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Jun 04, 2012, 04:12 AM
Shanghai'd Expat
herrmill's Avatar
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Navy Marks Battle of Midway's 70th Anniversary

Now here's another anniversary worth remembering considering it was one of the most pivotal battle of the war, certainly the most important in the Pacific. I just wish more space was given to Cmdr. Rochefort's role at HYPO since his story, considering how he was treated by the Navy after Midway, deserves far more credit.

Navy Marks Battle of Midway's 70th Anniversary

By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press
June 4, 2012

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) Six months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan sent four aircraft carriers to the tiny Pacific atoll of Midway to draw out and destroy what remained of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

But this time the U.S. knew about Japan's plans. U.S. cryptologists had cracked Japanese communications codes, giving Fleet Commander Adm. Chester Nimitz notice of where Japan would strike, the day and time of the attack, and what ships the enemy would bring to the fight.

The U.S. was badly outnumbered and its pilots less experienced than Japan's. Even so, it sank four Japanese aircraft carriers the first day of the three-day battle and put Japan on the defensive, greatly diminishing its ability to project air power as it had in the attack on Hawaii.

On Monday, current Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Cecil Haney and other officials will fly 1,300 miles northwest from Oahu to Midway to market the 70th anniversary of the pivotal battle that changed the course of the Pacific war.

"After the battle of Midway we always maintained the initiative and for the remaining three years of the war, the Japanese reacted to us," said Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, told a crowd gathered outside Nimitz's old office at Pearl Harbor on Friday to commemorate the role naval intelligence played in the events of Jun 4-7, 1942.

"It all started really in May of 1942 with station Hypo (the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor) and the work of some great people working together to try to understand what were the Japanese thinking, what were they going to do," Rogers said Friday.

Intelligence wasn't the only reason for U.S. victory.

The brave heroics by dive bomber pilots, Japanese mistakes and luck all played a role. But Nimitz himself observed it was critical to the outcome, said retired Rear Adm. Mac Showers, the last surviving member of the intelligence team that deciphered Japanese messages.

"His statement a few days later was 'had it not been for the excellent intelligence that was provided, we would have read about the capture of Midway in the morning newspaper,'" said Showers said in an interview.

Japan's vessels outnumbered U.S. ships 4-to-1, Japan's aviators had more experience, and its Zero fighter planes could easily outmaneuver U.S. aircraft.
But Japan, unlike the U.S., had little knowledge of what its enemy was doing.

Japanese commanders believed a U.S. task force was far away in the Solomon Islands. Then, as June 4 neared and Nimitz prepared his troops, Japanese commanders failed to recognize signs of increased military activity around Hawaii as an indication the U.S. had uncovered their plans to attack Midway, the site of a small U.S. base.

The U.S. lost one carrier, 145 planes and 307 men. Japan lost four aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, 291 planes and 4,800 men, according to the U.S. Navy and to an account by former Japanese naval officers in "Midway: The Battle That
Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story."

The defeat was so overwhelming that the Japanese navy kept the details a closely guarded secret and most Japanese never heard of the battle until after the war.

Nimitz got his intelligence from Showers and a few dozen others relentlessly analyzing Japanese code in the basement of a Pearl Harbor administrative building.

Japanese messages were written using 45,000 five-digit numbers representing phrases and words.

The cryptographers had to figure out what the numbers said without the aid of computers.

"In order to read the messages, we had to recover the meaning of each one of those code groups. The main story of our work was recovering code group meanings one-by-painful-one," Showers said.

At the time of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, they understood a small fraction of the messages. By May 1942, they could make educated guesses.
A key breakthrough came when they determined Japan was using the letters "AF" to refer to Midway.

Showers said Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort, the team's leader, and Nimitz were confident the letters referred to the atoll. But Adm. Ernest King, the Navy's top commander, wanted to be sure before he allowed Nimitz to send the precious few U.S. aircraft carriers out to battle.

So Nimitz had the patrol base at Midway send a message to Oahu saying the island's distillation plant was down, and it urgently needed fresh water. Soon after, both an intelligence team in Australia and Rochefort's unit picked up a Japanese message saying "AF" had a water shortage.

Showers was an ensign in the office, having just joined the Navy. He analyzed code deciphered by cryptographers, plotted ships on maps of the Pacific, and filed information.

Now 92 and living in Arlington, Va., the Iowa City, Iowa native went on to a career in intelligence. He served on Nimitz's staff on Guam toward the end of the war, and returned later to Pearl Harbor for stints leading the Pacific Fleet's intelligence effort. After the Navy, he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Showers said commanders weren't always as open to using intelligence to plan their course of attack the way Nimitz was. Some were suspicious of it. But Midway changed that.

"It used to be a lot of people thought intelligence was something mysterious and they didn't believe in it and they didn't have to pay attention to it. Admiral Nimitz was fortunately what we call intelligence-friendly," Showers said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Jun 04, 2012, 02:43 PM
Tin Can Sailor
seadog985's Avatar
Going to grab my copy of "Midway" and a coke and relax in the man cave. The Naval Air Museum in Pensacola has a wonderful SBD in their collection. It was involved in the battle of Coral Sea. Afterward it was unloaded at Pearl for repair and was on the ground on Dec. the 7th. It was then transfered to Midway as part of the pre attack build up and made a bombing run on the Jap fleet. I think it is the only known plane on display that was present at both the Pearl Harbor attack and Midway. Everytime I go I have to touch her and try to imagine what she saw. If any of you get the chance you have to see this plane.
Jun 04, 2012, 05:43 PM
Registered User
Fellow tin can sailor what ship(s)? What rate? I would have sent you a PM but it won't let me for some reason.

Now here is the question how will they get to Midway without getting killed? The record for bird strikes (according to my naval aviator dad) is something over a dozen in less than a two minute flight due to the gooney's who live on the island(s) (in reality several on atoll).
Jun 04, 2012, 10:44 PM
Tin Can Sailor
seadog985's Avatar
Fooman, I was on the USS Cushing DD-985, a Spruance out of San Diego. Was on her 1986-'89. While on her I was a STG. Prior to that I was a corpsman stationed at Naval Hospital Great Lakes and then Naval Hospital San Diego. Spent 8 years in. What ship where you on?
Jun 05, 2012, 07:24 AM
Registered User
I was on Claude V Ricketts (DDG-5) out of Norfolk, then tore up a shoulder and got transferred back to San Diego (I was born in Balboa) onto Ingersoll (DD-990), Ricketts was 81-84, Ingersoll was 84-86, did four more in the reserves out of NAS Jacksonville. I was a BM (PNAed the test for second class last chance before I got out)
Jun 05, 2012, 11:12 AM
Tin Can Sailor
seadog985's Avatar
I was at Balboa "83-85. My son and daughter were born at Balboa. You know they have tore most of the old hospital down now. The Pink Palace is still there though. Was Ingersoll out of San Diego? Don't remember her right off? The Harry W. Hill and O'brian were in our DesRon (31).
Jun 05, 2012, 06:18 PM
Intermediate Multi
Trisquire's Avatar
I was watching the 1976 film the other day. What a cool story.
Jun 06, 2012, 07:35 AM
Registered User
Ingerd*** (as she was less than lovely nicknamed by those sentenced to her) was based out of 32nd street. She was a colossal waste of razor blades that should have never stayed in service (they got rid of her in time for making 'Pearl Harbor' (she was one of the tin cans that was nested together with the huge fireball aboard) the movie, we all wished she had been for real) Lousy captain, lousy ship.

As for Balboa, I know that the Navy has been offered massive amounts of money over the years (and replacement ground in other places) to sell the old hospital. Surprised it is still there with that awesome view of downtown like that. It always cracked me up to watch Tom Cruise go to the accident review board and come flying out of the gate by the pink palace! LOL
Jun 06, 2012, 08:32 AM
Registered User
tghsmith's Avatar
"A DAWN LIKE THUNDER" is a great read, the history of TS8 before, during and after..
Jun 06, 2012, 06:01 PM
Registered User
Torpedo 8 and Ensign George Gay (sole survivor or the Squadron's disastrous attempt to attack the Japanese carriers at Midway) there is some interesting history.
Jun 06, 2012, 07:16 PM
Registered User
tghsmith's Avatar
he was the sole survivor of squadrons carrier based planes at the time (old devastators) five new avengers left from midway one returned(it was blasted to pieces, grumman had it shipped stateside to find out how it survived and how to improve it, they were on the assembly line) the rest of the squadron had just arrived at pearl, they were later carrier based and land based on Iwo Jima
Jun 07, 2012, 07:03 AM
Registered User
There were also four Martin B-26 Marauders carrying torpedoes that went out with the Avengers from Midway, all of them were lost.

Interestingly most of the footage of the Battle (especially the photos with the huge clouds of smoke from the burning airfield, which was not really heavily damaged) was filmed by famed Hollywood director John Ford. Another of his clips showed them removing the radio-man (he had taken over the turret gun after the gunner had been wounded) from the ball shaped turret of the sole returning Avenger. When they got him to the hospital they found the charging handle to the gun of the turret (shot off) clenched in his fist.

The Grumman Iron Works (reputed to never (ever) have built an aircraft that was below the max weight in the specifications) was very very proud of the toughness of their aircraft (my dad flew Grumman products for 17 years). Dad used to joke that if you managed to break a Grumman aircraft (with a bad landing) you had truly achieved something.
Jun 07, 2012, 11:56 AM
Tin Can Sailor
seadog985's Avatar
Pearl/Midway SBD in Pensacola. Scroll down to SBD 2 Midway. Check out the others, many nice naval aircraft.

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