During the Battle of Midway, then–Lieutenant Commander Joseph M. Worthington commanded the USS Benham (DD-397), rescuing hundreds of survivors off the USS Yorktown (CV-5) and Hammann (DD-412). (See “Fighting for Survival, December 2019, pp. 14–21.) In these reminiscences collected in his U.S. Naval Institute Oral History, he offers a vivid firsthand account of the action during that June 1942 clash that turned the tide of the Pacific war.
Shortly after noon on 4 June 1942, orders were received from our task force commander, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, to join three other ships and proceed at maximum speed to reinforce the cruiser-destroyer screen of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, which was under heavy attack by Japanese carrier aircraft. Our small group had no sooner started in the direction of the Yorktown task force than we sighted dead ahead a huge column of smoke over the horizon, which was pouring skyward from the Yorktown’s first battle damage of the day.