Mark’s Humble Review of “Midway”, the Film

I have been looking forward to the movie “Midway” for some time. I’ve read criticisms of the film, however my opinion was that judgment should be withheld until I watched it for myself.

First, I was not disappointed. While there are subjects I believe may have been done better, I have absolutely no complaints. I could tell the producers of the film attempted to remain true to the history of the events. There were some details left out, some details were a little inaccurate; however with such a complex story I would not expect them to get everything right.

First for my opinion of a couple of the most often repeated criticisms. “I liked the original better.” The 1976 movie Midway was not the “original” any more than there is an original movie about D-Day or Gettysburg. The original Midway was a battle in June of 1942, and that is the only standard to which any movie on the subject should be held. I liked the 1976 movie also, the cast was spectacular. But the Henry Fondas and Hal Holbrooks are gone.

Henry Fonda will always be my closest image of Nimitz, short of the man himself. However I believe Woody Harrelson did a commendable job of portraying Admiral Nimitz. He lent a sense of humor and chain smoking which they probably would not allow Fonda to portray in ’76. I had problems with some of the details, but that is probably more on the writers. I won’t go into it simply because the movie is just released and I don’t want to add any spoilers.

“The CGI is like a video game.” Okay. Perhaps. But what is the alternative? Even those of us who liked Midway ’76 were frustrated with stock footage of carriers and aircraft that did not exist in 1942 because that is what the producers in ’76 had to work with. Nobody could or would actually build a Yorktown class carrier or numerous Dauntless, Devastator, Zero or Kate aircraft. We are truly blessed to live in a time when Hollywood can recreate with special effects mostly accurate depictions of the ships and aircraft involved. It was the closest I will ever come to seeing The Big E in action, short of the small amount of actual combat footage available.

As much as I enjoyed it, I have to wonder if by spending so much time depicting Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid and the Marshall Island Raid, if the producers shorted themselves too much in the time necessary to develop the characters of anyone other than Dick Best. Namely Nimitz, Halsey and Spruance.

I was very happy to see they decided to portray Bruno Guido’s story so prominently. Again, there were some details which were inaccurate or not detailed enough, but I don’t want to add in spoilers.

I have some questions which I would have to do research on. Did McClusky and Best really have such a contentious relationship? Were the combat sequences just a little overdone? Or incredibly overdone? Were Japanese bombers and fighters really flying parallel and between the occupants of Battleship Row repeatedly ala Star Wars? I never had the impression they were.

Overall I believe the producers put a good effort into making the movie historically accurate, and I’m very happy that a new generation will be exposed to the incredible story of the Midway Battle.

Vengeance at Midway

Today in History, June 4, 1942:

The Battle of Midway.

The war had been going badly for the Americans in the Pacific. The Japanese had begun the war 7 months earlier by bombing Pearl Harbor, destroying most of the American fleet, but missing the US carriers, which had all been at sea. In the interim came sweeping victories across the Pacific for the IJN, raids by US carrier task forces on Japanese strongholds, the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of the Coral Sea. The US lost the Lexington at Coral Sea, and the Yorktown had been badly damaged.

Then code breakers at Pearl figured out that the next target of the IJN was Midway Island, the westernmost island of the Hawaiian chain. Admiral Yamamoto’s plan was to draw the American carriers out and destroy them, leaving the Pacific unprotected. The code breakers changed the entire game.

The Enterprise and Hornet rushed back to Pearl for rearming, as did the Yorktown. The repair crew told Admiral Nimitz they needed 3 months to repair the Yorktown; he gave them 3 days.

When the IJN attacked Midway, they expected the American carriers to be responding to the scene, giving them plenty of time to lay a trap; instead, Nimitz had positioned his carriers northeast of Midway to lay in wait. When a PBY seaplane (Strawberry 5) spotted the Japanese carriers, it was all Admirals Spruance and Fletcher needed.

The three American carriers launched their aircraft. The obsolete TBD Devastator torpedo bombers were the first to find the IJN carriers. The versatile Japanese Zero fighters dove to the wave tops and tore them apart, leaving almost no survivors. The sacrifice, while not intentional, served a purpose.

Next to arrive on the scene were SBD Dauntless dive bombers, which dove to attack from altitude. With all of the Japanese fighters drawn to the “deck”, they had no fighters to oppose them. Diving at 70 degrees, the pilots hanging from their seat belts, the rear gunners pressed against their seats with no view of what was to come, the bombers dropped their bombs with deadly accuracy.

Admiral Nagumo, informed of the American fleet by a scout plane, had ordered his aircraft, just back from Midway, rearmed. So when the American bombs fell, the Japanese carrier decks were filled with aircraft, bombs, torpedoes and fuel. Three of the four IJN carriers were destroyed in minutes. The fourth would be picked off in a later raid.

Within minutes, thanks to the sacrifice and courage of a few brave airmen, the tide of the war in the Pacific had changed. There was still a long road ahead; but the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of the IJN had been stopped. Worse than the loss of 4 carriers was the loss of hundreds of Japans finest aviators.

The Americans would lose the Yorktown, but the Japanese were devastated. Admiral Yamamoto had told his contemporaries that they had a year before the tide of the war turned against them due to American industries. The American sailors and airmen at Midway cut that time in half.

The China Clipper Adventure

Today in History, November 22:

A Martin M-130 flying boat owned by Pan American Airways takes off from San Francisco, flies under the yet to be completed San Francisco Bridge on it’s way to the Orient.

With this the China Clipper inaugurated commercial air service via Hawaii, Midway, Wake Island, Guam to the Philippines. If you had the money, a romantic 7 day trip across the Pacific Ocean was now possible.

Bruno Peter Gaido and The Battle of Midway

 

Today in History, June 4: 1942 – The Battle of Midway and Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Bruno Peter Gaido.

Today is a special day, the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway during WWII.  In brief, US Pacific forces had been decimated by a Japanese onslaught since Pearl Harbor.  The US Navy and USAAF had been fighting back, however, by bombing Japan during the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea and several raids by Carrier Groups across the Pacific.

During a raid in March, 1942 on the Marshall Islands by a Task Force built around the USS Enterprise (CV 6), the ship was attacked by five twin engine Betty bombers.  Under withering fire, four turn back.  The lead plane however, attempts to crash into the aircraft carrier.  As the bomber grew closer, Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Bruno Peter Gaido springs from the catwalk surround the flight deck and runs to a nearby SBD Dauntless Diver Bomber.  He climbs into the rear of the plane to use the rear gunner’s machine gun.  He began firing at the enemy plane, maintaining the fire into it’s cockpit even as it’s wing slices the rear of the SBD away mere inches from him.  The Betty crashed into the sea, and Bruno is credited with causing to miss the ship.

Bruno disappeared inside the bowels of the ship, figuring he’d be in trouble for leaving his normal battle station.  Quite the contrary; Admiral William “Bull” Halsey had him brought to the bridge, where he summarily ordered him promoted to Aviation Machinist Mate FIRST Class.

Spring forward to June 4, 1942 and Bruno Gaido was in the rear of Ensign Frank O’Flaherty’s Dauntless as they dove on the IJN Carrier Kaga when Bombing and Scouting 6 from Enterprise sent her to the bottom.  As many know, Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu would also be sunk that day.

Can you imagine what being a rear gunner in a WWII dive bomber must have been like?  During the attack, the aircraft dove at a 70% angle, nearly straight down.  Held tight by safety belts, scanning for any fighters that dared to attempt to follow the dive, the rear gunner may never have known of a crash or a hit by anti-aircraft fire.

After their bombing run Ensign O’Flaherty and AMM Gaido attempted to make it home to Enterprise, but due to a punctured fuel tank and another attack by Japanese Zero fighters, had to ditch at sea.

The pair were picked up, “rescued” by the Japanese destroyer Makigumo.  The officers of the destroyer, angered by the loss they had witnessed of the Japanese carriers, interrogated and tortured the American airmen.  After days of this, on June 15, they ordered weights tied the both men and had them thrown overboard to drown.  The Japanese sailors who survived the war to tell said both men faced their fate with courage and stoicism.  Bruno Gaido’s ship mates had expected no less…he had gained a reputation.

As for the war criminals on the Makigumo?  The ship was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign and none of the officers responsible for the murder survived the war.