The story of the gallant, one-way mission of Torpedo Squadron Eight’s Devastator aviators captivated the U.S. public’s attention, as well as that of famous Hollywood director John Ford. A commander in the Naval Reserve, Ford was heading up a Navy documentary film unit when he arrived at Midway Atoll on board a destroyer before the battle. He had time to visit the carrier Hornet and then was at Midway during the 4 June 1942 Japanese attack there.
Later, he prepared a moving tribute to the ill-fated squadron’s fliers—a nearly eight-minute film that captures VT-8’s 15 two-man crews smiling and chatting in front of their TBD Devastators or kneeling next to their armed planes’ torpedoes. Originally the film had a very limited release—one copy to each of the 30 aviators’ families.
Ford also directed and produced The Battle of Midway, a documentary showing preparations on the atoll’s islands and scenes of bombs dropping there during the Japanese attack. View John Ford’s Torpedo Squadron 8, below:
Mr. Mrazek is the author of nine books, including A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight (Little, Brown, 2008), which was named Best Book (American History) by The Washington Post. A former five-term U.S. congressman, he authored the law that saved parts of the Manassas, Virginia, battlefield from being bulldozed.