Micronesia (Marshall Islands)
Battle of Midway (Worldwar 2 History)
Chapter 3: Girding for Battle wpe16.jpg (59548 bytes)

Map 1: Midway Islands -- June, 1942

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LT. COL. IRA L. KIMES, Marine air commander during the battle of Midway, stands in front of his camouflaged underground command post on Eastern Island.

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"MIDWAY ACTS AS A SENTRY FOR HAWAII," said the Japanese high command in planning their thrust to capture the atoll. This view, looking southeastward down the chain of shoals and islets, shows Midway's strategic position directly astride the enemy's line of thrust toward Oahu.

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ADMIRAL NIMITZ FINDS OUT FOR HIMSELF that Midway's defenders are ready to meet the forthcoming Japanese attack. The Pacific commander in chief is just emerging from one of the hundreds of Marine dugouts and defensive positions which he personally inspected during his dramatic pre-battle visit to Midway.

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THE JAPANESE ADVANCE ON MIDWAY in two main forces, their carriers approaching the target area under cover of a North Pacific bad-weather front.

After the somewhat shaking events of 7 December, Midway, no less than Pearl Harbor, prepared for the worst with full anticipation that it would come. Wake, it was known from scant despatches and by rumor, was undergoing continuous attack; Johnston and Palmyra had been shelled; VP-21, with all combat aircraft then on Midway, had been withdrawn; and it was believed that, with the Fleet in its crippled status, little could be attempted to assist Midway should that atoll become the next target. In this frame of mind, and on short rations,[1] the 6th Defense Battalion worked grimly to make every possible improvement in existing defense installations.

On 17 December, however, the first reinforcements arrived. These were 17 SB2U-3s of Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron 231 (VMSB-231) which the Lexington had originally set out to deliver 10 days earlier, on 7 December, when diverted after the attack. Led by the squadron commander, Maj. Clarence. J. Chappell, Jr., (and assisted in overwater navigation by a PBY of Patrol Wing 1) the obsolescent Vindicators, as they were styled, had successfully completed between 0630 and 1550 the 1,137-mile hop from Hickam Field, Oahu. This was then the longest single-engine landplane massed flight of record, and had been carried out with no surface rescue craft available.[2] As one of the defense battalion officers (first Lieutenant David W. Silvey) reported:

The men stood on top of their gun emplacement and cheered when the planes droned overhead. They represented a real Christmas present.

Within less than two days, ground reinforcements, hardly less needed than VMSB-231, had been embarked at Pearl in the USS Wright and on 19 December were underway for Midway. These were Batteries A and C, 4th Defense Battalion, FMF (both 5-inch seacoast batteries, under command of Capt. Custis Burton, Jr.) bringing with them, in addition to miscellaneous supplies of all types, the Navy 7-inch and 3-inch guns, with necessary matériel, which had been shipped to Pearl Harbor for Midway prior to the outset of war. On Christmas Eve the reinforcements arrived, and Colonel Shannon lost no time in turning over to Captain Burton with one battery (A) the mission of installing, organizing, and manning the 7-inch and the 3-inch batteries to be emplaced on Eastern Island. To First Lieutenant Lewis A. Jones, who commanded Battery C of this group, the assignment was to carry out a similar role with regard to the Navy 3-inch battery planned for Sand Island.[3]

This reinforcement, amounting to approximately 100 officers and men, was followed, next day, by a welcome Christmas gift in the form of 14 Brewster F2A-3 Marine fighters, composing the air echelon of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221), which flew in from the USS Saratoga, then near Midway, retiring after the abortive attempt to relieve Wake. VMF-221, commanded by Major Verne J. McCaul, had originally been slated to reinforce Wake's depleted VMF-211, and Midway was the next most important destination. Without delay, the fighter squadron (the first such to garrison Midway), commenced its daily routine of air search and patrolling.[4]

On 26 December Midway received its final major reinforcement of the month; the arrival of USS Tangier, the seaplane tender also originally despatched to Wake bearing a relieving force of Marines and much defensive matériel. 

From the Tangier the 6th Defense Battalion received Battery B, 4th Defense Battalion (first Lieutenant Frank G. Umstead); additional machine-gunners and 12 antiaircraft machine-guns from the Special Weapons Group of that same battalion; an aviation contingent of three officers and 110 enlisted Marines (the ground echelon of VMF-221); aviation supplies; additional radar; and much-needed base-defense artillery matériel. Lieutenant Umstead's 5-inch batter (B) was given the assignment of installing and manning the other 7-inch battery to be located south of the radio station on Sand Island.[5]

As of New Year's Day, 1942, therefore, Midway was already garrisoned by a Marine force consisting of a strongly reinforced defense battalion, one fighting and one scout-bomber squadron.

The build-up on Eastern Island had been, and would continue particularly impressive as a major air base took shape. A report submitted early in January 1942, by Lt. Col. William J. Wallace, who on 9 January had been ordered out as commanding officer of the entire Marine Aviation Detachment, tells of the erection of individual aircraft bunkers and underground personnel shelters, of emergency and stand-by fueling expedients being devised, of radar calibrations so that inexperienced operators could learn something of the then-mysterious instruments. To assist during this phase, Colonel Wallace was fortunate in having with him Major Walter L.J. Bayler, the Marine aviation officer who had been sent back from Wake with that atoll's last reports.

That the zeal and vigor with which defensive preparations and training were being prosecuted on Midway were not wasted, was shortly to be demonstrated.

On 25 January, at 1748, during twilight general quarters (an element of Midway's daily routine which would pay off on subsequent occasions as well) a Japanese submarine, the I-173, surfaced abruptly, due south of the mouth of Brooks Channel (between Sand and Eastern Islands), and opened fire on Sand Island. Although the sun had set more than 20 minutes previously, the enemy ship was distinctly visible in the afterglow as she cruised slowly westward, apparently trying to knock out the radio station, the masts of which afforded a conspicuous direct-fire target. Within less than one minute, Battery D (3-inch) had a two-gun salvo on the way; followed by another, both on local control; thereafter, as the battery's director picked up the problem and electric power went on, the entire four-gun unit went into action. A bracket was quickly obtained, followed by a reported water-line hit, after which the submarine crash-dived at 1751. In the brisk three minutes of action, Sand Island and the adjacent lagoon had received 10 to 15 indiscriminate hits, and Captain Buckner's Battery D had expended 24 rounds, with what effect no one on Midway could say.[7]

Less than 36 hours later, however, the officers and men of the USS Gudgeon, a submarine on war patrol northwest of Midway, found themselves able to close the books on I-173.

In a position some 240 miles west by north of Midway on the morning of 27 January, the Gudgeon, cruising partially submerged, cam upon the I-173 underway on the surface, proceeding at approximately 16 knots, It was the matter of a moment to maneuver into position for a shot; a spread of three torpedoes was fired; and within two minutes the unmistakable concussion of torpedo hits announced destruction of the enemy submarine which had shelled Midway.[8]

Two weeks later, almost to the minute, at 1805, 8 February, under identical conditions, another enemy submarine appeared due south of Sand Island, less than 1,000 yards offshore, and again opened fire on the radio towers. This time it was a 5-inch battery (A, Captain Loren S. Fraser) which spotted the bombarding enemy by her initial gun-flash. Before three Japanese shells had hit, Battery A had returned two rounds, and the submarine ceased firing and submerged. Damage ashore had actually been sustained, although serious only in potentiality--a concrete magazine had been hit; fortunately the small-arms ammunition within was not detonated.[9]

Probably it was the same Japanese submarine which reappeared two days later at 1758 on 10 February. This time--unfortunately for the Japanese--when the ship surfaced at much the same position as the first marauder (south of the entrance to Brooks Channel), a section of two Marine fighters--flying the sunset antisubmarine patrol established as a result of the two previous bombardments--was almost directly overhead at 1,500 feet. The submarine had time to get off two rounds, both of which hit in the lagoon, before First Lieutenant John F. Carey, pilot of one of the aircraft, observed the ship, notified his wingman (Second Lieutenant Philip R. White) and pulled up into a brief climb in order to arm bombs and gain altitude for a diving attack. Both pilots released bombs, secured gratifying close near misses and strafed as the submarine began to submerge, just at the moment when the 6th Defense Battalion's batteries were going into action, and this was the last time for many months that Midway was troubled by enemy submarines.[10]

By this date the pattern of wartime life on Midway had been well established. Since--except on Johnston Island, where similar routine prevailed--this pattern was unique in the Marine experience of the Pacific war, its description in the following passage by Lieutenant Colonel McGlashan[11] is of particular interest:

 

Since Midway was, to my knowledge, the only place (sic) in our armed forces where underground living prevailed, except while in contact with the enemy or under attack, brief comment on our way of life is in order. Breakfast, supper, and a midnight snack with hot coffee were served to all positions from the central galley in food containers by truck. Since we stood a morning and evening stand-by there was not time to serve a noon meal during the day, as the process of distributing food to the widely dispersed gun positions by food container and getting them returned and cleaned for the next meal was a lengthy one. All food was prepared at the main galley in the newly completed barracks where the men would also go during the day in increments to bathe. The lack of a noon meal was quite disconcerting to new arrivals, but they soon became accustomed to it and actually were in much better health. When conditions permitted, movies were held in a blacked-out warehouse during the day and men off watch could go. But the high point of each day was the noon libation of two beers at the  PX * * * Swimming was allowed in certain areas but helmets and side arms had to be worn to the beach and at all other times. (Colonel Shannon's insistence on the wearing of the helmet and carrying of rifles at all times was the subject of an excellent cartoon, which the colonel hugely enjoyed. It depicted a Marine, naked save for a helmet, cartridge-belt and rifle, dipping a toe in the water prior to diving in.)

All activities away from battle stations had to be carried on during the day, and after the evening stand-by everyone went underground for the night except for the men on watch above ground. Sleeping underground has its good points as it is quiet, there is no early sun to bother one after a night on watch, and there is a great feeling of security from surprise submarine attack. It is true that the dugouts were often hot in the summer months and cold in winter and at first were much too crowded and lacked proper ventilation, but by and large it was a very pleasant existence.

Colonel Shannon "slept" in a small room off the main CP operations center and heard nearly every phone call or report that came in. One things that could never be said of the old man, was that he lacked energy or attention to duty. He would end a 25-coffee-cup day with three or four cups of hot black coffee at midnight, and then turn in and fall asleep instantly. If anything happened he was immediately awake and he never slept later than 0500, being awakened about a half-hour before morning twilight. The staff officer on watch would have to furnish him with a report of conditions obtained from the lighthouse tower lookout immediately upon awakening him. The report would include: radar reports, weather (wind, clouds, height of breakers on reef, visibility, tide, moon, events of the night, and status of communications). And woe to the officer who didn't know every one of those things accurately and in the specified terminology. After the report was properly rendered, the colonel would relax and start his coffee marathon with the cup that was always hot and ready for his awakening.

As the winter wore on, Midway's Marine aviation component began to feel the effects of the general expansion of Marine Corps aviation as a whole. The two squadrons and their small provisional headquarters were formed on 1 March into what they in fact already were, an air group: MAG-22. At the same time, each squadron was split in two and brought again to strength by new personnel. As a result--for the time being--MAG-22 consisted of VMF-221 and VMF-222; and of VMSB-241 and VMSB-242.[12]

On 20 April, Lieutenant Colonel Wallace, who had seen MAG-22 through its teething stage was relieved in command by Major Ira L. Kimes. At the same time, Major Chappell (VMSB-241) was replaced by Major Lofton R. Henderson. This was a busy time for MAG-22, which was then engaged in converting Eastern Island from a small advanced air base to a major installation capable of handling as many squadrons and types as could physically be accommodated and protected. A detailed account of the Marine Air Group's labors and tribulation during this period are contained in Appendix V.

On 10 March, shortly after this reorganization, the Marine fighter squadrons got their first opportunity against enemy aircraft. Radar contact was made that morning at 1030 on what developed to be a Japanese four-engined "Mavis" (Kawanishi 97, probably from Wake) approximately 45 miles west of Midway (which in the argot of its fighter-director officers, was code-named "Alcatraz"). Twelve fighters under Capt. Robert M. Haynes, were vectored out, of which a four-plane division commanded by Captain James L. Neefus made contact with the enemy flying boat at 10,000 feet. Following this, in the words of the Squadron's historian:

Captain Neefus made the first pass, drew smoke from one engine, and the target dove for a cloud bank at 3,000 feet. Lieutenants McCarthy and Somers made modified overhead passes (one each) before the patrol bomber reached the cloud bank. Marine Gunner Dickey made a tail approach and received a wound in his left shoulder and seven bullet holes in his plane. * * * Captain Neefus was able to return and make a second pass. Dropping below the clouds, scattered, burning debris was observed on the surface of the water. This was the first enemy plane to be shot down by Group 22. The officers that participated in the fight received a bottle of bourbon and congratulations from Lieutenant Colonel Wallace and his staff.[13]


"MIDWAY ACTS AS A SENTRY FOR HAWAII," said the Japanese high command in planning their thrust to capture the atoll. This view, looking southeastward down the chain of shoals and islets, shows Midway's strategic position directly astride the enemy's line of thrust toward Oahu.

ADMIRAL NIMITZ FINDS OUT FOR HIMSELF that Midway's defenders are ready to meet the forthcoming Japanese attack. The Pacific commander in chief is just emerging from one of the hundreds of Marine dugouts and defensive positions which he personally inspected during his dramatic pre-battle visit to Midway.

During the months of April 1942, although Marines on Midway did not know this, the Japanese Combined Fleet was commencing carrier operational training and rehearsals for an operation against Midway, in the plans for which the Japanese high command rightly states, "Midway acts as a sentry for Hawaii."

In order to reach the Hawaiian prize which had been so nearly in their grasp during December 1941, it would be necessary to obtain Midway, reasoned the enemy.[14] When, on 18 April 1942, Army planes launched from the USS Hornet, raided Tokyo, it was believed by the Japanese that these had come from Midway, and estimate which further whetted Japanese eagerness to obtain control of the atoll.[15] Set in a background of strategic diversionary operations, the enemy plan against Midway called for three days of attack and prelanding softening by a powerful carrier task force variously entitled the First Air Fleet, First Attack Force, Mobile Force, or Striking Force; this force (and a supporting surface force) was also to await favorable opportunity for surface action against whatever strength the still-weakened United States Pacific Fleet could muster. Proceeding toward Midway via a different route would by the Occupation Force, a heavily escorted slower group of amphibious shipping bearing landing force and base-development elements which were also to establish a seaplane base at Kure Island, Midway's nearest neighbor, approximately 55 miles west by north.

The actual landing on Midway was to be accomplished by approximately 1,500 Special Naval Landing Force troops who would storm Sand Island; and by 1,000 Army troops of the Ikki Detachment, to land[16] on Eastern Island. Summarizing the enemy landing plan, Captain Toyama stated:\

We were going to approach the south side (of Midway), sending out landing boats as far as the reef. We had many different kinds of landing boats but did not think that many would be able to pass over the reefs. If they got stuck the personnel were supposed to transfer to rubber landing boats. We had plenty of equipment for a three months' occupation without help, but were not sure of our boats.[17]

Assault elements in the landing would be backed up by the 11th and 12th Construction Battalions plus miscellaneous base-development detachments. "The Navy," added an operation plan for the Ikki Detachment, "plans to destroy the sortieing enemy fleet."[18]

By late April, it was suspected strongly by the United States Pacific High Command that the enemy plans just described were well along toward consummation, and, although Admiral King in Washington still included Oahu as a possible target, Admiral Nimitz placed Midway as most probable.

To Marines on the atoll, the first inkling of all this was betrayed on 2 May by the unexpected arrival via PBY-5A of Admiral Nimitz himself. Accompanied by a considerable staff group, the Commander-in-Chief inspected every installation on Midway with the greatest thoroughness, and, at the conclusion of a hard day's climbing, ducking, and keen observing, the admiral asked Colonel Shannon to enumerate the major items he would require to hold Midway against a large-scale attack. After Shannon had stated his requirements--which were necessarily considerable--Admiral Nimitz asked, "If I get you all these things you say you need, then can you hold Midway against a major amphibious assault?"

"Yes, sir;" replied Colonel Shannon.

Smiling and appearing to relax, the admiral then ordered the marine commander to submit direct to CinCPac a detailed list of all supplies and equipment required for a decisive defense of Midway. If available, he promised, these would be obtained immediately.[19] On 7 May, Colonel Shannon had compiled his list, and this was then duly submitted by the naval commandant of the atoll, Commander Simard.

Within less than a week, in fulfillment of Admiral Nimitz's promise, Marines and matériel were being embarked in the Hawaiian area to reinforce Midway, which, the Fleet command was now certain, was the intended enemy target.

Three more 3-inch antiaircraft batteries (12 guns in all) a 37-mm antiaircraft battery (eight guns) and a 20-mm antiaircraft battery (18 guns), were to be attached temporarily from the 3d Defense Battalion, then at Pearl Harbor.[20] Two rifle companies of the 2d Marine Raider Battalion, together with a platoon of five light tanks, would augment the small infantry reserve already at Midway;[21] and, for MAG-22, which was still flying its Brewster fighters and Vought Vindicator dive bombers ("Wind Indicators" or "Vibrators," some pilots called them), there would be provided some 16 SBD-2 dive bombers and seven of the relatively new Grumman F4F-3 fighters.[22]

Shortly after his return to Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nimitz addressed a joint personal letter to Captain Simard and Colonel Shannon, in which, after congratulating them on the fine work which had been done at Midway and on the "spot" promotions to captain and colonel which he had just secured for them, he described in detail the prospect of hostile attack in store. After listing the enemy units which were soon to approach Midway, he enumerated the steps being taken to reinforce the atoll, and assured both officers of his complete confidence in the Marines' ability to hold Midway. D-day, he predicted at this time, would be about 28 May.[23]

Among his own staff officers, Admiral Nimitz forecast, as far as the enemy were concerned, that "The Midway operations will be an enlarged Wake attack. A study of events at Wake will be valuable and may indicate procedure which the Japs will follow."[24] Early offensive action against the enemy carriers, the CinCPac staff reasoned, was the only means by which victory could be assured. Midway planes must thus make the CVs their objective, rather than attempting any local defense of the atoll. On the other hand, however, reinforcement of Midway's antiaircraft defenses was realized to be of crucial importance. As Capt. Arthur C. Davis, USN, stated to Admiral Nimitz, "There cannot be too many antiaircraft defenses for Eastern island."[25]

To summarize all, Admiral Nimitz rejoined,

Balsa's air force must be employed to inflict prompt and early damage to Jap carrier flight decks if recurring attacks are to be stopped. Our objectives will be first--their flight decks rather than attempting to fight off the initial attacks on Balsa. * * * If this is correct, Balsa air force * * * should go all out for the carriers * * * leaving to Balsa's guns the first defense of the field.[26]
Upon receipt of the Nimitz letter at Midway, Simard and Shannon spent the day in conference, to coordinate and determine final plans for the defense.

That evening, Colonel Shannon assembled his key subordinates and warned them in general terms of the impending enemy attack. Additional defensive measures and priorities of final efforts were outlined, including special measures of advance reconnaissance and preliminary preparations to enable to 3d Defense Battalion's forthcoming batteries to occupy positions in minimum time. All recreational activities within the Marine force were suspended, and 25 May was set as the deadline for completion of the measures ordered.[27] To insure maximum effort by all hands, this information was disseminated in general terms to all Marines in the garrison.

On the 25th, however, two welcome changes took place. The first took the form of further information from Admiral Nimitz to the effect that the estimated target date would now probably fall in the period 3-5 June, almost a week later. The second was arrival, partially via the light cruiser, St. Louis, of the first reinforcements: The 3d Defense Battalion's 37-mm antiaircraft battery (Captain Ronald K. Miller), together with Companies C and D, 2d Raider Battalion (Captain Donald H. Hastie and First Lieutenant John Apergis). The 37-mm guns were promptly emplaced, four on each island, while one raider company (C) went into bivouac in the woods on Sand Island, and the other (D) was sent to Eastern Island.[28]

The next day, 26 May, will long be remembered by those responsible for the defense of Midway because of the anxiously awaited arrival of the USS Kittyhawk, an aircraft tender bearing not only the 3-inch antiaircraft group of the 3d Defense Battalion (Major Chandler W. Johnson)[29] and the light tank platoon so urgently needed for the mobile reserve; but, most important, 16 new (to Midway, that is) SBD-2 Douglas dive-bombers, and seven F4F-3s. "The planes," an eye-witness reported, "* * * were unloaded, wheeled over to the short seaplane apron, fueled, and flown off to Eastern Island with a simplicity and rapidity that was so characteristic of those superbly led and well-trained Marine air units of the early war days."[30]

The week which followed 27 May was, for Midway, a period of the most intense activity. Army and Navy aircraft arrived at Eastern Island until it seemed that the field could accommodate no more.[31] One aviation report seriously complained that even the numerous birds overhead were being crowded out of the air by the concentration of traffic.

For the ground defense forces (as well as the group of key civilian workers who voluntarily had remained at Midway to assist in final fortification work) the week was equally busy. Not only were the reinforcing weapons installed, tanks tested in the sand, and all defensive concentrations shot in, but the extremely extensive system of obstacles, mines, and demolitions projected by Colonel Shannon was brought to final completion.

By now Sand Island was surrounded with two double-apron tactical wire barriers, and all installations on both islands were in turn ringed by protective wire. Antiboat mines made of sealed sewer pipe, and obstacles fashioned from concertina-ed reinforcing-steel lay offshore. The beaches were sown with home-made mines consisting of ammunition boxes filled with dynamite and 20-penny nails; although electric detonation was planned, every such mine also had a bull's eye painted on an exposed landward side, so that it could be set off locally by rifle fire. Cigar-box antitank mines were filled with dynamite to be fired on pressure by current from flashlight batteries, and whiskey-bottle molotov cocktails of high-octane gasoline and fuel oil stood ready at every position. A decoy mockup airplane--dubbed a JFU ("Jap fouler-upper" [sic])--was prominently placed on the seaplane apron. Finally, all the underground fuel storage on Sand Island was prepared for demolition by the adjacent planting of large changes of dynamite.

Inevitably, after the extensive system of demolitions for fuel supply and other vital installations had been installed (by Marine Gunner Dorn E. Arnold, the defense battalion's munitions officer), on 22 May, a Naval Air Station sailor, at work on the fuel storage firing circuits, pulled the wrong switch, thus causing a major explosion which destroyed a substantial quantity of fuel and further damaged the distribution system. This resulted in an enforced curtailment of avgas consumption so that the new pilots who had reached Midway in the Kittyhawk were deprived of any proper opportunity to check out in the newly received SBD-2 dive-bombers. It also forced the already hard-worked Marines of MAG-22 to conduct all refueling operations (including those for Army B-17s_ by hand, from 55-gallon drums. Marine Gunner Arnold, however, had the last word, after being exonerated on the spot of any responsibility for the mishap:

THE JAPANESE ADVANCE ON MIDWAY in two main forces, their carriers approaching the target area under cover of a North Pacific bad-weather front.

"Well, that proves that the damn thing works, anyway."[32]

Ignorant of the intense preparations being made to receive them, the enemy meanwhile had likewise been going through his final arrangements. Assembly and final training of Admiral Nagumo's Striking Force was carried out at Hashira Jima, and on 26 May (west longitude date) the enemy carrier force sortied from the Inland Sea toward Midway. The amphibious shipping of the Occupation Force, together with the Landing Force, sailed from the Marianas two days later on 28 May.[33]

As the enemy neared Midway, however, the Marine defenders--progressively alerted from preliminary contacts--could be content with their preparations and their effort. In the words of Lieutenant Colonel McGlashan:

Of course, there were a thousand things more that could have been done; but all the essential things had been done--and not a day to spare. As I turned in that night knowing that the Japs would arrive by morning, I felt that, come what may, we had done all we could.[34]

Continue: Battle of Midway (Chapter 4)

Footnotes

[1] Instituted originally as an economy against possible isolation during the first days of the war, this custom carried over for reasons of convenience and conformity to the daily routine which subsequently prevailed. (See p. 18.)

[2] CO, MAG-21 serial 1173, to MGC, 19 December 1941. The reason for this flight's take-off from the Army field, Hickam, was that Ewa's runways were too short to permit such heavily loaded planes to get off with entire safety. One additional pilot, 2d Lit. Richard L. Blain, made the same flight 10 days later, in order to bring the squadron to full complement of 18 planes. Blain accompanied a PBY, and, due to headwinds, required 12 hours to complete the trip.

[3] Historical Section interview with Lt. Col. Custis Burton, Jr., 26 September 1947, hereinafter cited as Burton. The two Eastern Island batteries assigned to Captain Burton were located side by side on the south shore of the island, near the western tip, and the Sand Island 3-inch Navy battery was to be set up hard by the Cable Station, along the north shore of Sand Island. (See Map 1.)

[4] "History of Marine Fighting Squadron 221," undated and without indication of authorship, p. 5 (believed to have been initialed by Second Lt. Francis P. McCarthy). Hereinafter cited as VMF-221 History.

[5] Ibid, p. 5, and Burton, p. 1.

[6] Wallace, William J., Lt. Col., personal letter to Col. Calude A. Larkin, 18 January 1942.

[7] CO, 6th Defense Battalion Report to Commandant 14th Naval District, 26 January 1942.

[8] JANEC, p. 19, appendix of submarine sinkings; and report of Gudgeon's first war patrol.

[9] CO, 6th Defense Battalion report to CO, Marine Forces, 14th Naval District, 8 February 1942, and NAS Diary, that date.

[10] CO, VMF-221 report of submarine contact to CO, MAG-21, 11 February 1942, and CO 6th Defense Battalion report to CG, Marine Forces, 14th Naval District, 10 February 1942. Despite the pilots' aggressive and prompt attack, however, there is no record of the loss of any enemy submarine in this area or about this time, JANEC, p. 1. A Japanese sandal, washed ashore shortly afterward, let to speculation as to whether the gun crew might not have been abandoned when this submarine crash-dived.

[11] McGlashan, Robert C., Lt. Col., official reply to Historical Section questionnaire, 12 August 1947, pp. 16-18, hereinafter cited as McGlashan. Colonel McGlashan served as operations officer (Bn-3) of the 6th Defense Battalion throughout this period, and is one of the most important surviving sources.

[12] VMF-222 and VMSB-242 were transferred (personnel only) from Midway on 12 April 1942 and play no further role in this history, the ultimate net effect of the reorganizations being that Midway's Marine aviation was now organized into MAG-22 composed of VMF-221 and VMSB-241, with the same complement of aircraft as previously. VMSB-231, in name only, was transferred on paper to MAG-23, in the Hawaiian area, but the squadron's personnel remained at Midway under the new designation. VMF-221 History, p. 16.

[13] VMF-221 History, p. 17. In addition to the bourbon, these individuals subsequently were decorated by Admiral Nimitz. Full names of the other pilots participating were 1st Lts. Francis P. McCarthy and Charles W. Somers, Jr., and Marine Gunner Robert L. Dickey.

[14] "The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway," The ONI Review, May 1947, p. 5, hereinafter cited as ONI Review.

[15] USSBS, Interrogation Nav No. 13, Captain Watanabe, Y., IFN, 15 October 1945, p. 66; hereinafter cited as Watanabe.

[16] USSBS Interrogation Nav. No. 60, Capt. Toyama, Yasumi, IJN, 1 October 1945, p. 250; hereinafter cited as Toyama. Further details as to the plan and the Ikki Detachment are from "Japanese Land Forces No. 2," 20 October 1942, a translation by JICPOA, hereinafter cited as Ikki Report. The Ikki Detachment mentioned here is the same one which was destined to be annihilated by Marines at the Battle of the Tenaru, 21 August 1942, on Guadalcanal. This unit is sometimes referred to as the Ichiki Detachment because the Japanese characters for "ikki" and "ichiki" are identical.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] McGlashan, p. 19. Captain McGlashan was an eye-witness to this conversations.

[20] CG, Marine Garrison Forces 14th Naval District memo to Com14, 20 May 1942.

[21] McGlashan, p. 30 and Enclosure (M). The infantry units already there were the 22d and 23d Provisional Marine Companies, which provided interior security, beach patrols by night and a small mobile reserve. Each company included a weapons platoon armed with 81-mm and 60-mm mortars, light machine-guns and old-type 37-mm guns.

[22] War Diary, MAG-22, May 1942, p. 5, hereinafter cited as WD, MAG-22.

[23] McGlashan, pp. 21-22. This letter was shown, within the Marine ground forces, only to Captain McGlashan, on an "eyes-only" basis, inasmuch as his planning responsibilities required that he possess this knowledge.

[24] Admiral Nimitz's memorandum to Captain Milo F. Draemel, USN, 23 May 1942.

[25] Captain Davis's memorandum to Admiral Nimitz, 26 May 1942.

[26] Admiral Nimitz's memorandum to Captain Davis, undated. Balsa was the current code-name for Midway.

[27] Ibid., p. 23.

[28] Loc cit., pp. 26-27. The author adds this note in connection with the 37-mm guns:

 

"It was felt necessary to use these guns as dual-purpose guns. Since the pointer and trainer seats were high on either side, well above the gun barrel, the result of emplacing the guns high on the dune line for surface firing was that the crews were silhouetted on the sky line like sitting ducks. It is fortunate that no landing attempt was made--at least for the 37-mm gunners."

[29] Major Johnson was subsequently to be killed in action on Iwo Jima, where men of his battalion raised the U.S. Colors on Suribachi Yama. Lt. Col. Charles J. Seibert II, then a member of Major Johnson' command at Midway, notes the following regarding one battery:

"The 3-inch Antiaircraft Group included Battery L (Captain Seibert), a provisional organization equipped with that curious hybrid known as 'the dual 20.' Due to uneven production * * * there was an excess of 40-mm mounts and 20-mm guns, and a corresponding shortage of 40-mm guns and 20-mm mounts. The rules of addition to the contrary, two 20-mm guns * * * a 40-mm mount did not produce the equivalent of a 40-mm gun, and the 'dual 20' soon became extinct."

[30] Ibid., p. 28, and WD, MAG-22, p. 5.

[31] As of 31 May, the daily aviation gasoline consumption of planes based on Eastern Island was 65,000 gallons, and the following numbers of planes were based there: US Army: four B-26s and 17 B-17s; US Navy: 16 PBY-5As and six TBFs; US Marine Corps: 19 SBD-2s, 17 SB2U-3s, 21 F2A-3s and seven F4F-3s. It was no wonder that the Army Air Force liaison officer on Midway, Maj. J.K. Warner, AUS, wrote in his official report (of the performance of Colonel Kimes, Major McCaul, and Captain Burns, the operating staff of MAG-22): "These three officers never stopped from the day I arrived. They actually did the work of a Wing Staff * * * ".

For the comments of Colonel Kimes on Major Warner, see Appendix V.

[32] McGlashan, pp. 5, 24 and 31-34; also notes by Major Leon M. Williamson, and by Colonel Verne J. McCaul, 30 January 1948.

[33] ONI Report, p. 9 and Ikki Report, p. 3.

[34] McGlashan, p. 37.