Anyone that served on Midway

My father was on Midway Inland I think in 1944 and was a tail gunner on a XTBF-3 Avenger. They were going out for recon and when taking off an Australian bomber was shot up pretty bad and came in for a emergence landing. My Dad’s Avenger was about 70 feet off the ground when they had to take evasive action and tried to pull out from under the bomber. My dad’s plane caught a wing tip on the ground and flipped and hit a hanger. My dad’s turret popped out and cleared the hanger. My dad broke just about every bone in his body. He was the only one in his plane that lived. I am looking for anyone that may have been there and remembers this. My dad was assigned to the USS Saratoga #3. My dad spent the rest of the war in the Hospital in Bremerton Washington. It was 7 months before he could move anything under his neck and was able to walk out of the hospital 9 months later.

Whether it was 1944 or any other year in WWII, I’d be very surprised if an Australian bomber got anywhere near Midway.

So far as I’m aware, the Royal Australian Air Force was deployed in the the Pacific War in the South West Pacific Area (‘SWPA’) under MacArthur’s control, and not much further north in the Central Pacific Area under USN control where Midway is.

I’m not sure if there was much risk of any Allied bomber being shot up and forced to land at Midway in 1944, as by then the conflict was much further west

Australia didn’t have any aircraft carriers in WWII, so the plane which interfered with your father’s plane wouldn’t have been an Australian carrier borne plane, even if the carrier could launch bombers.

Are you sure your father was on Midway, and not on some island a lot further south in the SWPA?

If you know his squadron number, you can probably find out where it served.

The only thing i can find on Midway, that it was a battle between the American’s and the Jap’s, could it could be?, he was attached to the American’s, either way, your Dad’s a Hero to me.

He told me this when I was young I don’t know what squadron he was with I do know that he was on the USS Saratoga CV3. I talked to a guy many years ago that was on Midway years after the war and he said that there was an old ww2 bomber in the sea off the end of the runway. It may have not been Australian I was young and he didn’t wake up for a few days after he may have been on a Hospital ship I just don’t know. My dad passed away in 1996 so I can’t get info anymore. I know that in 1964 or around then he tried to get his records and was told that they were destroyed in a fire in 1961. So I hope there maybe someone that was on Midway when this occurred and remember it. I would like to know the other two men’s names if there is any records left. it may have been before 1944 I don’t know the date if I had that maybe I could get more info. Thanks so much forgetting back to me GOD bless.

Here is a summary of Saratoga’s main movements in 1944, which include being in SWPA and Indian ocean areas where its planes could have encountered an Australian bomber.

The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 January, and, after a brief period of training, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 19 January with light carriers, Langley and Princeton, to support the drive in the Marshalls. Her aircraft struck Wotje and Taroa for three days, from 29 to 31 January, and then pounded Engebi, the main island at Eniwetok, the 3d to the 6th and from the 10th to the 12th of February. Her planes delivered final blows to Japanese defenses on the 16th, the day before the landings, and provided close air support and CAP over the island until 28 February.

Saratoga then took leave of the main theaters of the Pacific war for almost a year, to carry out important but less spectacular assignments elsewhere. Her first task was to help the British initiate their carrier offensive in the Far East. On 4 March, Saratoga departed Majuro with an escort of three destroyers, and sailed via Espiritu Santo; Hobart, Tasmania; and Fremantle, Australia, to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She rendezvoused at sea on 27 March with the British force, composed of carrier, Illustrious, and four battleships with escorts, and arrived with them at Trincomalee, Ceylon, on 31 March. On 12 April, the French battleship, Richelieu, arrived, adding to the international flavor of the force. During the next two days, the carriers conducted intensive training at sea during which Saratoga’s fliers tried to impart some of their experience to the British pilots. On 16 April, the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga, sailed from Trincomalee, and, on the 19th, the aircraft from the two carriers struck the port of Sabang, off the northwest tip of Sumatra. The Japanese were caught by surprise by the new offensive, and much damage was done to port facilities and oil reserves. The raid was so successful that Saratoga delayed her departure in order to carry out a second. Sailing again from Ceylon on 6 May, the force struck at Soerabaja, Java, on 17 May with equally successful results. Saratoga was detached the following day, and passed down the columns of the Eastern Fleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheered each other.

Saratoga arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 10 June 1944 and was under repair there through the summer. On 24 September, she arrived at Pearl Harbor and commenced her second special assignment, training night fighter squadrons. Saratoga had experimented with night flying as early as 1931, and many carriers had been forced to land returning aircraft at night during the war; but, only in August 1944, did a carrier, Independence, receive an air group specially equipped to operate at night. At the same time, Carrier Division 11, composed of Saratoga and Ranger (CV-4), was commissioned at Pearl Harbor to train night pilots and develop night flying doctrine. Saratoga continued this important training duty for almost four months, but as early as October, her division commander was warned that “while employed primarily for training, Saratoga is of great value for combat and is to be kept potentially available for combat duty.” The call came in January 1945. Light carriers like Independence had proved too small for safe night operations, and Saratoga was rushed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January 1945 to form a night fighter task group with Enterprise for the Iwo Jima operation.

I’m not familiar with navy details but I’ve seen extracts for British and Australian ships in WWII which are similar to a war diary for an Australian army unit, which give dates and details of events. I assume the USN had something similar for its ships, and that it would include reference to loss of an aircraft. Unfortunately I don’t know the correct title for these records so Google hasn’t been able to throw up what I’m looking for in a quick search. Google threw this up, which might interest you.

You will see in the link for the above quote that Saratoga missed the Battle of Midway in 1942 but in the remainder of 1942 and 1943 was engaged in operations in the SWPA where Australian air and naval forces would have been encountered, so it could be anywhere between 1942 and 1944 that your father’s event occurred.

You will also see in the link that Saratoga was at Bremerton at various times from 1941 to mid-1944, and that the last period could agree with your father being transferred from the ship to a land hospital.

Given that your description of your father’s accident involves a land based airport, it might even be that his injury happened during training at the Seattle Naval Air Station while Saratoga was at Bremerton in 1944.

Quoting myself, but I think this might turn out to be a better line of enquiry to follow as Saratoga missed the Battle of Midway and there are countless possibilities to follow in the SWPA, none of which leap out as likely prospects.

The USN had a naval air station in Washington (state) during WWII called Whidbey Island. Doesn’t sound that different to Midway Island to a casual listener. Plus it was land based and had hangars etc which are part of your father’s accident.

The incoming bomber could have been piloted by an Australian training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme , leading to later confusion about it being an Australian bomber. This assumes that landing rights were granted at Whidbey, but perhaps in an emergency (although not likely to be a shot up bomber on continental North America in 1944) it could still have landed.

I suggest you look for accident records at that base as a starting point and exclude that possibility before starting on the much wider search in the SWPA.,

Thanks this is very interesting.

You might want to go the St Louis records route on your own. As next of kin you are entitled to a copy of your father’s personnel record.

Note that the fire in the records repository was in 1973 and affected only US Army and US Air Force records, the USN and USMC records were undamaged.


When you make your application for the records, make sure you say you want everything, all of it. Otherwise you may get short shrift.

Carrier air groups up until the summer of 1942 were named after the ship to which they were assigned. The air groups themselves were not numbered, however the squadrons making up those air groups were numbered to correspond with the hull number of the carrier. Thusly, on paper before 7 Dec 1941:

Lexington Air Group (LAG) made up of VB-2, VF-2, VS-2 and VT-2
Saratoga Air Group (SAG) made up of VB-3, VF-3, VS-3, and VT-3
Ranger Air Group (RAG) made up of VS-41, VS-42, VF-41 and VF-42
Yorktown Air Group (YAG) made up VB-5, VF-5, VS-5, and VT-5
Enterprise Air Group (EAG) made up of VB-6, VF-6, VS-6 and VT-6
Wasp Air Group (WAG) made up of VS-71, VS-72, VF-71 and VF-72
Hornet Air Group (HAG) made up of VB-8, VF-8, VS-8 and VT-8.

Naturally, it wasn’t all that simple. When Yorktown went to war, her VF-5 squadron got left behind as they had not completed transitioning from F3F biplanes to the F4F monoplanes. So (and actually since the June 1941) the fighter squadron operating off Yorktown was from RAG, VF-42. This squadron went off to the Pacific aboard the ship, so the YAG consisted of VB-5, VF-42, VS-5, and VT-5. And to confuse things, in January 1942 the RAG added a newly established VT squadron, VT-4. Early on organizations became increasingly mixed as ships, such as Saratoga, were put out of action and their squadrons sent ashore. VF-3 for example did a combat cruise on Lexington, and later, about half the VF-3 personnel were transferred to Lexington’s VF-2, just in time for the Coral Sea battle. by the same token, VB-3 went out aboard Enterprise during the Doolittle raid deployment.

Come the period of Midway, the EAG and the HAG were intact with their usual -6 and -8 numbered squadrons. Aboard Yorktown, things were far different. Saratoga’s VB-3 replaced VS-5 due to combat losses, VB-5 was augmented with about 6 pilots from Saratoga’s VS-3 and, because VB-3 was the senior squadron, was temporarily designated VS-5 (even though the real VS-5 was back at Kaneohe on Oahu); VT-5, down to but 9 planes, was replaced by VT-3 and, then VF-42 was replaced by VF-3 (but just to keep things confusing, 16 of the 27 pilots in VF-3 were from VF-42 . . . VF-3 had airplanes, but a shortage of pilots).

In the Solomons campaign, there was constant shuffling of these squadrons from carrier to carrier to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, none of the US carriers operating in that part of the world, from August to October 1942 operated air groups with exclusive numbered squadrons . . . they got what was available. Actually this was one of the USN’s strong points. Excessive losses of aircraft for the Japanese meant an air group and, thus, a carrier was out of action, witness Shokaku (okay, some bomb damage, too) and Zuikaku after Coral Sea. Shokaku had to go in the yard for repairs and Zuikaku’s air group losses would preclude participation at Midway . . . apparently it was never seriously considered to fill out the Zuikaku air group with planes and pilots from Shokaku, so they both sat out the battle back in Japan. The USN, on the other hand, had no compunctions about shifting squadrons around to keep air groups and ships up to strength.

Anyway, you ask yourself, where is he going with this . . . well, here

After reforming at NAS Seattle in late September through October 1943, by 2 November 1943 Carrier Air Group 3 (CVG-3) was stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. CVG-3 (note now a numbered as opposed to named air group) consisted of (compare to SAG above) VB-3, VF-3, VS-3, and VT-3.

While one might consider these to be “Saratoga Squadrons” they were in fact, not. Yes, one could say that the CVG-3’s VB-3, VS-3, and by a stretch VT-3 were the descendents of the old SAG squadrons, but VF-3 was not . . . it had started the war as VF-6 and in July 1943 exchanged designations with the then existing VF-3, so VF-6 became VF-3, while VF-3 became VF-6. Further, CVG-3 never, never, deployed aboard USS Saratoga, the air group deployed to combat aboard USS Yorktown (CV-10).

Anyway, CVG-3, including VT-3 operating TBFs remained stationed at NAS Whidbey Island from 2 November 1943 through 23 February 1944; the 29 February aircraft location report shows the air group as transferred to NAS Pasco.

There were other units at the same time at NAS Whidbey, including PBYs and PVs assigned to Fleet Air Wing Six (FAW6) squadrons . . . and a place which was known for unusual weather to roll in quickly with little warning. Perhaps the encounter was with one of these.

Anyway, fodder for thought.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you very much for taking the time to pass this info on and Marry Christmas to you and your family.