Family History = Naval History
Captain John J. Becker Jr., USN (Ret.)
I was particularly happy to read “A Yank Flat-Top For Malta” because my uncle, Ensign August Doherty, USNR, was on board the USS Wasp (CV-7) during the ship’s short lifetime. He was assigned as a signal officer. I believe he is shown in the picture on page 41. Uncle Gus is the man with the binoculars on the right of the photo:
My father, his older brother, and two of my mother’s brothers were all Navy officers during World War II. My mother’s youngest brother was an Army officer in the 10th Mountain Division. Unfortunately, all these people who were involved in the war are gone now. I deeply regret not trying to find out more of the family history before their passing. Thank you for saving our naval history for us and future readers.
In J. M. Caiella’ s excellent article (“Two Navies, Three Names,”) he calls Wasp among the oldest and most revered names of U. S. Navy ships. I suggest that it is also one of the unluckiest. The Wasp in Mr. Caiella’s article, though she defeated a Royal Navy ship in the War of 1812, was so badly damaged that she was captured by a late-arriving British warship. Her bad luck continued as a Royal Navy vessel. In 1814 she sank off the Virginia Capes.
A subsequent USS Wasp, under Captain Johnston Blakeley, continued the War of 1812 fight against the British by defeating two Royal Navy cruisers before disappearing without a trace in September/October 1814.
Finally, also in the June issue is the story of the career and fate of the World War II carrier USS Wasp, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine. (See also “The Luck o’ the Wasp.")
How Bull Tried to Save the ‘Big E’
Robert H. Halsey, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1965
I enjoyed reading the article about Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. (“The Bull in the South Pacific”). One final sad note to the story: In 1958, Admiral Halsey heard that the Navy wanted to scrap the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), then in mothballs at Bayonne, New Jersey. He called Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington to ask what he could do to save the ship (she served under him in the Third Fleet and earlier helped save Guadalcanal). He was told he would have to come up with an amount of money equal to the estimated scrap metal value of her, then about $600,000. So he started a campaign to raise the money.
As part of this effort, in late 1958 Admiral Halsey gave his pitch at the Downtown Athletic Club in Lower Manhattan, because many of the U.S. steamship companies with their numerous Navy veterans (like my father—no relation—who met him there) were headquartered in that area. Unfortunately, Admiral Halsey suffered a stroke and died in 1959 before raising the full amount of the money required. The Navy then scrapped its most historic World War II ship—the Enterprise had more battle stars than any other ship!
Japan’s Midway Plans
Reading Tim Gellel’s exceptionally well-researched and presented overview of Japanese planning for the actual invasion and occupation of Midway Island (“The Japanese Plan to Seize Midway, ”), an event forestalled by the destruction of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier fleet, I am encouraged to add one additional element of the Japanese scramble to organize the force that would have secured Midway. It occurred that, in the weeks leading up to that battle, a Japanese Navy air group of a dozen Zero pilots and aircraft was hastily assembled and placed on board the carrier Zuihō, to be dispatched from that ship onto Midway’s airfield as soon as the island was secured by the invasion itself.
This little-recognized fact demonstrates that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s planners did have a program to establish a land-based fighter defense of the island, albeit an extremely modest one, in anticipation of a U.S. counterstrike on a fallen Midway.
In 1978, in company with colleagues, I interviewed Kenji Yanagiya in his home outside Tokyo and discussed his wartime career as a Zero pilot. He recalled the scramble of the weeks prior to Midway as he and other land-based Zero pilots were hastily assembled on board the Zuihō and were prepared to be flown off the carrier to serve as Midway’s air defense fighter component; all these details were verified by the entries in his well-worn log book
Yanagiya did comment, as one of the few Zero pilot survivors of the South Pacific campaign, that had Japan seized Midway, he expected his contingent would face a sustained U.S. counteroffensive to recover the island, with the 12 Zeros and their pilots consigned by fate to be overwhelmed.
Correction: On page 20, right column, line 4 of the June issue, “light cruiser” should read “heavy cruiser.”