"Flying in the Cactus Air Force"
(See R. E. Galer, pp. 30-31, August 2007 Naval History)
Captain Elton N. Thompson, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
The picture of the Marine aces on page 31 reminded me of events some 65 years ago. Shortly after graduating from San Jose State in 1941, I signed up for the Navy's V-7 program and eventually received orders to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). On arrival at Pearl Harbor I learned that she was still at sea and expected shortly.
In a few days the Battle of Midway took place. Meanwhile, the Navy was preparing to defend the Hawaiian Islands. I was ordered to join a small group of officers under the command of Lieutenant Commander John Griffen, who were to man the radar stations at Kauai. A group of Marines, based at Barking Sands and flying Brewster F2As, were the backbone of our defense. We had the use of two PBYs as well. Among the Marine pilots were Robert Galer, John Smith, and Marion Carl.
Lieutenant Commander Griffen had spent some time in England and observed the British use of night interceptors. The Navy did not yet have night fighter, but anticipating the need for such capability, Griffen improvised. He used a PBY equipped with airborne radar and had a fighter fly off each wing of the seaplane. The three-plane arrangement was used to intercept incoming targets. While crude, it worked, with a number of intercepts made at night.
This group of fliers may have been the first Marine pilots to make night interceptions and under radar direction.
"Crucible at Sea"
(See R. B. Frank, pp. 28-36, August 2007 Naval History)
Captain James D. McLuckie, U.S. Navy (Retired)
I especially enjoyed the August issue. What a wonderful tribute to those who held the line at Guadalcanal.
The photo on page 34 of the USS Washington (BB-56) was especially interesting. It provides a good view of the equipment featured on that ship's class. I was somewhat puzzled by the broomlike object resting on the netting attached to the starboard yardarm. I finally decided that it must be an AN/BROOM-1. Perhaps Admiral "Ching" Lee employed it in his clean sweep of the Kirishima.
"The Long Campaign for Guadalcanal"
(See center spread, August 2007 Naval History)
Commander James M. Webb, SC, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The chronology fails to mention the 11 September 1942 arrival on Guadalcanal of Navy aviation units from the USS Enterprise (CV-6) and Saratoga (CV-3). When the Enterprise was hit on 24 August, her air group moved to the Saratoga. After the Saratoga was damaged on 31 August, both air groups moved to Espiritu Santo and its environs. Elements of both groups were subsequently sent to Guadalcanal.
These Navy units were crucial to holding the line during the vital period from their arrival until 12 October and have received far too little credit for their efforts during those dark times.
I have a personal interest as our next-door neighbor, then-Ensign Francis Roland Register, U.S. Naval Reserve, was one of the pilots so dispatched.
"Improving the Breed"
(See N. Polmar, pp. 22-27, October 2007 Naval History)
Commander Gene Atkinson, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
In describing the Midway's (CVB-41) cold-weather cruise of March 1946, Mr. Polmar states "Operating off the coast of Labrador and above the Arctic Circle, . . ." He mentioned three destroyers, one of which was the USS Stormes (DD-780), in which I was assistant communications officer at the time. My understanding has always been that we did not quite make it to the Arctic Circle, and there was disappointment that we had lost some possible bragging rights. Has the highest latitude reached by the group been confirmed, or could it be confirmed?
Thanks to Naval History and Mr. Polmar for a most comprehensive article.
Mr. Polmar responds: Thank you for your kind words. I call your attention to the official Naval Historical Center publication edited by Roy A. Grossnick, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995 (1996), p. 160, which states:
 1 March Operation Frostbite—Midway with elements of Air Group 74 on board, and accompanied by three destroyers, left Norfolk, Va., under command of Rear Admiral John H. Cassady to conduct cold weather tests in the Davis Strait. In the period 7-22 March, these units operated as a carrier task force off the coast of Labrador and above the Arctic Circle, conducting flight operations of World War II—type aircraft and the newer F8F Bearcat, combination prop and jet FR-1 Fireball, and the HNS-1 helicopter.
The entry may be viewed on the official Navy Web site: history.navy.mil/avh-1910/PART06.pdf
The Midway's log confirms this.
Robert J. Bruning
I enjoyed reading this article by Mr. Polmar, however, he writes that the Midway was relieved at Yokosuka, Japan, in 1991 by the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). She was relieved on 11 September 1991 by "Freedom's Flagship," the USS Independence (CV-62). The Indy remained the forward-deployed carrier until late 1998 when she was relieved by the Kitty Hawk.
Robert W. Langill
It should be added that the Midway class was originally proposed to have six units. The fourth, unnamed unit was cancelled in January 1943 as stated in the article. Two additional unnamed units, CVB-56 and CVB-57, however, were cancelled in March 1945 along with six proposed Essex-class carriers (CV-50 to -55).
Lieutenant Colonel Thor J. Thorson, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired)
Footnote 4 indicates the hulls of the Kentucky and Illinois were scrapped. I was a yeoman on the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) on 6 May 1956 when we collided with the USS Eaton (DD-510). The bow of the Kentucky was used to replace the Wisconsin's in record time so we could do midshipman cruises. This made the Wisconsin several inches longer than her three sisters.
"Connecting with the Ships"
(See J. M. Caiella, p. 62, August Naval History)
Captain Brian S. McNamara, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
This brought to mind a different encounter I had back in 1980. I was then second mate of a Military Sealift Command—chartered merchant ship that was delivering military cargo to the then-recently deactivated Royal Navy dockyard in Sheerness, United Kingdom.
One afternoon while walking from the ship into town, I passed through a collection of old warship figureheads lying just outside some of the old buildings, and spent some time looking through them. I remember shaking my head that the large number of figureheads, each representing so much history, were being allowed to deteriorate. None more affected me than the figurehead of the USS Chesapeake. I hope that despite the deactivation of the dockyard not only the Chesapeake's, but also the other figureheads were preserved.
"Prelude to Kamikaze"
(See C. Edwards, pp. 28-33, October 2007 Naval History)
John B. DeFields, Ex-Chief Yeoman, U.S. Navy
This is a very well-written and interesting story about the USS Smith (DD-378) during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. I take issue, however, with the statement, "The task force immediately assumed a submarine had launched the fish but the destroyer [the USS Porter (DD-356)] was actually the victim of the downed Avenger. The TBF had been unable to jettison its torpedo, which came loose and began running when the plane hit the water."
I had been a member of the USS Shaw's (DD-373) crew since March 1940 and was on board during the incident. The pages of the Shaw's deck log clearly show we were going to pick up the downed aviation personnel but were waved off by the Porter. We sighted a periscope after the Porter was hit and attacked before rescuing her personnel.
Editor responds: The article's version of the torpedoing of the Porter is taken from two reliable Guadalcanal sources: Richard B. Frank's Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle and John B. Lundstrom's The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942. When we contacted those authors, they referred us to researcher James Sawruk, who had demonstrated to them the validity of the TBF torpedo theory.
Mr. Sawruk responds: There is no doubt in my mind that the torpedo that struck the Porter came from a ditched VT-10 TBF. This was suspected at the time but unknown for certain, and I do not criticize any who thought that it was a Japanese submarine torpedo at the time. This was a real possibility as a major battle was taking place during this incident.
What got me started on exploring this was the fact that the Japanese denied having anything to do with the attack and sinking of the destroyer. They did not know what caused it but knew they were not responsible. This is stated in their official history.
So what happened?
From U.S. Navy official reports, an enemy submarine torpedo is suspected but so is a torpedo from a ditched Avenger. The enemy weapon was accepted at the time, and that brought an end to the matter.
I reviewed the deck logs for all of the vessels present at the time and the Porter's log (which has survived) shows that the torpedo struck about two minutes after the TBF ditched. In addition, the destroyer logs report no loss of a torpedo from any of them and no U.S. subs were in the area.
A VF-10 pilot made a great report about this incident, as he had a birds-eye view of the situation. After the Porter stopped to pickup the ditched crew, he saw an erratic torpedo circling, which then straightened out and hit the Porter. He tried to strafe it to get it to explode but U.S. antiaircraft fire drove him off. There was only one torpedo. Some on board ship thought there were two torpedoes but the circling probably accounts for this.
I had contact with the ditched VT-10 pilot. When I told him what I believed had happened, he was upset but had suspected all along that this is what really happened. In his defense (not that he needs any), his plane had been badly damaged by a Zuiho A6M enroute to the target and on fire. He had to abort his mission. He considered bailing out with his crew but was able to get the fire out. He tried to get rid of the torpedo, both electrically and manually, without success. Because of this, it almost certainly was lying against the bomb bay doors. The ditching was successful, and the crew had sufficient time to get themselves and the raft out of the aircraft before it sank. The torpedo struck while they were climbing on board the Porter.
As for the periscope, that may be the tail fin of another ditched TBF in the vicinity. I cannot account for any sound contact that may have occurred.
I discovered that a similar incident took place during the Battle of Leyte Gulf involving three destroyers, but luckily they all got away and the three TBM crewmembers were rescued.
"Odyssey of Ericsson's Ironclad"
(See C. Symonds, pp. 14-25, April 2007 Naval History)
The author mentions that only the Virginia's propeller, anchor, and a few other artifacts survive and are on display outside the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.
At the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Museum is a damaged Dahlgren gun. A historical marker states that the gun is from the Virginia and that it was damaged during fighting on 8 March 1862.
"Museum Report: Surprises in Inland Waters"
(See S. Bayless, p. 72, August 2007 Naval History)
Calvin H. Cobb Jr.
While I enjoyed the report about the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, one sentence requires correction. The Hoga is not the sole surviving vessel present at the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. The former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney (WHEC-37) also survives. At Pearl Harbor, she fired back at Japanese aircraft on 7 December 1941, and she fought throughout World War II. Decommissioned in 1986, she is at her Maritime Museum berth in Baltimore.
"Historic Aircraft: A Super Constellation"
(See N. Polmar, pp. 12-13, August 2007 Naval History)
Colonel Bill Anderson, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)
I was delighted to see this column. My father, Captain F. P. (Flip) Anderson U.S. Navy (Retired), was the first CO of VW-1 (established 18 June 1952) at Barbers Point. He successfully transitioned the squadron from the venerable PB-1W (B-17G) to the WV-2. He once mentioned they deployed to Korea and participated in combat airborne early warning and airborne combat information center activities.
James Ross, U.S. Army (Retired)
The Connies were also part of the Navy's aircraft support for Antarctic operations into the 1970s. There have been at least two Connies wrecked here. One, BuNo 126513 from VXN-8, crashed in 1960 and, a decade later, BuNo 131644 from VXE-6 went down. Both incidents occurred in October, which isn't surprising as some of Antarctica's worst weather can occur at the beginning of the summer season and planes are sometimes beyond their point-of-safe-return when weather changes for the worse. The latter Connie can still be viewed off the edge of the Pegasus ice runway—named for the plane—although snow and ice are slowly swallowing it.
Connies were beautiful and graceful planes, even with radomes.
"Collision at Spithead"
(See J. Protasio, pp. 44-49, August 2007 Naval History)
During the war, Mum lived in Western Australia and became friends with two visiting British sailors. The three kept in contact until both sailors died a few years ago. One of them had this story.
During the 1930s his father worked with a man who had been one of the lookouts on the Titanic that fateful night. He would never speak about the sinking, but one day after they had worked together for ten years he opened up in a pub.
He said they had seen the iceberg and promptly rung the bridge, but the phone remained unanswered for five minutes—the guy who should have been on the other end was getting coffee. Hence, those five minutes were lost and the rest is history. He said the company interviewed all the surviving crew and when he stated this he was told to shut his mouth and never mention it or he would never work again.
It is interesting that in the recent movie Titanic, the lookouts ring the bridge and the officer who picks up the phone puts down a drink as he does so! Anyway, that's the story Mum got.
"Looking Back: A Visit to 'Big John'"
(See P. Stillwell, p. 2, June 2007 Naval History)
During overhaul planning visits to ships as a mechanical engineer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, I witnessed a number of striking pieces of art produced by Sailors. One was a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer logo painted on a low-pressure air receiver in the auxiliary machinery room of the USS Constellation (CV-64). I think an article featuring several pages of Sailor art photos would be of interest to Naval History readers.