Ira L. Severely damaged: 5 F2A-3's, and 2 F4F-3's. The only way our pilots could shake them off was to dive at speeds better than knots, or to use cloud cover. Damage to Midway had been severe. Almost all structures above the ground had been destroyed or badly damaged. The powerhouse had been hit, the hangar destroyed, and perhaps most serious, the gasoline system had been damaged, so that subsequent refueling of planes had to be done by hand.
This involved a tremendous amount of labor, and for a while badly handicapped air operation. The Japanese fortunately spared the runways, apparently for their own anticipated use.
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In the face of this devastation, however, the defenders of Midway could take comfort in the thought that they were striking back. The last Japanese plane had scarcely left Midway when our flyers opened their attack on the enemy carriers. The weather was good with a spotty overcast between 1, and 2, feet; beneath this, visibility was excellent. The crews of the B's and their commander, Captain Collins, had been standing by their planes since that morning.
At orders came to warm up the engines. Fifteen minutes later they were ordered to attack the enemy carriers, and shortly afterwards the formation was on its way, each plane armed with a torpedo. The enemy force, consisting of three carriers, one battleship, several cruisers and about. As our planes approached from the southeast and maneuvered sharply to pass through the heavy antiaircraft fire thrown up by the vessels, Captain Collins caught sight of the six Navy torpedo planes, which had left Midway a few minutes before his own unit.
The Battle of Midway
In passing through the ack-ack the B's met six Zero fighters head-on, and dove steeply to avoid their guns. It was probably at this point that the Nos.
The navigator of the No. This plane, piloted by Lt. James P.
Muri, U. Air Corps, came in close and dropped its torpedo at about yards from feet, and then pulled up over the carrier. Of the two B's lost, one was seen to launch its torpedo and then to strike the flight deck of the carrier and hurtle into the sea.
The two remaining planes pulled away at full throttle, attacked by several of the 50 Zeros which swarmed over the enemy ships. Although gunners in both planes had difficulty with their machine guns, they shot down three or four Zeros as they withdrew. There was no opportunity to observe the results of this attack, but the returning pilots believed that the carrier had been damaged by two torpedo hits near the bow.
One of the returning B's crashed on landing, and both were so badly shot up that they were unfit for duty. Fieberling, made a gallant attack at the same time as the B's. Of this flight only one badly shot-up plane returned to make a landing with one wheel retracted.
Because of the heavy fighter opposition the surviving pilot, Ensign Albert K. Earnest, was not able to observe the results of the attack or to tell what had happened to the others in the unit. It appears that at least two were shot down before launching their torpedoes, but a B pilot on reconnaissance reported seeing one of the remaining torpedo bombing planes score a hit. At VMSB began its attack.
This squadron was divided into two attack groups: one commanded by Maj. Henderson, with 18 SBD-2 planes, and a second under Maj. Benjamin W. Norris with 12 SB2U-3's. Ten of the pilots had joined the squadron only a week before and there had been very little opportunity for training flights. Only 3 of the pilots had had experience in SBD-type planes. Because of the inexperience of his pilots, Major Henderson had decided to make a glide-bombing attack, rather than attempt to dive-bomb without training.
Between and these units took off, minus 2 SBD's which developed engine trouble and an SB2U-3 which was forced to return when a cowling came loose. The 16 SBD's climbed to 9, feet en route to their target.
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At the enemy was sighted and our planes made a wide circle at high speed to lose altitude. At once a number of Nakajima 97 and Zero fighters attacked and heavy antiaircraft fire was opened from below. Rear seat gunners in our planes sent down 4 Japanese fighters in flames and possibly 2 more. As our planes came in for their glide, Major Henderson's ship was hit and it was obvious that he was badly wounded, so Capt.
Elmer G. Glidden, Jr. The squadron dove through a cloud, emerging to encounter heavy anti-aircraft fire from a large Kaga 19 class carrier which was maneuvering violently below. Bombs were released at feet or less. Three direct hits were seen and several near hits. As our planes returned low over the water they could see her smoking badly. Of the 16 SBD's which engaged in this attack, 8 returned to the base, and of these only 6 remained fit for service.
Two were seen to go down in flames, and 1 went out of control before reaching Midway. The pilot jumped and was picked up by a PT boat. Another was forced down miles west of Midway, but both pilot and gunner were rescued 2 days later. The B's of Flight 92 were the next to strike. This group of 15 planes was commanded by Lt. Sweeney, U. Two planes carried eight pound bombs each and the rest eight pound bombs each. These planes had cleared Midway about shortly after the patrol planes had been sent out.
Climbing to 20, feet, the Fortresses changed course to find the carriers. The enemy force was located at , but the carriers, circling under a cloud formation, were not found till The B's had skirted the fleet and approached from the northwest; i.
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They attacked by flights, two elements concentrating on. Antiaircraft fire was heavy and found the altitude, but was generally behind. The Japanese fighters did not dare press home their attacks, which were ineffectual. The results of this attack were reported to be three hits on two carriers. Probably two of these hits were on the Soryu , which may have been the carrier left smoking by the Marine SBD's only a few minutes before. Scarcely had the B's left the scene when the second unit of the Marine group arrived, the 11 SB2U-3's under the command of Major Norris.
These sighted the enemy at and shortly afterwards were engaged by large numbers of enemy fighters.
Related The Empire Falls: Battle of Midway (Graphic History, Volume 3)
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