Additional (Corrected) Info About VT-8

Eventhough I now live in Virginia, I still volunteer for the USS Midway Carrier Museum in their Library.  One of my library shipmates, Carl Snow, provided more accurate information about the crew and layout of the plane.

From Mr. Carl Snow:

In the TBF-1 that VT-8 flew, there were three positions: the pilot, the turret gunner, and the radioman. The turret gunner manned the single .50 caliber machine gun in the powered turret and was almost always an Aviation Machinist’s Mate petty officer. The radioman was in the compartment below and behind the turret gunner and operated the radio equipment. He was an Aviation Radioman petty officer. He had a single .30 caliber machine gun that protruded through a window at the bottom rear of the fuselage, just in front of the tail wheel. If it had to be fired, the Radioman would fire it, but his primary duties were radio communication (he made sure that the pilot’s radio was tuned to the correct frequency and operational, in addition to monitoring any other necessary communication). The “other” .30 caliber gun was mounted forward of the pilot’s cockpit and fired by the pilot through the propeller with an interrupter gear synchronized with the propeller blades. This was soon deleted as inadequate and unnecessary, and replaced by two .50 caliber machine guns in the wings, also fired by the pilot.
AM3 Ferrier was an Aviation Machinist’s Mate third class and not an Airman third class. He manned the turret gun and not the radio, although he could talk to the other two crewmen by internal communication (intercom). Sadly the Radioman did not survive the flight, and AM3 Ferrier was seriously wounded.
Thanks for the correct dope, Carl.
Much obliged,


Battle of Midway Torpedo Eight Survivor(s)

pacific_war_-_coral_sea_and_midway_-_mapHow many people from Torpedo Eight survived the Battle of Midway?  Who were they?

  1. ENS George Gay (Jr)
  2. ENS Albert K. Ernest
  3. Airman Third Class Harry Ferrier
  4. All of the above

If you guessed ENS George Gay, you would probably be in the majority. He is the most famous of the survivors. From the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, “Ennobled on the cover of Life magazine in August 1942, he received the Navy Cross and became iconic as the “sole survivor” of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8), whose 15 TBD Devastators from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) attacked the Japanese fleet on 4 June 1942. ”  He was also the only member to fly off the USS Hornet.

However, before the Battle of Midway, half of VT-8’s pilots were left in Norfolk, VA when the Hornet sailed for the Pacific Theater on March 1, 1942.  ENS Ernest and and  his radioman/gunner AM3 Ferrier were part of the group “to accept delivery of the New TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, while the ship carried the remaining Air Group 8 crews, which included the older TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, to the war zone.”


From a recollection of Ernest’s speech on 29 May 2002 at Whidby Island, WA

The new plane was almost as fast as a fighter. It carried a pilot and a crew of a turret gunner-radioman, and a tunnel gunner. It could launch its torpedoes at 200 knots rather than the 100 knots of the Devastator. We flew them cross country to Alameda, CA, and then to San Francisco where they were
loaded on the sea-land transport Hammondsport for delivery to Pearl Harbor. We went by a Navy transport, and when the Hammondsport arrived, we took the first six that were off-loaded and prepared them for a flight to Midway.

From Pearl Harbor, it is a 1200 mile open water flight to Midway Island. This was by far the longest flight I had ever made outside of sight of land. We were assigned two PBY Catalina pilots to act as navigators. One flew in each of the two three plane sections of TBF’s  that made up our flight.

On June 3, 1942: We knew the Japs had four carriers out there, Hiryu, Akagi, Soryu and Kaga. On June 4th, as I was walking to my plane, I picked up a $2 bill that was laying on the runway, and put it in my bill fold as a good luck omen. It is still there today. Shortly thereafter, another PBY spotted the Jap carriers bearing 320 degrees from Midway. We were immediately given orders to launch.. We also were told that all our carriers were back defending the Hawaiian Islands, and that the planes stationed here were Midway’s sole defense.

Click on the link to find out what happened next.

BTW, there is a new Battle of Midway movie due to be released Veteran’s Day weekend in 2019

Reblog: Libraries that Look Like They Belong at Hogwarts

Suzallo Library at nightHave you ever been jealous of Hermione Granger?  (Maybe not because of her skill with Magic but because of the wonderful Hogwarts Library and the magical books she had access to?)

Here are 16 Libraries that look like they could have been part of Hogwarts.  One of them is Suzallo Library at the University of Washington, which is my Library School alma mater.  Go Huskies!

To find out about the other 15 libraries, click here.

I think the library at the Marine’s Memorial in San Francisco is also worth an honorable mention.

Marine's Memorial Library.jpg

Book Review: Over the Horizon

Over the HorizonOver the Horizon by Luke Ridenhour.  Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018

Over the Horizon is heartwarming, fictionalized account of the USS Midway’s 1980-1981 cruise.  The story is told through the focus of the officers of VA-115 Eagles, who fly A-6 Intruders off the Midway. The reader is the 3rd person in the cockpit along with the pilot and the bomber-navigator (BN) from preflight briefs, through catapult takeoff and tail hook landing, and the long hour’s in-between.

The reader experiences why a lucky pilot is one whose takeoffs equal his landings. He doesn’t want to dick the donkey. Such irreverent observations are a way to cope with the reality that a single mistake can be the loss of a friend. “Although one pilot, three enlisted men, and four airplanes would not be coming home, the cruise was deemed a success.  Acceptable losses for such an at-sea period were defined as five aircraft loss or significantly damaged, three fatalities involving aviators, and three fatalities involving non-aviators.” (p.251).

The book follows a pivotal year for the USS Midway.  The Cactus collision and a potentially hazardous flyby of the Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk are two of the dramatic highlights.  The officers of VA-115 also face personal highs and lows from a break-up with a girlfriend that cannot handle the strains of the life and death situations that aviators face daily, a divorce from a wife who can no longer deal with the prolonged separations for people serving with the Navy’s foreign legion as the Midway was also known, and unlikely lifelong friendship with Eli, a Filipino caddy at the golf course in Subic Bay who understood that you “can’t argue with God about wind, rains and storm, or why you can’t teach a monkey to meow.”  (p. 233)

The friendships of the people in this story will stay with the reader long after the story ends.  Everyone is a wonderful human being.  Even the sailors on liberty in Olongapo (the adult Disneyland) show remarkable restraint except for the very few that throw pesos away from the children who dive into the Shit River for the tossed coins.  The better among the people who cross over the Shit River Bridge between the Subic Naval Base and Olongapo throw the coins near the children or the nets they carry. It is like a band of Eagle Scouts rather than the variety of flawed human beings that one normally finds in a group of individuals.  All of the Filipino children are precious, all of the Filipinos are friendly and have wonderful smiles despite the Americans on the golf course spending more in a day than that Filipinos make in a week.  Where do we find such friendly, pleased with their lot in life people?

Midway Magic is a constant theme through the story.  It helps save the ship from damage during the Cactus collision.  It also explains the luck experienced by the various pilots and crew as they perform their intricate, death defying ballet when the night is darker than a “black horse’s ass” and the flight deck is freezing.

Over the Horizon is another theme.  Pilots live to see what’s over the horizon.  Eli, the Filipino caddy, dreams of someday seeing over the horizon “the mystical line where the water meets the sky.  His dream was in full view every day—less than twenty miles away—yet out of reach for a life time, he had finally conceded.” (p. 19)

I would like to read more about life on the Midway as interpreted by those that served on her.  It is a time that has passed, but is evergreen for those who love a good sea story that either begins “This is a no shitter,” or “There I was on the…”  Let us end as one the flyers, Doc, is known to say, “Yes and Amen.”



Reblog of Pacific Paratrooper Book Library

For those of you haved not yet discovered GP Cox Pacific Paratrooper’s blog, you are in for a treat.  His blog focuses on Pacific War era information.   He does not focus on Pearl Harbor specifically ” I didn’t cover Pearl all that much, as it has been done by so many, and everyone has their own opinion on it.”

Since today is Pearl Harbor Day, I thought his blog about WWII in the Pacific would be a timely one to discover.  Here is a reblog of some of the sources he uses to write his blog articles.

via Pacific Paratrooper Book Library – YTD

Six Degrees of Separation from Bush 41 and Bush 43.

When the victorious troops returned from Desert Storm, some of them did not have a base to return to.  President Bush had begun to reduce that huge Department of Defense buildup that occurred during the Reagan presidency.  I saw the victory parade from Ft Myer, located adjacent to Arlington Cemetary.  I ran the post library on Ft. Myer.

The howitzers that provided the 21 gun salute when Bush’s casket arrived at the Capitol rolunda, likely came from Ft. Myer.  Ft. Myer is also the home of the U.S. Army Band and the Old Guard, 3rd U.S. Infantry that provides the Honor Guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Army troops that provide the cassion and riderless horse for Army funerals at Arlington Cemetary.

Bush selected General Colin Powell as his National Security Advisor.  Powell became the highest ranking African American in the Bush 41 administration.  He lived in quarters on Ft Myer.

I had never heard of GEN Powell until a Marine assigned as a paralegal at 8th and I (the Marine Corp barracks in downtown DC), told me about him.  (The Marine worked part time in the library.  The Marine also told me that Lt. Col. Ollie North was ordered to retire by the Marine Commandant for the “good of the Marine Corp.” )  It was President Bush who brought Powell into the  national spotlight, where he would go on to become Bush’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, general in charge of Desert Storm, and eventually Secretary of State in Bush 43’s first term as President.

When Desert Storm began, the prayer ceremony was held in the chapel at Ft Myer.  We could see the presidential limousine arrive at the chapel, althought we were not allowed to get close enough to see anyone enter or exit the chapel.

Later I became a systems librarian at the National Defense University at Ft McNair.  The library’s Special Collections houses General Powell’s papers so occasionally I would see him visit the library.

When President Bush 43 became president, he gave his missile defense speech from the parade ground at Ft. McNair.  We had the privilege of being ordered to sit in the hot sun for an hour so there would be an audience for the speech.

An Unexpected Bene(dictine)fit of the Great War

Life during the Great War (aka) World War I was harsh.  Trench warfare was not for the faint of heart.  The heat and fury of war was broken by long slogs on freezing and/or wet boredom.  The 11th Battalion from East Lancaster, Britain were assigned to trenches near the Normandy Coast, where cold damp breezes swept in from the English Channel

One of the ways that the Lancastrians found to keep warm was to drink the locally prepared Benedictine.  According to Wikipedia

Bénédictine is a herbal liqueur beverage developed by Alexandre Le Grand in the 19th century and produced in France. Every bottle of Bénédictine has the initials D.O.M. on the label, which stands for “Deo Optimo Maximo” (“To God, most good, most great”). This abbreviation is commonly used at the beginning of documents of the Benedictine Order as a dedication of their work.

Gastro Obscura places the origin of Benedictine earlier.

The origins of Bénédictine date back much further than the Great War. It all began in 1510 when a Benedictine monk is said to have distilled an elixir of local herbs to raise funds for his abbey in Fécamp, France. Legend has it that the recipe was lost during the upheaval of the French Revolution, only to be rediscovered in 1860 by a wine merchant named Alexandre le Grand.

The Lancastrians became so fond of the liquor that they took it back home to England.  Even though the original soldiers have passed on, “(t)o this day, the Burnley Miners’ Club in Lancashire is one of the largest consumers of Bénédictine in the world. Their drink of choice? A 50/50 mix of Bénédictine and hot water, aptly titled the Bene’n’hot.”