How many people from Torpedo Eight survived the Battle of Midway? Who were they?
- ENS George Gay (Jr)
- ENS Albert K. Ernest
- Airman Third Class Harry Ferrier
- 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