ironic that this time represented the point of no return for the Japanese Task Force, for within the hour, three of its four aircraft carriers would be fatally damaged, necessitating immediate launching if there were to be a successful counter-offensive. This assumption appears to be true, because launching of all its carrier aircraft would require at least 45 minutes.] Secondly, the appearance of VT-8's planes may have fixated the idea of low-flying aircraft in the Japanese consciousness, a repetition of which was to play out every twenty minutes over the next hour.
It is precisely the former contribution of VT-8 that has not been fully appreciated by historians in the past. A successful counter-offensive by the Japanese Task could have resulted in the loss of all three American carriers and a postponement of the 1942 offensive campaigns against Guadalcanal and North Africa. In this light one can conclude that the loss of VT-8 was not in vain.
VT-6 represented the second wave of carrier-borne torpedo attacks and sauntered in at 0940 that morning. Its planes effectively disrupted and prolonged Japanese counter-offensive measures. In addition, the planes not only brought the CAP down to sea-level but on their departure from the battle scene they helped keep some of CAP engaged as VT-3 was approaching.
The VT-3 attack flight plan was slow to develop. However, YORKTOWN's torpedo bombers, unlike the others, were accompanied by fighters and dive-bombers when they reached the target just before 1020. VT-3 not only brought the Japanese fighters down to sea-level but also attracted a significant number of Zeros into one quadrant of the battlefield. This coordination by all of YORKTOWN planes clearly paved the way for the dive-bombers from YORKTOWN and ENTERPRISE (which also arrived at 1020) to make their dive-bombing runs unmolested.
(1) It is reasonable to conclude that all three torpedo bomber groups disrupted the ability of the Japanese Task Force to execute counter-offensive measures.
(2) Although VT-8 group cannot receive credit for directly clearing the skies of the Japanese fighter aircraft at that critical moment of 1020, it does deserve credit for planting the seed in the Japanese minds of their most feared American plane - the low flying TBD-1 torpedo-bomber.
(3) VT-6 deserves partial credit for bringing down and engaging Japan's CAP on its departure from the battle scene as YORKTOWN's planes were arriving.
(4) VT-3 certainly deserves credit for gaining the attention of the Japanese fighters exactly at that crucial time of 1020 when the dive-bombers from ENTERPRISE and YORKTOWN arrived simultaneously.
Prange, in his book Miracle at Midway brings another point to the discussion. "An element of Japanese choice was involved, for the dive-bombers did not sneak in unobserved. Nagumo's timetable clearly reflects warnings from escort vessels of enemy aircraft coming in from the moment they penetrated the outer ring. The Japanese carriers could have diverted a number of Zeros from going over to the torpedo planes to deal with the new menace, which could only be dive-bombers. To a certain extent, the Japanese were obsessed with the torpedo technique, at which they excelled." To a certain extent, the Japanese were obsessed with the torpedo technique, at which they excelled." This statement supports the contention that VT-8 may have influenced the later Japanese decision not to divert any of their CAP to the incoming American dive-bombers.
|||Jonathan B. Parshall and Anthony Tully, Shattered Sword, (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005).|
|||Gordan W. Prange, Donald M.Goldstein and Katherine Dillon, Miracle at Midway, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1982).|
The Dinner honoring Admiral Houser has been delayed until the Fall of this year due to the increasing missions of the Foundation. Stay Tuned! And don't touch that dial.