At 8 a.m. on June 4, 1942, there was an unprecedented dispute in the air in the Pacific Ocean near Midway between a commander and a subordinate. Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) harshly complained about the order of his boss, Stanhope C. Ring, the commander of the attack aircraft that flew off in sorties from the new fleet carrier Hornet. At the time, the U.S. planes were searching for Japanese aircraft carriers, and John insisted that his boss was in the wrong direction. However, the commander did not listen, which made John so upset that he left his path with his squadron and headed directly toward the place he thought was right. His behavior was insubordination that could be tried by court-martial.
However, Lieutenant Commander Waldron didn’t have to stand before the court because he was right. His jets flew in formation to identify and immediately attack Japan’s carrier strike group. The U.S. torpedo plane ‘TBD’ was a slow and miserable model that would be kicked out of the battlefield. The performance of the U.S. torpedo was even worse.
John’s torpedo planes straightly sailed like one body without any cover by fighter jets. Japanese fighters rushed toward his planes and smashed them. Only one U.S. plane approached Japan’s carrier within the shooting range and discharged a torpedo toward its counterpart, but to no avail. The U.S. had only one survivor. The skills of U.S. military pilots were a novice.
This is how the story was recorded in the history of war. According to the testimony of the then members of VT-8, they spared no effort and trained themselves repeatedly before the war. Waldron, whose nickname was ‘chief’ because he was a half-blood Indian, held parties at his place to scold, encourage and appease his young newcomers and make every effort to raise them as warriors. Their poor performance on June 4 was not because of the lack of effort but the lack of time to get prepared.
Even though they failed to hit a single target, they advanced to the end along the path of death with the determination that they would never stop, even if only one was left. Their failure and unskilledness are not to be mocked but to be pitied. A war historian even says Waldron’s airplanes were the biggest contributor to the Battle of Midway because they found the Japanese fleet, which determined the direction of the war.