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Arriving at Midway

Attack at Midway


Ferrier was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father died and was buried on his 13th birthday. His mother married a bartender, who turned out to be an alcoholic. Things around home were not great. Ferrier talked to his mother about possibly joining the Navy because he left high school early. His mother had a friend who had a typewriter. This friend changed the date on his birth certificate. Ferrier enlisted 5 days after his 16th birthday in January 1941. Ferrier wanted to join the Navy because he had a friend who served on submarines. Ferrier went to boot camp in Newport, Rhode Island on January 28, 1941. He weighed about 115 pounds. After contemplating the submarine service he realized he might not pass the submarine physical. Instead he was guided towards aviation radio which at the time was being developed in Jacksonville, Florida. It appealed to him and he ended up going to radio school in 1941. Ferrier was in the top 10 percent of his class so he had choices in terms of what he wanted to do. He had read a Time Magazine article that talked about Torpedo Six on the Enterprise [Annotator's Note: Torpedo Squadron Six (VT-6), USS Enterprise (CV-6) aircraft carrier]. He applied for a position with a Torpedo group that was being formed. Ferrier received orders to Torpedo Eight out of radio school. Torpedo planes seemed like an exciting idea. Ferrier did some flying in the TBD-1's, the Douglass Airplanes [Annotator's Note: TBD Devastators, US Naval torpedo bombers]. Ferrier was home on leave at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he immediately reported back to base at Norfolk. The Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet CV-8, aircraft carrier] was getting ready for its 1st shakedown cruise. In January 1942, Ferrier went and reported to the Hornet. Ferrier remembers the Hornet being a very large carrier. All of the apprenticed airmen, took the exam for 3rd class. First of March 1942, Ferrier was a radioman 3rd class. At that time Torpedo 8 [Annotator's Note: VT-8] had been designated to get the new Grumman TBF-1's [Annotator's Note: Grumman TBF Avengers, US Naval torpedo bombers]. The squadron was also ordered to go to sea with the Hornet. They went through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. A small group, received a detail to stay in Norfolk to receive the new TBF-1's. The group was about 70 men. From there Ferrier had an assignment to go to Rhode Island to talk to the guys who built the plane to discuss what was in the plane. Ferrier mainly discussed the radio technology in the plane. Ferrier concerned himself with the instruments because he had to know how to change frequencies in order to talk to different planes. He also had to know how to guide the plane back to the carrier. The type of equipment in the Devastator and the Avenger was relatively the same, as the war progressed they got better technology. In Norfolk they got the new TBF-Avenger. In May of 1942 they took 2 of the planes up to Rhode Island to test the torpedos. After a couple days of test drops they flew back to Norfolk, from there they flew the entire fleet of planes to San Diego. In San Diego they made various adjustments to the planes.


Ferrier got to Pearl Harbor the day after the Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet CV-8, aircraft carrier] sailed. They got 6 planes and flew to Midway Atoll. They were volunteer crews. Ferrier's crew was 1 pilot, Ensign Albert Earnest, and his gunner was Jay Manning. They were needed to reinforce the people on Midway. Earnest recalled after the battle that the trip from Pearl Harbor to Midway was his 1st trip over water. It was an 1,100 mile trip. When Ferrier got to Midway, he had no idea that he was going to be going back to the Hornet. Ferrier arrived on Midway on June 1st. On the 3rd of June they were informed that Midway might have been a target for the Japanese. Their routine on Midway consisted of waking up at dawn and cleaning the airplanes, and making sure they were clean the entire day. The morning of June 4th they got up as usual, checked the engines and so forth. One of the pilots had just powered down his engine after routine checks when a Marine officer jumped up on the wing of the plane and immediately said something to the pilot that made him turn his engine back on. All 6 of their airplanes, the TBF-1's [Annotator's Note: Grumman TBF Avengers, US Naval torpedo bombers], taxied down the runway followed by 4 Army Airforce B-26's [Annotator's Note: B-26 Marauders, medium bombers] that were armed with torpedos. They immediately took off at 6 in the morning on June 4th. They climbed to about 4,000 feet. Jay Manning called over the intercom and said he could see Japanese planes flying back towards Midway. Ferrier could not see the planes initially. There was complete radio silence except for a little bit of conversation over the planes intercom. Ensign Earnest, who was flying, did not say much until about an hour into the flight when he spotted Japanese ships. Jay Manning working the turret shortly after said they were being chased by Japanese planes. Ferrier was on the bottom of the aircraft at that time manning the 30-caliber machine gun looking aft out of the aircraft. After a short while Ferrier noticed that Manning was no longer firing his gun, he looked back and could tell that he had been hit. Manning was a bloody mess. The turret had a deadman switch [Annotator's Note: switch that is automatically operated in case the operator becomes incapacitated]. At about the same time Ferrier realized that Manning was hit, Ferrier himself felt something very hot on his arm and looked down. A piece of shrapnel caught him in the arm. He looked down and saw that he was wounded. Ferrier continued to man his gun. The next thing he remembered was his head hanging down and blood pouring down his head. He felt what he thought was a hole, but the bullet had grazed his head and knocked him out for a period of time. Ferrier could not see much but he remembered one time looking out his window and seeing an airplane on fire going by really fast. He could also hear various shrapnel and bullets hitting the plane. Ensign Earnest was able to launch the torpedo. As soon as they were under attack they opened the bomb bay doors because they were hydraulic and if any part of the system in place to open the doors got hit they would be useless. Ensign Earnest took the plane from 4,000 feet to under 200 which was the appropriate drop altitude.


Ensign Earnest said that as he was heading down, he lost elevator control; the stick was loose in his hand. Ensign Earnest had to use the rudders to control the plane. As he approached the ship he dropped the torpedo manually. After they dropped their torpedo, they were pursued for a short time by 2 Japanese fighters, but they eventually peeled off. The plane had been hit by a lot of shrapnel, the compass was broke but since it was still early in the morning he was able to navigate the plane back to Midway using the sun as his compass. Ferrier was still knocked out during the majority of the trip back. When he awoke he got on the intercom and asked Ensign Earnest if he could join him in the cockpit. Ensign Earnest gave permission and he sat in the seat for the rest of the flight. The gunner Jay Manning was dead. He was most likely killed by a 20-millimeter cannon shell. The plane was in bad shape. As they prepared for landing on Midway, Earnest knew he did not have any flaps. He had to drop the gear using the emergency system. They were waived off twice, but the 3rd time he landed. Ensign Earnest did not have complete control of the plane and as a result when the plane hit the runway, the right side of the plane dipped down causing the wing to hit the runway. This put them in a ground loop and they spun off of the runway. They were helped out of the airplane and Ferrier was immediately put in an ambulance and taken to an underground field hospital. In the hospital Ferrier had his wounds dressed. On the way out of the hospital Ferrier ran into one of his buddies who had flown 1 of the 6 planes from Pearl Harbor to Midway. He was replaced last minute before they took off to meet the Japanese. He informed Ferrier that the other 5 planes were not coming back and that only 2 of the Army planes had returned. Ferrier still had no idea that the US carrier force was out in the Pacific. The next day Ensign Earnest had Ferrier collect all of the personal items from the enlisted men who did not come back. About 3 to 4 days after the attack Ferrier was put on a C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain] and flown back to Pearl Harbor. They had begun to get word at Pearl Harbor that it was a favorable outcome for the Americans.


Ferrier was given a weekend pass and stayed at the Royal Hawaiian hotel. At the hotel Ferrier did not talk to many people because he had a terrible headache from his wound. When Ferrier reported back to Pearl Harbor after his stay in the hotel, he was given the option to return to Torpedo Eight or join up with Torpedo Three. Ferrier chose Torpedo Three because he did not care much for Torpedo Eight's commanding officer who was lieutenant Larson. Ferrier realized on Pearl Harbor that most everyone from Torpedo Eight was dead. Even though they won the battle Ferrier did not feel too victorious because of their losses. Ferrier was assigned to ensign Earnest before the battle, but they had flown together in Rhode Island when they were testing torpedos. Ferrier trusted ensign Earnest because he was a gentleman and a great aviator. He was able to navigate their plane back even after their compass was knocked out. Ferrier received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his action during Midway. Torpedo Three was reforming after the battle. In Torpedo Three Ferrier was assigned to fly with ensign Frederick Mears. They eventually boarded the Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6) aircraft carrier] and were told that they were going to be part of a force that was going to attack and occupy Guadalcanal. Torpedo Three was tasked with reconnaissance flights around the invasion fleet to make sure that no one was sneaking up on them. From July to August [Annotator's Note: 1942] Ferrier was on the Enterprise. On the 24th of August ensign Mears and Ferrier were in the air when the Enterprise was attacked. They were informed not to return until the attack was over. They were able to walk around and check out the damage on the ship after they landed. They looked over the side to a gun emplacement on the side of the ship and saw the gunners and pointers still in their spots but they had been burned to death. The next day they had a burial at sea for about eighty men. The Enterprise still had a few functional planes and they were immediately ordered off of the carrier and had to land on a local French island. Ferrier ended up re-crewing with Torpedo Eight and ensign Earnest on the USS Saratoga [Annotator's Note: Aircraft carrier USS Saratoga CV-3].


When the Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6) aircraft carrier] was attacked and ensign Mears and Ferrier were in the air, they were on a reconnaissance mission and were warned by radio to not come back until the attack was over. On their way back Ensign Mears tried to knock out a Japanese dive bomber but without success. The crews were very flexible, and because of the attack on the Enterprise it was easy for Ferrier to reunite with ensign Earnest again. They were relieved eventually from Guadalcanal and went back to the island Spirit of Santos [Annotator's Note: Probably Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides]. Ensign Earnest and Ferrier had no problems getting back together. The circumstances on Guadalcanal were very basic and overall the conditions were miserable. Ferrier remembers making a bomb shelter on Guadalcanal and the roof was three one thousand pound bombs. He was not concerned with them going off because it required some force and a fuse to ignite, metal hitting off of it was not going to do anything. Most of the nights they were under attack from Japanese naval and artillery attacks. Most of the missions they flew on Guadalcanal were infantry support missions. Day to day life on Guadalcanal was very basic. Food was not the best. Ferrier ate in the same chow line as the Marines. They eventually ended up in San Diego after Guadalcanal and their unit was decommissioned December 13th, 1942 for thirty days. Ferrier went back to Massachusetts. After Ferrier reported back to San Diego in January of 1943 he got word that there were dive bomber squadrons being formed. Ferrier volunteered and then was ordered to bombing squadron six. They were flying SBD-2's [Annotator's Note: SBD Dauntless naval dive bombers]. They practiced dive bombing runs almost every day. He was then sent to the Curtis Wright Factory in Columbus Ohio to check on development of the SBD-2. After reporting back to San Diego, they decided they were going to combine bombing six and bombing three and call it bombing five. The Helldivers were eventually flown to Norfolk where they were stationed on the new carrier Yorktown.


Ferrier's airplane was taken back to Pearl Harbor after the battle. The engineers do all sorts of things to the plane, analyze bullet angles and those sorts of things. The engineers told Ferrier that there were 64 machine gun bullet holes and 9 holes caused by cannon fire. The cannon shell hits may have obscured other machine gun bullet hits. Unfortunately they never kept the airplane. Ferrier saw it 1 last time in San Diego and with the wings removed, it was being used as a trainer for loading bombs. Ferrier was sent back to Norfolk to pick up the SBD-5's [Annotator's Note: the SBD Dauntless, Naval dive bombers]. Then went to sea on the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5), aircraft carrier], through the Panama Canal and out to the Pacific. Ferrier's 1st raid after the training exercises was against a Japanese island. Another training took place on Wake Island so Ferrier and his crew could get used to dropping live ammunition. By 1944, Ferrier remembers seeing over 8 carriers. By contrast in 1942 there was only 1 operational carrier in the Pacific, the USS Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. Some nights Ferrier would sleep on the flight deck because it was too hot underneath. After the Wake Island raid Ferrier hooked up with the main fleet. Ferrier's 3rd combat cruise, he was tasked with going aboard a CVE [Annotator's Note: Escort aircraft carrier] but in January of 1945 he got his 1st commission from Chief to Ensign, then went back to training command for the last 6 months of the war. From the spring of 1943 to the spring of 1944, Ferrier was in combat in the Pacific. Most of the combat missions Ferrier flew were ground support missions. Ferrier was appointed a Chief Petty Officer in April 1944 at the age of 19. January 15, 1945 Ferrier received his commission of Ensign. The Navy sent Ferrier from a carrier squadron to a training squadron for Privateers [Annotator's Note: the 4 engine Navy version of the B-24]. Ferrier went there as a communications officer for training because he was a radioman. In June 1946, he requested to be a Chief Petty Officer again. His 1st assignment was in a Privateer squadron that was designated to be Hurricane Hunters. We had modified airplanes; they had taken the turrets out of them to lighten them up. We were flying PB4Y2M's out of Miami. I did 4 seasons as a hurricane hunter. In 1949, I requested a transfer to a P2V Squadron [Annotator's Note: Lockheed P-2 Neptune] . I did not last very long there.


Ferrier did not like the way they were awarding flight orders to the crewman. Ferrier made his boss well aware of that. After his 1st orders for a Chief Radioman he was gone. Ferrier went to a communications center for the Fleet Logistics Airwing of the Atlantic and Continental, which controlled all of the transport planes in the Navy. Ferrier was there when the Korean War started. Ferrier wanted to go back to flying as a Chief rather then an Ensign because Chiefs got flight pay. Ferrier did not feel qualified enough to be an officer. Ferrier was offered his commission back in 1951. He had worked with enough officers by this point and felt as if he was savvy enough to work with them; he made Ensign again. He was sent to Aviation Electronics Officer schools in Memphis in early 1952. When Ferrier left the school in Memphis in September 1952, he was assigned to the Armed Forces Special Weapons project as an electronics instructor in nuclear weapons. Ferrier taught the trigger mechanisms that detonated nuclear weapons as an airburst. Ferrier spent nearly 3 years in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ferrier went to Nevada because they were still conducting atmospheric weapons test. Ferrier had another tour of duty escorting VIPS's during weapons tests. Ferrier retired in 1970 after 29 years, 7 months and 3 days worth of service. He could of stayed longer, but it was time to retire because his son had just graduated from high school.

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