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Catching sight of the Japanese fleet at Midway

Torpedo drop on a Japanese cruiser at Midway followed by a mad dash to get outta there!

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Earnest was born in Richmond, Virginia. He was born on April 1st, 1917. HIs father was in the Light Infantry Blue, which was a guard unit in Richmond. Shortly after he was born he moved to Alabama for six months but he grew up and went to high school in Richmond. One of the high schools had a cadet corps but he went to the school that did not have a cadet corps.Earnest's father eventually joined the regular Army. His father was a calvary officer. He would see his uncle and his children and he envied their life because they traveled since his uncle was in the military. Earnest's father was a good calvary officer but it did not matter because the calvary was obsolete.Earnest's older brother went to VMI [Annotator’s Note: Virginia Military Institute]. Earnest went to his graduation; he was about twelve years old. He went by his brother’s room after the graduation and there were a bunch of guys in there crying. He wondered why they were crying. The boys were crying because they were leaving VMI. When Earnest graduated from high school he wanted to go to VMI but things were tough financially. Instead he wanted to go to the University of Richmond.That summer, Earnest decided to go to the CMTC. The CMTC was a military training organization. He wanted to earn his commission that way. He came back to Richmond after the first year. He went to Ft. Meade. Earnest's dad had saved enough money and he then went to VMI, class of 1938. He had a good life at VMI; he was in the field artillery there. He had been riding horses and that benefited him. He also belonged to the Deep Run Hunting club. Earnest was familiar with riding.When he graduated he received a commission in the field artillery. The biggest job he had was with the Virginia Insurance Rating Bureau. It was not the most interesting job in the world. The war was coming on however. During his last year at VMI, the Army Air Corps came through and gave physicals to men who wanted to join the Air Corps. Earnest was not able to pass the physical. The Navy came through at one point and was giving physicals for guys who wanted to join the Navy Air Corps. One of his buddies convinced him to come down to take the physical. The doctor told him his lazy eye was easy to fix, so he gave Earnest some eye exercises. Three weeks later, he took the eye exam and passed it.

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Earnest then had to make a decision, he was already a 2nd lieutenant in the Army but he was not sure if he wanted to be a Seaman’s 2nd class in the Navy. He had another uncle who had been in the Navy in World War I. After World War I ended he came back and worked with his father. He had just seen a movie as well that showed Navy pilots flying around.Earnest went to the Army and requested that he be released so he could join the Navy. The Army told him they would release him as soon as he go accepted into the Navy. In February of 1940, he was called up to an Elimination Base in Anacostia. They were given their first flying mission there. If one passed they were sent to Pensacola, but Earnest was sent to Jacksonville. He soloed just fine at Anacostia.Flying always fascinated Earnest. The Army Air Corps used to fly planes over Richmond every now and then and he used to look up at the sky and see them. He took his flight training from the Navy in Jacksonville, Florida. Pensacola had been the main base, but they had to supplement the amount of people coming in so they opened up a new base in Jacksonville. He went through his training there. They got to the point where they had to choose what plane to fly. The day before he chose, he flew in a patrol plane. He thought it was pretty interesting. He decided he was going to settle on patrol planes, but he woke up the next morning and had a change of heart. He wanted to fly off carriers.Earnest made the decision and made his way down to Miami to begin his carrier training. He learned how to fly dive bombers in Jacksonville. They were short of fighter planes when he arrived so they were flying a trainer. He passed the course with no problem. He got his wings in November of 1941. He was ordered to Torpedo Squadron 8 on the USS Hornet. Earnest was 6'1 and that might have precluded him from flying fighters. They flew dive bombers and fighters, but he had never flown a torpedo plane. He had heard that flying torpedo planes was not a prescription for a long life.He went to Richmond and was there when Pearl Harbor occurred. He was given a choice where he wanted to go, east coast or west coast. He wanted to go to the east coast because that is where his home was. Earnest joined Torpedo 8 in Norfolk. The Hornet was just finishing completion at Newport News. When he got assigned to the Hornet, she was not equipped with torpedo planes yet. He had a date with a pretty girl the afternoon of December 7th, 1941. He took her home at midnight. He decided he would go and see if the base had any instructions for him. 

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Earnest told the man at the base that he was ordered to Torpedo Squadron 8. He was to report to them in 3 days. Three days later he drove to Norfolk and reported in. Earnest found out the Hornet [Annotator’s Note: aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8)] was getting ready to have its shakedown cruise. The squadron commander told them he was only going to take the experienced pilots, no new guys. Earnest went to an organization called the Advanced Carrier Training Group [Annotators Note: ACTG]. One morning, he was woken up and told that they had just gotten TBD's [Annotator’s Note: American torpedo bomber ‘Devastator’ aircraft]. He flew four or five flights in the TBD that day. He did not like the Devastator at all, it flew alright but it was slow. It was a fairly big plane. The pilot rode up front and the bombardier rode in the back. The bombardier had a Norden bombsight.The TBD's three seats, the back seat was for the gunner. Earnest flew the various airplanes they had in the ACTG He was sent up to Bethpage, New York on Christmas Eve. They were at Floyd Bennet field waiting for the airplanes to be ready. He went to a party that night in New York and came back to base inebriated. The next morning there was a senior Ensign who was in charge of the whole group; he was upset that the guys were partying. They were told that they were going to fly the planes to San Diego and they were to not have a drink the entire way. They flew the J2F which was a flying boat. They had one on the carrier. That would be the LSO's planes. He would land it on the carrier before the entire group got there. Earnest flew the J2F out to San Diego; they were grounded in Meridian, Mississippi for a few days because they were having problems with their tail wheel. Between Atlanta and Birmingham they got lost. The senior ensign ended up landing in a field to ask someone where Birmingham was. The ensign took off and landed at the airport. When they landed in San Diego finally, there were two ensigns, two junior ensigns, and Earnest. One of the airplanes that landed in the field by Birmingham was wrecked. They ended up getting three airplanes out to San Diego. This was the early days of cross country aviation. They ended up flying back to Norfolk. The plane they flew back on had bunks for the men to sleep.The Hornet had been on its shakedown cruise when Earnest flew the planes to San Diego. On February 1st, 1942 the Hornet came back and was ready to receive new pilots. Charlie Brennan, was one of the guys from Torpedo Squadron 8, was assigned to them. They were at East Field in Norfolk on February 1st, 1942. The first flight Earnest went on was with a chief petty officer who was a pilot.

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Waldron was the commanding officer of Torpedo Squadron 8. He wanted things done his way and he wanted them done right. He was an experienced torpedo pilot. The first thing he wanted done was to have all of his men carrier qualified. Every day they would fly out to a little field canned Bonnygram field where they did practice field carrier landings. Any airtime they could get was good time. The pilots who went first would fly the plane and land it, while the two seats in the back were occupied by pilots so they could see how it happened. The first guy would scare everyone to death, then they would switch seats and return the favor. That was most of the flying they did. They did not practice torpedo runs.Earnest found out that the Hornet [Annotator’s Note: aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8)] was going to be receiving the TBF's [Annotator’s Note: American ‘Avenger’ torpedo bombers]. He saw one and thought it was too big to go on a carrier. The decision was made that the squadron was going to be split into two. They only took the most experienced pilots. On March 1st, 1942, Earnest was picked to go with the Hornet. Just before they were going to go, he was told he was going to be staying in Norfolk. One of the new pilots had done fairly well in the training. He had asked to be able to go. He asked because he was having a little family trouble. One of the ensigns had been on the shakedown cruise. Jack Barnum had been on the shakedown as well and they were left behind with Earnest and the other boot ensigns.About the middle of May they began to get TBF's. The TBF looked enormous. Guys could not believe it was going to fit on a carrier. They began to fly the hell out of them and most of the guys tested well. 350 knots was their perceived maximum speed for dive bombing runs. 350 was the speed they settled on. Earnest recalls practicing fighter tactics at Norfolk. Their plane had one .30 caliber machine gun firing forward. There was one .50 caliber that was on the plane, along with another rear .30 caliber machine gun. They were aware of the limitations being in a torpedo plane as compared to a fighter plane. Harry Ferrier was not flying with Earnest at this point. The first time Earnest met Ferrier was when they got their planes to go to Midway. Earnest did not meet his turret gunner Manning until Midway as well. While they were waiting for the TBF's, they had an old TBD that happened to be left hanging around. Earnest ended up making 8 carrier landings with the TBD, it was a good carrier plane, just not a good combat plane.

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Earnest did get his eight landings in. The next time he was going to be making a landing he was on the Saratoga [Annotator’s Note: the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3)] and was flying a TBF [Annotator’s Note: American ‘Avenger’ torpedo bomber]. They were ordered to take three airplanes up to a base in the north. He dropped his first torpedo at the base. They settled on 125 knots as the safe, effective, maximum dropping height for the torpedoes. The right altitude was one hundred feet fo drop. The word came around and Swede got a message from Waldron instructing them to get to the west coast as soon as possible. They packed the airplanes up and flew back to Norfolk.Earnest had to get his automobile back to Richmond. The day after they got back they headed for the west coast. Lawson was the senior pilot. There was a lieutenant who was sick when the Hornet [Annotator’s Note: the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8)] left so he left with Earnest's group. He flew out to the west coas but Earnest never saw him again. They flew to the west coast in various flights. They landed at North Island in San Diego. They had different changes to the plane that were made at North Island. Right before they left Norfolk, a team from Grumman came down and made all types of modification to the plane. One of the modifications was bullet proof fuel tanks. They got to Alameda and loaded the planes onto a transport. The transport that took them to Pearl Harbor was called the Charmont.One of the sea trains that transported the planes was called the Kitty Hawk. They left San Francisco and went to Pearl Harbor with a force of ships. They arrived at Pearl Harbor a day after the Hornet and the Enterprise had sailed. The Yorktown was in dry dock when they pulled in. The next morning when he got up the Yorktown was gone. Earnest was not too sure what was going to happen to them. They decided to send six airplanes to back up the forces on Midway. The question became which six were going to go. The Saratoga was on the way from the west coast and they were supposed to board her. They were saving the torpedo squadron for the Saratoga. Earnest is not sure how they picked the six. They were happy with the six who were picked. Lawson had been an S.O.B. ever since he took over the receiving detail. He was extremely difficult to get along with. When they went out on their transport, the Charmont, there was a fighter squadron aboard as well, Squadron 5. They were goofing off, but the torpedo guys were learning tactics. They wanted to see Pearl Harbor when they got there but they were not allowed.

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Most of the tests had to do with navigation. They got off of the ship in Pearl Harbor. Eventually Earnest was told that he was going on the trip to Midway. He did not have much free time. Charlie Brennan was also going; he was Earnest's roommate in Norfolk. He was a hell of a nice guy. They ended up having two "last" nights because of delayed deployments. They were the first section, Earnest was flying number 2 and Charlie was flying number 3. It was the first time he ever flew over open water when he flew to Midway. They had two patrol plane pilots who were ordered to fly with them so they could navigate. The patrol plane navigators volunteered at the beginning of the flight to go in with them on any strikes they may be ordered to do. The two navigators had just made patrol plane commanders.The flight to Midway was uneventful except for a couple of rain squalls. There were a couple of land masses on the way to Midway that were navigational check points. They were told to make recognition turns when they got to Midway so that they were not shot out of the sky. The gunners on the ground were a little jumpy. Shortly after Earnest landed, a PBY [Annotator’s Note: PBY Catalinaflying boat] landed. It had run across a Japanese plane from Wake Island and there were a few wounded men in the PBY. It was apparent that they were in the war. Feebling had made contact with Marine commander on the ground and he informed them that the carriers were going to be protecting Pearl Harbor. The island was covered with airplanes. Earnest saw 6 B-26's with torpedoes underneath them. There were 6 B-17's. There were land and sea PBY's. The Marines were flying Brewster Buffaloes. It was not a very good fighter plane. It had poor altitude performance. They had about four or five SB2U's, which was the pre-SBD Navy dive bomber. They landed on the island on the first. They had big belly fuel tanks in the bomb bay to get them to Midway. They were immediately replaced with torpedoes. They were told also that they could fly at 200 knots and drop at 200 feet and still be successful. Earnest is not quite sure how they came to that conclusion but they did not question it.The torpedoes had been brought to Midway on the wings of the PBY's. The last day they brought in a shipment of torpedoes and did not unload them, they went immediately out for an attack. The PBY's claimed to get one hit. They were more or less expecting to be out there by themselves. They were told they had to accomplish their mission with the planes they had available. Earnest had no idea what was coming. They presumed a big Japanese force was coming. They woke him up both mornings he was there so they could warm up the airplanes. They were to hold tight because while the engines were warming up, the PBY planes were searching for the Japanese, so Earnest and the men had to be ready.

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They [Annotator’s Note: the dive bombers] would cut the engines if nothing came back from the PBY's and call it a day [Annotator’s Note: in preparation for the Battle of Midway]. The second evening they were there they found a little place to buy food. They found out they had beer so they went in and had a couple of beers. Another evening they went in there at about the same time and they were told they had to purchase chits to get the beer. Earnest had lost his bunk he was supposed to sleep that night so he found a bunk in the fighter tent. He does not know how it was available but it was.Earnest was walking down the runway when it was dark, he found a two dollar bill lying on the runway and it has remained his pocket to this day. [Annotators Note: Earnest takes a minute to show his 2 dollar bill to the camera.] He does not recall being woken up when the fighters left. He does not remember the fighter pilots at all. They got up that morning and went through their regular routine. After warming the airplanes up the guys sat in their planes. A Marine ran up to Feebling’s plane and told him something. Someone came over and yelled to Earnest that they had located the Japanese. The coordinates were 150 miles on 0.02 degrees. The fighters that were not already in the air were in the process of taking off. Earnest and the group of torpedo planes took off.Not too long after takeoff his turret gunner radioed him and told him he could see firing taking place on Midway. The Japanese were already there. Two planes made a pass at Earnest. He thought they were ME 262's [Annotator’s Note: German fighter planes]. They had two inline engines. They turned out to be reconnaissance planes. They continued on and about fifty minutes later he spotted a ship, it looked like a transport ship. Earnest looked back again and he saw two carriers and a lot of other ships. About that time the Japanese fighters were hitting them. The fighters killed Manning in the first pass. Earnest was not getting anything from him; Manning was Earnest's gunner. They dove down to the water. He is not sure when, but his hydraulic system got shot out. He knew that if he did not open the bomb bay doors before combat that if the system got shot out they could not drop. Shortly after he opened the bomb bay doors, his hydraulic system was shot out. That allowed him to drop his torpedo. They were heading for the carriers at full throttle. The Zeroes [Annotator’s Note: Japanese fighter planes] were all over them. He recalls seeing one cross in front of him. He tried to fly his .30 caliber [Annotator’s Note: machine gun] but it was jammed. The cannon fire from the Japanese began to hit Earnest's wing. A piece of shrapnel came through and hit him in the cheek, the blood was everywhere. Just about that time the stick went limp in his hand. They shot the elevator controls out. The plane was trimmed very well so it was gradually going down. He figured he was going to go in the water but there was a Japanese cruiser on his port side. He pulled out of formation, which was forbidden.

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Earnest tried to get a lead on the cruiser so he could drop his torpedo [Annotator’s Note: after being hit during the Battle of Midway]. He could not tell if the torpedo dropped or not. He was about to hit the water so he rolled the elevator tab back, which caused the plane to jump in the air. This made Earnest realize he could fly the plane. The Japanese fighters were still trying to make runs on them. There were two of them. Earnest attempted to maneuver away from them. He ruined their runs. All of a sudden, he could not hear them anymore. He looked around to realize that the fighters had flown off.Earnest looked back to see if there was any damage done to the Japanese ships but he could not see any. He also looked back to see if there were any airplanes in the sky or down in the water but he did not see any. He also realized that he did not have a compass anymore. It had been shot out. The tail of the plane was pretty well chewed up. He decided that he did not want to head back the way he came because he would have been heading back over the Japanese fleet. He decided he would fly to the south until he was west of Midway, then fly directly east. The sun was still low in the sky so he was able to figure out where to go. He did not have a plotting board either.Earnest headed south to clear himself of the area where the Japanese were. He saw one airplane but he left it alone and it left him alone. He flew until he figured out that he had to be east of Midway, so he took a course due west. He did not see anything. Then he climbed above the clouds and at about 2-3,000 feet the clouds broke and he could see. He saw a great big plume of black smoke to the east. He went back down to the deck to see if he could see where the smoke was coming from. Earnest looked down and saw the island of Kure, which was fifty miles due east of Midway. Sometime between the time he left the Japanese and turned east, Harry Ferrier came to and was able to talk to Earnest. Earnest asked him if he could see if the torpedo was dropped. Ferrier told him he could not see out of the window because of all of the blood. Ferrier asked if he could get in the compartment behind Earnest. Ferrier got behind him, Ferrier did not have a radio with him.They headed for Midway, remembering that they had to make a recognition turn once they got to Midway. Earnest put his wheels down, but only the port wheel would come down. They found out later that the device that centers the well was shot out, so only one wheel was able to get down. He tried to shake it down, but the airplane was not in good shape to be shaken. They got to Midway and he made an approach to the runway to land. A Marine jumped in the runway and waved him off. The Marine waved Earnest off again, but he went ahead and landed anyways. He brought the airplane down and was able to land on one wheel as smoothly as possible. The plane landed great. He wanted to look the plane over and make sure Ferrier was alright. He figured that Manning was dead. He never did see his body. They stopped him from seeing the body. They then had to go and check in to let the guys know what happened. Earnest was hoping for the guys to come back but no one did. He saw Ferrier after he was bandaged up; he also had a few cuts that they had to bandage up. He does not recall being debriefed. He wrote a report but is not sure who he turned it into.

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The Marines on Midway were a little shook up themselves. Just after they landed, a bomber squadron from the Hornet [Annotator’s Note: the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8)] arrived. The guys on Midway thought that it was another raid so they activated the air raid sirens. They landed just fine. Earnest knew a few of those guys so he was able to talk to them. A couple of the bombers from Bombing Squadron 8 had to ditch in the water. They were not sure if they had completed a strike or not.That night, they were shelled by a submarine. Earnest had a bunk in another place that night. The bunk was underground. The submarine shot off a few shells, but it did not wake him up. He stayed on Midway for four to five days until he could get a ride back. They flew back in a DC-3. Earnest was taken back to Pearl Harbor. He got sent to the Royal Hawaiian.He was transferred to Torpedo Squadron 6. When the Hornet came back in Earnest was sent back to Torpedo Squadron 8. He did not like flying torpedo planes, he still wanted to fly fighters, but he was qualified in torpedo planes. He took another cruise in the TBF. He got ordered to Patuxent River Naval Air Station where he was able to fly fighters. There were pilots coming in from Espiritu Santo. One of them happened to be one of the guys who was in Torpedo 8. He was a spare pilot who was with Torpedo 8 before Midway, but was not chosen to fly at Midway. They arrived and Earnest was able to see Harry Ferrier. He recalls seeing him on Guadalcanal but does not remember any details.They had TBF's there so Ferrier ended up flying with him again. Earnest was glad to have him back, but they could not remember how they got back together. They only flew one more flight together from when they met up on Guadalcanal. He had a tunnel gunner named Rich. He was able to give Rich a few chances to shoot his .30 caliber at some Japanese ships. The pilot Ferrier was with got ordered back to Espiritu Santo.Earnest made torpedo attacks against cruisers on Guadalcanal. There were other targets of opportunity. He ended up making four torpedo attacks off of the coast of Guadalcanal. He notes that the torpedoes were so bad he is not sure if he got any hits. He had a friend who was a fighter pilot. There was a Japanese battleship there that had been knocked out, still floating, but knocked out. The fighter saw a torpedo go in the water to knock out the ship, but the torpedo failed. Hearing stories like that disappointed Earnest. He saw one torpedo hit, but he was not sure if it was his torpedo. The torpedo was circling around and the ship ran into it. That was the only torpedo hit he ever saw. The effectiveness of the torpedo discouraged the torpedo pilots. Earnest knew that they were unreliable but he never guessed they would be unreliable to that extent. He was on Guadalcanal for little over a month. They first time he went up was the 15th of September, 1943. The Saratoga had just been torpedoed so they went up in the air.

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The torpedo planes flew into Espiritu Santo. They stayed on Espiritu Santo for about a week. They sent 6 TBF's [Annotator’s Note: American ‘Avenger’ torpedo bombers] to Guadalcanal. Earnest was selected to bring one of the TBF's back. They did not make any torpedo attacks then. When Earnest came back to Guadalcanal he went on four more torpedo runs. He earned three Navy Crosses. He earned two for Midway, one for making the attack, and one for bringing the airplane back. He also received an A Medal for a torpedo attack on a Japanese carrier, it was sinking from dive bomber hits and Earnest believes his torpedo did not hit it. The Air Medal was for the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.Earnest recalls that there were triple-decker bunks in the Saratoga [Annotator’s Note: USS Saratoga (CV-3)]. There was always a poker game going on. After the battle of the Easter Solomons, Swede was put in the air and they were told to strike a Japanese cruiser. About five others went with Swede to make the strike. Two guys got lost. They ended up landing on an island; Earnest notes that it is an island east of Guadalcanal, but cannot remember the name. The two guys were lost, but they were eventually picked up. They asked one of the guys if they wanted to go back to the states, one guy took the states and one guy went back to the squad.The Saratoga had good bunks. Earnest picked himself a nice bunk, and later that night the ship was torpedoed. He ended up flying on the Manila Bay which was a jeep carrier. They had an uneventful cruise on the Manila Bay. They supported landings on Kwajalein and New Guinea. They went on a few bombing runs in support of those landings. One of the fighters on the Manila Bay did shoot down one plane.They came back to Pearl Harbor because the ship somehow was going slower and slower. It was sent back for an overhaul in the states. Earnest left on the first of January and got back in August. The cruise on the Manila Bay was his third combat tour. He was sent back to Patuxent River where he was able to practice with the fighters. He even flew a ME 262 [Annotator’s Note: a German fighter plane] for about fifteen seconds before he crashed. He finished out the war at Patuxent River. They had a big celebration when the war ended. He went back to Patuxent River and served as an assistant director of flight for three years. Earnest retired from the Navy when he was 32.

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They [Annotator’s Note: the dive bombers] would cut the engines if nothing came back from the PBY's and call it a day [Annotator’s Note: in preparation for the Battle of Midway]. The second evening they were there they found a little place to buy food. They found out they had beer so they went in and had a couple of beers. Another evening they went in there at about the same time and they were told they had to purchase chits to get the beer. Earnest had lost his bunk he was supposed to sleep that night so he found a bunk in the fighter tent. He does not know how it was available but it was.Earnest was walking down the runway when it was dark, he found a two dollar bill lying on the runway and it has remained his pocket to this day. [Annotators Note: Earnest takes a minute to show his 2 dollar bill to the camera.] He does not recall being woken up when the fighters left. He does not remember the fighter pilots at all. They got up that morning and went through their regular routine. After warming the airplanes up the guys sat in their planes. A Marine ran up to Feebling’s plane and told him something. Someone came over and yelled to Earnest that they had located the Japanese. The coordinates were 150 miles on 0.02 degrees. The fighters that were not already in the air were in the process of taking off. Earnest and the group of torpedo planes took off.Not too long after takeoff his turret gunner radioed him and told him he could see firing taking place on Midway. The Japanese were already there. Two planes made a pass at Earnest. He thought they were ME 262's [Annotator’s Note: German fighter planes]. They had two inline engines. They turned out to be reconnaissance planes. They continued on and about fifty minutes later he spotted a ship, it looked like a transport ship. Earnest looked back again and he saw two carriers and a lot of other ships. About that time the Japanese fighters were hitting them. The fighters killed Manning in the first pass. Earnest was not getting anything from him; Manning was Earnest's gunner. They dove down to the water. He is not sure when, but his hydraulic system got shot out. He knew that if he did not open the bomb bay doors before combat that if the system got shot out they could not drop. Shortly after he opened the bomb bay doors, his hydraulic system was shot out. That allowed him to drop his torpedo. They were heading for the carriers at full throttle. The Zeroes [Annotator’s Note: Japanese fighter planes] were all over them. He recalls seeing one cross in front of him. He tried to fly his .30 caliber [Annotator’s Note: machine gun] but it was jammed. The cannon fire from the Japanese began to hit Earnest's wing. A piece of shrapnel came through and hit him in the cheek, the blood was everywhere. Just about that time the stick went limp in his hand. They shot the elevator controls out. The plane was trimmed very well so it was gradually going down. He figured he was going to go in the water but there was a Japanese cruiser on his port side. He pulled out of formation, which was forbidden.

Annotation

Earnest tried to get a lead on the cruiser so he could drop his torpedo [Annotator’s Note: after being hit during the Battle of Midway]. He could not tell if the torpedo dropped or not. He was about to hit the water so he rolled the elevator tab back, which caused the plane to jump in the air. This made Earnest realize he could fly the plane. The Japanese fighters were still trying to make runs on them. There were two of them. Earnest attempted to maneuver away from them. He ruined their runs. All of a sudden, he could not hear them anymore. He looked around to realize that the fighters had flown off.Earnest looked back to see if there was any damage done to the Japanese ships but he could not see any. He also looked back to see if there were any airplanes in the sky or down in the water but he did not see any. He also realized that he did not have a compass anymore. It had been shot out. The tail of the plane was pretty well chewed up. He decided that he did not want to head back the way he came because he would have been heading back over the Japanese fleet. He decided he would fly to the south until he was west of Midway, then fly directly east. The sun was still low in the sky so he was able to figure out where to go. He did not have a plotting board either.Earnest headed south to clear himself of the area where the Japanese were. He saw one airplane but he left it alone and it left him alone. He flew until he figured out that he had to be east of Midway, so he took a course due west. He did not see anything. Then he climbed above the clouds and at about 2-3,000 feet the clouds broke and he could see. He saw a great big plume of black smoke to the east. He went back down to the deck to see if he could see where the smoke was coming from. Earnest looked down and saw the island of Kure, which was fifty miles due east of Midway. Sometime between the time he left the Japanese and turned east, Harry Ferrier came to and was able to talk to Earnest. Earnest asked him if he could see if the torpedo was dropped. Ferrier told him he could not see out of the window because of all of the blood. Ferrier asked if he could get in the compartment behind Earnest. Ferrier got behind him, Ferrier did not have a radio with him.They headed for Midway, remembering that they had to make a recognition turn once they got to Midway. Earnest put his wheels down, but only the port wheel would come down. They found out later that the device that centers the well was shot out, so only one wheel was able to get down. He tried to shake it down, but the airplane was not in good shape to be shaken. They got to Midway and he made an approach to the runway to land. A Marine jumped in the runway and waved him off. The Marine waved Earnest off again, but he went ahead and landed anyways. He brought the airplane down and was able to land on one wheel as smoothly as possible. The plane landed great. He wanted to look the plane over and make sure Ferrier was alright. He figured that Manning was dead. He never did see his body. They stopped him from seeing the body. They then had to go and check in to let the guys know what happened. Earnest was hoping for the guys to come back but no one did. He saw Ferrier after he was bandaged up; he also had a few cuts that they had to bandage up. He does not recall being debriefed. He wrote a report but is not sure who he turned it into.

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