Monday, May 28, 2012

Midway In Color

In response to a channel showing the movie Midway starring Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston, here is actual footage of the battle.  Next week will mark the 70th anniversary of that climatic battle that in the words of Walter Lord in Incredible Victory, "Midway showed that every once in a while 'what must be' need not be at all. Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit - a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor - that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory."

One of the things Admiral Nimitz did during his buildup of defenders for Midway Island was send the director John Ford to document the battle.  One of the voice-overs you hear is Henry Fonda.  The historians and model builders will spot things like the two-tone green B-17Es with white paint covering the previous red dot in the center of the insignia.  Also about the 6:30 mark when the camera goes crazy, that was when John Ford was hit by enemy shrapnel during the attack.  Of Red Parks Marine fighters, they were slaughtered.  The Vindicators and Dauntlesses would score hits against the Japanese but at a fearful cost, one of the casualties being Lofton Henderson - the airfield at Guadalcanal would be named after him.  The 4 B-26 Marauders would try to torpedo the Japanese, only two got back.  To add to the tragedy suffered by VT-8 off USS Hornet, of the six TBF-1 Avengers of VT-8 Detached assigned to Midway only one made it back to Midway with two survivors and one dead aboard.

To honor and commemorate the sacrifice suffered by VT-8, John Ford made this second film focused solely on the men who followed Waldron off USS Hornet that fateful morning, steered precisely to where Nagumo's First Air Fleet was, drove the attack home without fighter cover, and paid the horrific price of 29 out of 30 being killed, all 15 planes lost, and no hits scored.  The color footage of the men posing before two TBD-1 Devestators is priceless and sobering.  One TBD has the precise and straight demarcation a freshly painted plane should have.  The other TBD has a wavy demarcation that sees the blue grey upper surface color wrap around the leading edge of wing and over-paints the under-surface color of light gray - this plane was probably repainted aboard ship.  And to truly top off the uniqueness of this footage, the three Devestators shown taking off was taken after Hornet and Enterprise set sail for Point Luck - the TBDs all have twin .30 cal machine guns that John Waldron had scrounged off the Dauntless squadrons in an attempt to make his lumbering planes more surviveable.

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