Heading to Midway and New SBDs

Nervous Pilots and Station HYPO

Preparing for the Battle of Midway

Locating the Japanese Fleet at Midway

First Dive on a Target During the Battle of Midway

Attacking the Kaga

Back to the USS Enteprise (CV-6)

Attack on the Hiryu

Attacking the Tanikaze and Mikuma

Results of the Battle of Midway

Reflections on the Battle of Midway

Do What You Can with What You Have

Hoff's First Combat Dive

Strafing Just Didn't Feel Right


[Annotator's Note: Donald Hoff served in the Navy as a rear seat gunner and radio operator on Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) and flew from the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway.] Prior to Midway, no one was told anything about the possible upcoming battle. Before heading to Midway, they [Annotator's Note: the crew of the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6)] had been at Pearl Harbor. When they got ready to leave Pearl Harbor, the men were not told where they were going. The aircrew was suspicious that something was going to happen because they had been told to return to Pearl Harbor as soon as possible after delivering Marine fighter planes to Efate. Deployment to Midway was last minute notice. Hoff and his pilot had a new plane. He had been at Kaneohe or Ford Island while the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] and Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)] were on the Tokyo run. He liked the new plane because he had twin .30's [Annotator's Note: twin mounted Browning ANM2 .30 caliber machine guns] instead of a single .30. Following the Battle of the Coral Sea, the airmen had been asked what they thought was needed to improve their aircraft. With the single .30 that the older SBDs carried, there was one can of ammunition on the gun and four or six on the back firewall. If a gunner fired a whole can of ammunition, he had to turn around to grab another can then get it set up. The process took about a minute. When the gunners ran out of ammunition at Coral Sea, they had to stand up in their positions, toss the empty can over the side, grab a new can and turn around and set it up. The Japanese fighter pilots saw what took place and made attacks on the rear seat gunners when they saw the can being thrown out of the plane. Many gunners were shot up. When the gunners discovered what the Japanese were doing, they saved the empty cans. They would reload and make the gun ready then throw it out. When the Japanese saw the empty can fly out they would attack. The Japanese lost three Zeros [Annotator's Note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 fighter aircraft, also referred to as the Zero or Zeke] before they caught on to what the gunners were doing. With the new SBDs, each .30 had a 1,000 round belt. That way they never ran out of ammunition. The guys who had the older SBDs made a device to hold the empty cans. Hoff was expecting to meet the Japanese forces somewhere. Each of Hoff's guns fired around 600 rounds per minute. He did have one problem with his guns. They were mounted on a center post. If one gun failed, the torque from the other gun firing would pull on the gun. It was hard to hold them. It was a bad situation since the gunners were so close to their vertical stabilizer.


Donald Hoff was regularly assigned to fly with Ensign Stone. Hoff was used to flying with him and felt like they were a team. On the morning of 4 June 1942, Hoff was assigned to fly with Ensign J.C. Dexter. Hoff did not know Ensign Dexter and he was not used to Dexter's plane. Dexter's gunner had been assigned to another aircraft. This made the pilots nervous. They were used to having the same gunner. On 4 June they were briefed and told that there would probably be a battle that day but they did not get many details. Some pilots will claim that they knew more than they did. At a June 1992 commemoration of the Battle of Midway in Washington DC, Dick Best [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard H. Best] said that they knew that Yamamoto [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto] was coming. A guy named Forrest called out Best and told him that they did not know that Yamamoto was coming. Forrest was with Operation HYPO [Annotator's Note: Station HYPO was the US Navy code breaking unit stationed at Pearl Harbor]. Tex was a captain in the code breaking unit. If the code crackers did not know what was coming, the pilots did not. Whatever the code crackers knew, they gave to the unit commander, McClusky [Annotator's Note: later US Navy Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky], and the commanding officers of each unit. The Japanese had changed their code on 1 June. Station HYPO was still copying messages but they had not cracked the new code. The pilots knew they would run into something, they just did not know what. The air crewmen were not given any information. Station HYPO was convinced that Midway was the target and they convinced Nimitz [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz]. Many others were not convinced, including some on Nimitz's staff. Station HYPO was so convinced that "AF" was Midway that they had a message sent out in plain language that they needed repairs for their fresh water evaporators. The reply was that a water barge would be there in a week or so. The message had been picked up by a radio post in the Marianas and broadcast to Tokyo. Station HYPO picked up a message from the Japanese telling their units to carry extra water which confirmed that "AF" was Midway. Hoff was still at Pearl Harbor when the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] pulled into port. They were still working on her when they pulled out. Hoff has heard the old argument that Yorktown had been put out in front because she was damaged so any enemy planes would attack her. It just worked out that the Yorktown was the first ship that the Japanese saw when they came in.


In the first days of June [Annotator's Note: June 1942], Donald Hoff and his fellow airmen were getting nervous, especially the ones who had been in combat before. None of the aircrews aboard Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] had experience with attacking ships. This was something new for the whole squadron [Annotator's Note: Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6)]. The planes on Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] had fought at Coral Sea and were experienced. All information available was shared and passed on to Enterprise. On the night of 3 June, no one slept very well. Contact had already been established with the invasion fleet. For guys like Hoff who had not been in combat they did not know what to expect. Guys who had been in combat tried to explain to them what to expect. Rear seat gunners would not see anything but the antiaircraft fire going by. On the morning of 4 June, Hoff was up early. The group of gunners was usually jovial, but not that morning. Everyone was apprehensive because they had not been given much information. They were not even told that there would be carriers around. Bruno Gaido [Annotator's Note: US Navy Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st class Bruno Gaido] and his pilot [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign Frank W. O'Flaherty] were captured and interrogated. Hoff has read the report about how Bruno Gaido and his pilot were interrogated aboard a destroyer then had empty shell casings tied to their ankles and were thrown overboard. That was the reason the men were only told what they needed to know. After breakfast, the guys played cards but there was no enthusiasm because they knew that some of them may die. Hoff lost a good friend. It was not known after they returned, if aircrew were not there, if they were dead. Reports had been picked up that some crews had gone into the water and may be picked up by PBY Catalinas [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat] out of Midway. That was a possibility. Some were seen going into a dive and never seen again. Bombing 3 [Annotator's Note: US Navy Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3) flying from USS Yorktown (CV-5)], Bombing 5 [Annotator's Note: US Navy Bombing Squadron 5 (VB-5)], and Bombing 6 [Annotator's Note: US Navy Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6) flying from USS Enterprise (CV-6)] were there so they never knew who went down. When the guys started manning their planes they were nervous because they knew they were going out. The only time they calmed down briefly was during takeoff. They had to be very careful because they were fully loaded with bombs and ammunition. The men had to be ready to get out of the plane fast if there was a problem. When Hoff took off, they joined the formation right away.


When they [Annotator's Note: Donald Hoff and the rest of the strike group] arrived at the point where they [Annotator's Note: the Japanese fleet] were supposed to be, there was nothing there. They could see in all directions except northeast because of bad weather. Later, they found out that the Japanese had launched their planes then went northeast. Hoff and his group had come from the southeast and did not see the Japanese. They looked around for about 15 minutes but could not see anything. When he did not see the Japanese, Hoff wondered if it was a wasted trip. They had been on oxygen for quite a while. They did not know what was going to happen. One concern was the Japanese combat air patrol, or CAP. They looked around constantly so no Japanese fighters snuck up on them. They were surprised that they did not see anything. Then McClusky [Annotator's Note: later US Navy Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky] saw the destroyer Arashi [Annotators Note: Imperial Japanese Navy ship Arashi]. They deduced from the destroyer's course and speed that it was trying to catch up with its fleet. They turned to the right and followed it for about 15 minutes when they found the fleet. Hoff had not seen the destroyer until McClusky pointed it out. He was looking for Japanese aircraft that may be above them. Hoff's group had been flying at 22,000 feet then dropped down to 18,000 or 19,000 to conserve fuel. After McClusky sighted the Japanese fleet he brought the group back up to about 20,000 feet. Hoff did not know when the fleet was spotted. Hoff's pilot [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter] was flying wing on the section leader, Dusty Kleiss [Annotator's Note: later US Navy Captain Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty]. Kleiss led the second section and was watching the skipper to see what moves were to be made. There was not much signaling. When they saw the fleet they knew it was time to do what they had been trained for. They were flying in formation. The antennas on the SBDs [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] and torpedo planes were not properly tuned because they were under absolute radio silence. All of their transmitters and receivers had been tuned by an exact frequency meter back aboard ship. The transmitter and antenna have to be tuned to each other. The antennas could not be tuned ahead of time because that would require breaking radio silence. The radio controls were taped up with scotch tape to keep them from being used. In order to remove the tape, they had to let go of their guns. The pilot and gunner had an intercom in the plane. All of the fighters used VHF radios and were able to communicate between planes but the others could not. Hoff has heard people claim that they heard a lot of talking on the radios during the battle [Annotator's Note: the Battle of Midway] but says that it was not so.


When Donald Hoff's plane went into its dive, it did not last long. At 250 miles per hour the dive goes by quick. When they made their final run there were no Japanese fighters around. This baffled Hoff. What he could not see was that the fighters had come down from altitude to sea level to shoot down the torpedo planes that had attacked before Hoff got there. There was a lot of antiaircraft fire but no enemy fighters. When the dive started they could see the downed aircraft in the water. The pilot did not focus on the downed planes. He concentrated on his dive. In the rear area of Hoff's plane there was an altimeter. When the pilot is diving, his eye is on his sight. The rear seat gunner watched the altimeter. The gunner called out the height every 1,000 feet starting at 10,000 feet. At 3,000 feet the gunner told the pilot to stand by. At 2,000 feet the gunner said "mark." When "mark" is called, the pilot should be in the position he needs to be in to drop his bomb on target. Somehow during the dive, Dexter [Annotator's Note: Ensign J.C. Dexter] had rolled the plane on its back. This threw negative gravity on the back. The twin .30s [Annotator's Note: twin mounted Browning ANM2 .30 caliber machine guns] each had 1,000 round belts. The negative gravity caused the ammunition belts to come out of the cans like snakes. Hoff had one hand on the microphone and one hand on his guns. He had to grab the ammunition and hold it and still call out the altitude so the pilot knew where he was. Some pilots went below 2,000 feet but not much lower. The ideal dive would have the plane pulling out directly over the carrier and going in the same direction. The dive was not ideal. Their bomb missed the target but still caused some under water damage.


When Donald Hoff's pilot [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter] pulled up from his dive, he pulled up so hard that he blacked out. When he opened his eyes he was looking right at the side of the Kaga [Annotator's Note: Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Kaga]. There were flames shooting up. Another dive bomber had hit it with a bomb. Hoff's pilot was heading due west when he pulled up. The sight that Hoff saw was like a surreal painting of what hell may look like. Hoff's pilot made a sharp left turn and got low and close to the water. After turning, Hoff could see a Japanese heavy cruiser that was firing at them. His pilot was jinxing [Annotator's Note: jinking is US Navy slang for erratic flying to keep an enemy from getting an easy shot at you] to keep from being hit. Hoff watched the heavy cruiser fire its big guns at them. He had been told that they had done the same thing at Coral Sea. The Japanese would fire large caliber shells and throw up huge columns of water. If a plane ran into one of the columns it would be like running into a brick wall. One of the cruiser's big shells went off right under Hoff's plane. The explosion lifted them about 50 feet. They were passing over it at 250 miles per hour. They were not hurt at all. Hoff did see one Japanese fighter. When Hoff's pilot pulled out of his dive over the Kaga, he was supposed to strafe. He was fascinated by what he was seeing. He did not fire so he did not attract attention to himself. When they were a few miles away, a Japanese fighter made a turn to run on them. When the Japanese pilot turned, Hoff aimed his gun in the direction of the enemy plane. He fired one burst. The Japanese plane flipped over to the right and went down toward the water. Hoff did not see what happened to it but the Japanese plane did not return. He looked everywhere for the enemy plane. Hoff is sure that he hit it and hit it hard enough to knock it down but he just considers that he scared it off. He did not care about shooting down Japanese planes. He just wanted the Japanese fighters to leave him alone. Hoff's pilot had been flying at full speed. Dexter finally slowed down and told Hoff that there was a seaplane ahead of them. Dexter told him that he was going to drop down below and behind the seaplane. Hoff wanted to make a gun run on the enemy plane, but Dexter said no due to a lack of fuel. The enemy plane was a biplane scout from a cruiser out looking for ships. The enemy was at about 800 to 900 feet so Hoff's plane stayed at 15 to 20 feet off the water. Dexter lined up behind the seaplane so that the enemy's horizontal stabilizer blocked his view of Hoff's plane. The seaplane made a slow turn to the north and his plane continued on to the east. Hoff remained down near the water until the enemy plane was out of sight then Dexter brought them back up to about 1,500 feet. That's when the battery went dead.


To conserve what little was left in the battery, Donald Hoff turned off the transmitter, receiver, intercom and IFF or identification friend or foe. The IFF sends a signal to a ship's [Annotator's Note: the ship Hoff is referring to is the USS Enterprise (CV-6)] radar to tell them that the approaching plane is friendly. Just before shutting everything off, Dexter [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter, the pilot of Hoff's plane] located the proper course to fly to get back to the ship using the ZB [Annotator's Note: YE-ZB Homing System] homing device. Hoff's pilot suddenly flipped on the intercom and yelled for Hoff to "give 'em the king" [Annotator's Note: K for king was the recognition signal]. He had warmed up from being at 20,000 feet and was still a little shaken from combat. The ship's radar had picked them up and their identification friend or foe was turned off. Hoff's plane was flying slow at 1,500 feet which is the ideal altitude and speed for a lone Japanese torpedo plane. When the ship picked them up, they vectored two F4F Wildcat fighters out to intercept them. The fighters were making a gun run on Hoff's plane. When the fighters came in, Hoff flashed a signal by Aldis Lamp [Annotator's Note: a signal lamp]. The fighters then knew that his plane was friendly. The two fighters then flew in formation with the dive bombers. The fighters had to lower their flaps to fly slow enough to fly with the dive bombers. While the fighters were in formation with Hoff's plane, he gave them hand signals indicating that that they had killed three carriers. The fighters radioed the ship to let them know that the incoming planes were from Scouting 6 [Annotator's Note: Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) from USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. The planes were also able to see the number 18 on the side of Hoff's plane. The pilots shook their hands above their heads when they heard that three carriers had been killed. After radioing the ship, the fighters returned to their duty as combat air patrol. Hoff came right straight in to the ship. The Enterprise had to turn 90 degrees into the wind so they could land. Hoff's plane was very low on fuel and he did not think they had enough to go around. Dexter followed the hand signals given by the landing signal officer [Annotator's Note: LSO], Robin Lindsey, and was able to land. As soon as the ship turned into the wind and straightened up, Hoff's plane landed on it. They caught the first wire. As soon as Hoff's plane hit the deck, it was disconnected from the wire then grabbed by 15 or 20 plane handlers who held it in place while the ship turned back onto its original course. The turn was so sharp that the ship felt like it would tip over. The ship returned to its course heading northwest toward the Japanese fleet. After landing they taxied forward. The plane captain thought they were dead. They had five gallons of gas left which would not have been enough for them to make a second run on the ship. Hoff saw all three carriers on fire that morning. Around five that afternoon he saw the fourth carrier. By the afternoon, it was a different story. The Japanese knew where they were. For the afternoon strike they had no torpedo planes with them so the combat air patrol was upstairs to greet them but no enemy planes came after Hoff's aircraft.


Donald Hoff's plane was not bothered [Annotator's Note: by Japanese fighters during the second strike of the Battle of Midway] but some of the other planes were. For the afternoon strike, they had a full air group. About half of Hoff's squadron [Annotator's Note: Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from USS Enterprise (CV-6)] and Bombing 6 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6) also flying from USS Enterprise (CV-6)], were gone. They had planes from Bombing 5 and Bombing 3 off the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] that were put into a single air group to go after the fourth carrier [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Navy carrier Hiryu]. They were excited because they knew how much damage they had done that morning. They also knew that they had lost a lot of planes. They knew that the fourth carrier had to be where the bombers came from that hit the Yorktown. Both sides knew where each other was. There was a big difference in the afternoon strike. The carrier was twisting and turning more than the three that were hit in the morning. There was also a lot more antiaircraft fire in the afternoon. The Japanese fighters were coming in hard. If their fourth carrier was lost they would have no place to land. Dexter [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter was the pilot of Hoff's plane] scored a hit. He had missed in the morning. There was some jinxing [Annotator's Note: jinking is US Navy slang for certain evasive maneuvers used to throw off the aim of enemy gunners] to avoid antiaircraft fire. They had orders not to fly straight back to the ship [Annotator's Note: the ship Hoff is referring to the USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. If all of the planes returned straight to the Enterprise the Japanese would know exactly where she was. After pulling out of the dive and heading out of the area, Hoff saw the fourth carrier on fire and lots of smoke. There were Japanese fighters swarming all over but none made a run on Hoff's plane. Hoff's plane got into a step down formation with one or two other planes which would put six .30 calibers [Annotator's Note: six Browning ANM2 .30 caliber machine guns] sticking out of the back end. They were also flying just above the water so the Japanese fighters could not get underneath them which they could do when flying up high. They stayed right down on the water until they were far away from the fighters. They joined up with some other planes. The Japanese fighters would stay away from groups of SBDs [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] because all of the guns sticking out of the back. The Japanese could not make attack runs from above because they were right on the water. Hoff's plane had been the last plane to land after the morning attack. When they landed on the Enterprise after the afternoon attack it was late. Hoff had no trouble going to sleep that night. They were fed a steak and egg dinner and were debriefed for both the morning and afternoon runs. From Scouting 6 there were only six guys that had made both runs and Hoff was one of them. After debriefing they went down to eat then reported to sick bay. They were examined then given a big shot of whiskey. They were then sent to bed and told they would have to fly in the morning. They were no longer on the adrenaline rush from getting all four carriers. The food and whiskey calmed them down.


[Annotator's Note: Donald Hoff served in the Navy as a rear seat gunner and radio operator on Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) and flew from the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway.] The following day was a dud. They were supposedly after a wounded carrier that had been sighted by a PBY [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat]. They never found the carrier, but did come across the Japanese destroyer Tanikaze. Hoff's group of about 32 planes was flying at about 8,000 to 10,000 feet. They flew past the Tanikaze. They had a search line flying at about 1,500 feet, the normal searching height. When they could not locate the other ships, McClusky [Annotator's Note: later US Navy Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky] decided to go after the tin can [Annotator's Note: slang term for a destroyer]. The group started their dive from about 10,000 feet. The destroyer started twisting and turning really fast. The antiaircraft fire was thick. Hoff decided that he did not want to watch the antiaircraft fire so he secured his guns and turned around so he could see what the pilot saw, even though he was supposed to be looking out for enemy fighters. It was only time Hoff was ever in combat while looking forward. The pilots are watching the ship so if it turned, they could make adjustments. This had to be done fast because the planes were moving at 250 miles per hour straight down. All 32 planes dove on the Tanikaze and nobody hit her. The Tanikaze got one of the Bombing 5 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 5 (VB-5)] planes. Hoff believes that the Tanikaze was putting up even more antiaircraft fire than the other ships the day before. On the the third day [Annotator's Note: 6 June 1942], they got a report of two battle cruisers. Hoff's group went out and attacked the ships, the Mikuma and Mogami. Hoff's plane attacked the Mikuma thinking it was the Mogami. One of the Japanese ships had her bow blown off. The ship put up a lot of antiaircraft fire. Dexter [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter was the pilot of Hoff's plane] got a direct hit aft on one of the back turrets. While pulling out of the dive, Hoff did not strafe. He felt they had done enough with the 1,000 pound bomb so there was no need to strafe the guys in the water. The ship was a big battle cruiser. She was dead in the water and smoking with a torpedo hanging out of the side. A photographer named Cleo Dobson flew by the ship while she was dead in the water. Dobson had been in Scouting Squadron 6 before the war. The photographer that flew past the damaged battle cruiser flew off the Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)]. Hoff read Dobson's account of the battle [Annotator's Note: the Battle of Midway]. Dobson did not strafe because he did not feel right about it. Hoff had seen Pearl Harbor and thinks they [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] got what they deserved. He had no sympathy for them. On 4 June [Annotator's Note: 4 June 1942], Hoff felt good about the victory.


[Annotator's Note: Donald Hoff served in the Navy as a rear seat gunner and radio operator on Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) and flew from the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway.] After the battle they headed to the Aleutians. At this time they had a full air group. They [Annotator's Note: Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6)] had adopted the guys from Bombing 5 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 5 (VB-5)] and the guys from from Bombing 3 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3)] went into Bombing 6 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6)]. When they headed north the weather got colder and then got foggy to the point where they could not operate. By not being able to send out air cover or scouting planes, the group was going in blind. They decided to leave the area which made the air crews very happy. After returning to Pearl, there was a brawl at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The Army claimed that they had sunk all of the carriers and not the Navy. Hoff was not involved in the fight. Many of the men involved in the fight were drunk and that did not make things any better. Some men saw the fight and joined in just to be in a fight against the Army. Hoff does not know if he was even at the hotel at the time of the fight. He may have been sleeping. By the time the air group got back to Pearl Harbor they were exhausted. They had been in three days of intense combat. They could not get enough sleep. They were worn out and could not fly. That made for a lot of apprehension while in the Aleutians. After clearing the fog, they started flying again. They flew anti-submarine patrols, called inner air patrol, and flew search hops. There was the possibility of Japanese submarines so they flew search hops. Bombing 3 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3) launched from carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5)] took off 90 minutes after Hoff's Group, but arrived at the fight at the same time. [Annotator's Note: Hoff is referring to the initial attack on the Japanese carriers by the US Navy dive bombers during the Battle of Midway.] That way, the three squadrons were able to kill all three carriers. Hoff's feeling about Midway is that there had to be divine intervention. There is no proof, but he does not think it could have happened any other way. He does not think that the Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)] had any more information than they had. It was divine intervention that the air groups arrived on time. Hoff has gotten in some discussions over his belief. Hoff has read some accounts of the battle and believes that the Japanese made more mistakes than they did. Hoff attributes the Japanese mistakes to the rigid discipline of the Japanese who would not go against their admiral, Nagumo [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Chuichi Nagumo]. Nagumo was in charge of the fleet where the carriers came from [Annotator's Note: during the Battle of Midway]. His indecision was part of the reason for the Japanese defeat. Another instance of divine intervention was that the cruiser [Annotator's Note: Hoff is referring to the search plane launched by one of the Japanese cruisers] that was to search the area where Yorktown, Hornet, and Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] were, was delayed for about 20 minutes. When the enemy got to the area he radioed that he had discovered the fleet, but did not identify the number and class of ships. The admiral asked him what kind of ships but he did not respond for 40 minutes then said that there was an enemy carrier. During that time, Hoff's Air Group had found the Japanese fleet and attacked.


[Annotator's Note: Donald Hoff served in the Navy as a rear seat gunner and radio operator on Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) and flew from the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway.] The Japanese just made too many mistakes. Hoff feels honored to have been part of the battle. He was very scared. Midway was his first combat. It was a thrill and he thinks that they did a good job. Some people complain about Spruance [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Raymond A. Spruance] because he was a cruiser admiral and not a carrier admiral, but Hoff feels that he did a perfect job. He believes that Nimitz [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz] made the right decision. The Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] was lost. There were a lot of guys killed on the Yorktown. The Hornet [Annotators Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)] was there in spirit. There are arguments that if the Hornet had done what it was supposed to do they would have gotten the fourth carrier. The Hornet's dive bombers should have been with Hoff's Air Group. Many planes were lost. The torpedo planes were all lost. There was only one survivor from Torpedo 8 [Annotator's Note: Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8)]. One pilot and one gunner out of Torpedo 8 detached, the ones that were flying in the TBF [Annotator's Note: Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo plane]. Two from Torpedo 3 got back including Lloyd Childers [Annotator's Note: later USMC Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd Childers' oral history interview is also available on this Digital Collections website]; they were the only survivors from the Yorktown. Torpedo 6 lost several torpedo planes. Many mistakes were made by our people. If McClusky [Annotator's Note: later US Navy Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky] had gotten to the point where the Japanese were supposed to be, things would have been easier if he had had a cell phone to call the admiral to ask for directions. If they had better radar things would have been better. Even with the lack of technology, Hoff thinks they did pretty good. Hoff lost some good friends, but that is war. The battery going dead was the worst thing that happened to him. The battery went dead on the morning of 4 June. Dexter [Annotator's Note: US Navy Ensign J.C. Dexter was the pilot of Hoff's plane] chewed the mechanic out and the mechanic stayed up late to find the problem. It was just a short, but it could have been costly.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.