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It took a lot of luck at Midway

The impact of Midway on the rest of WW2


Showers was born on a farm in Iowa. As a student, he remembers the Armed Forces recruiting students. The first station he encountered were recruiting men for the Army Air Corps. Showers took the physical and passed that day. Immediately the Air Corps had Showers send them his transcripts.Showers never heard back from the Air Corps. About six months later the Navy came to his school and within one day he was in the Navy. Showers was happy with his decision to join the Navy. Since he had an education he was able to enter as an officer.Showers left midshipmen school as a trained deck officer. He was sent to the 13th Naval District headquarters in Seattle Washington. When he arrived there he was sent to learn about counterintelligence. Showers was ordered to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after the war started, to the 14th Naval District headquarters. He reported to the intelligence division. His initial task was going to be researching the backgrounds of individuals living in Hawaii and in the the Philippines which were parts of the 16th Naval District.Showers arrived in Hawaii on February 1st, 1942. His main duties were research and analytical tactics.


Showers spent the entire war working in communications and intelligence, in direct collaboration with Admiral Nimitz [Annotator's Note: Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz]. The technology and operations of the counterintelligence units that Showers worked with were described as primitive. They were put into a basement for security reasons. He usually had to work between twelve and fifteen hours a day.Showers' job was to analyze the information that the cryptologists and linguists came up with, and then piece together bits and pieces to create a daily intelligence report. In the beginning it was hard to create reliable intelligence reports because of the difficulty of the Japanese code.The Japanese code was complicated. All of the deciphering had to be done by hand. The Japanese had a dictionary of code words that numbered nearly fifty thousand words. Each dictionary was represented by a five digit code group. An intercepted message would contain random five digit code groups. Each code group would have an additional five digit code that did not mean anything, so it was the cryptologists responsibility to find the meaningless five digit codes so that the original code groups would be what was left. After that the cryptologists, through a lot of guesswork and handwork, would eventually reach a conclusion that was correct.At the outset of the war, the intelligence unit that Showers worked with was comprised of about 12-15 men who were described by him as, "geniuses." Before the war it was hard to break the codes because to break a code, there needs to be a lot of messages to create volume. With the volume of messages increasing it became easier to see patterns and decipher the code. They began to produce intelligence by the beginning of 1942.


In 1942 they began to realize that the Japanese were planning an assault on Port Moresby [Annotator's Note: New Guinea]. The entire goal of the operation was to knock Australia out of the picture in the Pacific and control the supply lines. Showers and his men were able to figure out exactly what was going to happen. They knew the dates, how many ships, and where they were coming from in enough time to alert Admiral Nimitz [Annotator's Note: Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz]. They called it good "actionable" intelligence. They even knew the names of the Japanese ships.In 1942 the theatre commander, which was Admiral Nimitz, had the authority to carry out whatever operations he thought were necessary to win the war. He didn't need authority granted from a higher power. All major decisions today are made in Washington by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.The US Navy was able to meet the Japanese fleet in the Coral Sea, on thier way to Port Moresby [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Coral Sea, 4–8 May 1942]. This was the first two-sided naval battle in the Pacific. It was also the first naval battle where the two sides did not spot each other with their ships. The entire battle was fought exclusively by airplanes. The outcome of the battle was that the Japanese had to retreat. They could not carry out their operation on Port Moresby anymore. The battle was a tactical draw but a strategic victory for the United States.While this battle was going on in May of 1942, Showers and his men began to see the rumblings of another Japanese operation planned for the summer. It turned out this was going to be Midway. Showers saw this development coming about the same time as the Battle of Coral Sea was happening.


They found out the Japanese operation was going to take place at Midway. Nimitz had to get his aircraft carriers back to Hawaii to get ready for this battle. The USS Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)] and the USS Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] made it back, the USS Saratoga [Annotator's Note: USS Saratoga (CV-3)] was hit badly and was being fixed on the west coast. The Yorktown arrived in Pearl Harbor in the latter part of May. The Navy Yard estimated it would take three months to get it back into operational capacity. Nimitz [Annotator's Note: Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz] visited the ship and told the men working they had three days to fix it. They put floodlights on the ship to work at night which violated blackout procedures. It was repaired to the extent so that aircraft could be operated off of the deck.The Japanese plan was to land on Midway Atoll and occupy it. If the United States were to oppose the landing, the Japanese were fully prepared to engage the Navy in a battle.Before the Battle of Midway started, the United States, as a result of Showers and his team, knew exactly what the Japanese were going to do. There were not many people who knew the intelligence regarding Midway. All of the intelligence was of the highest secrecy.


When the Japanese planned invasions on American, English or Filipino soil, they had to come up with a new code designation because they did not have words in their own language for some of these places. Midway's code name was AF. Anything starting with an "A" meant an American place. Through a lot of hard work, Showers and his team figured out AF meant Midway. The intelligence that was given helped the forces prepare, but there were a lot of things that happened that could not be planned for.A lot of the pilots were flying over open water for the first time [Annotator's Note: During the Battle of Midway, June 1942]. A lot of them had never been in combat. These factors that applied to the pilots, applied to a lot of the personnel involved in combat operations. In other words, there was a great deal of planning that helped, but also a great deal of luck that occured in the chaos of combat to produce a win for the United States. A lot of the pilots had never trained in flying over open water before. Some of the men had never attacked anything with their planes before.There was a lot of disagreement regarding where the Japanese attack was going to take place. Some people believed it was Hawaii. Some thought the west coast and even the Panama canal. Showers and his team had to convince people that the target was in fact Midway. Admiral King, before they were going into action, told Admiral Nimitz that they would not be able to fly their limited forces against a large enemy fleet unless they knew what the target was. Showers was at his desk in the shop when Commander Rochford came over to Jasper and said," we have to do something so that the world will know AF means the attack will be at Midway." Jasper Holmes was not an intelligence officer. He was detailed to the unit as a knowledgeable naval officer who had real world experience in submarines. Holmes was helpful in making sure that Midway atoll got fresh water. The US Navy had actually enlisted the help of the University of Hawaii to conduct and complete a survey on Midway.


There was a problem on Midway with producing fresh water. It was solved by evaporators and other techniques that were used to create fresh water. Before the battle, the Americans sent out a fake message that made the fresh water situation on Midway seem critical. The Japanese intercepted the message and figured that Midway was in rough shape.Intelligence played a huge role in the successful operations during Midway because without the intelligence there would have been a lot of unknowns. A lot of the men were new as well, they did not have a lot of training and some had never flown over open water before. It was a relief to Showers when he found out that Midway had been targeted because it confirmed his intelligence.Showers was also privy to information about the battle as it came in. He was able to intercept Japanese messages being relayed back to Japan, letting the Japanese know what was happening. There is no doubt in Showers' mind that the PBY [Annotator’s Note: American flying boat] pilot that spotted the Japanese fleet was told that he was going to find the Japanese fleet. Showers received and helped to process the initial message that came in from the PBY pilot indicating to the intelligence people that the Japanese fleet had been spotted. The torpedo planes did not get any results because they were shot to pieces. The Marines at this point did not have new planes, they received the cast off planes. There were no results reported at the beginning because there were no results. Showers heard different reports about ships being dead in the water and massive fires, followed by optimistic reports that some of the ships would be saved. They knew from Japanese intercepts that quite a few American ships had been sunk. They also knew from Japanese intercepts that a lot of Japanese ships had been sunk. The Japanese reports were sketchy. They were optimistic in their reports because they were fighting hard.


The Yorktown [Annotator’s Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] ended up getting the worst of it in the form of aerial and submarine attacks. The other two American carriers came through the battle unscathed. The Japanese lost all of their carriers, most of their aircraft, and most of their trained airmen at the Battle of Midway. Most of the Japanese men who were killed were veterans who had attacked Pearl Harbor. After Midway they were never able to recreate a legitimate offensive force. The Japanese were never able to produce ships and carriers from that point on at the same rate that the United States was producing them.Showers has heard a claim that intelligence won the battle of Midway. He believes that the credit belongs to the pilots and the men aboard the ships that were tasked with defending the island. The battle of Midway was won by the fighters and not the intelligence personnel.At one point, Admiral King [Annotator's Note: Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King] was given a report before Midway that his intelligence personnel interpreted as a planned attack on either California or the Panama Canal. After the battle of Midway he was sufficiently embarrassed by his false claims as a result of shifty intelligence. The men who gave him the intelligence were eventually blacklisted in the intelligence community. A lot of the men involved in the early stages of intelligence were embarrassed because they turned out to be wrong on the intelligence at Midway. The group that Showers' was in who had correctly guessed the attack at Midway was put on a higher pedestal. Commander Rochford was issued orders in the fall of 1942 to go back to Washington to be debriefed. When he got to Washington he was immediately told that he was not going back to Hawaii but that he was going to serve out his duty elsewhere.


At the same time Rochford was getting relieved, Captain Goggin was replacing him and was on the way to take over. There was a lot of uncertainty in where Showers worked because they did not know who was going to be in charge for awhile. Rochford requested that he be placed on a ship for sea duty. The problem with that was that he had been exposed to so much sensitive information that he would be a huge liability if he were to be captured. Rochford spent the rest of the war working on a dry-dock on the west coast. He was actually brought back to Washington towards the end of the war and assigned to work with naval communications. Rochford was told he was not allowed to participate in any current naval operations. Admiral Nimitz had recommended Rochford for the Distinguished Service Medal but that was denied to him by Washington. Showers helped to get it for him in 1980 after most of the intelligence from World War II was declassified.Now Showers lectures on the Pacific War, and specifically in regard to how intelligence helped to win the war. Both of the major operations that were helped out by intelligence are focal points of Showers' lectures. The ability to alert Admiral Nimitz [Annotator's Note: Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz] and relay to him reliable information was a big part of Showers' job and it helped to win the war in the Pacific.The Battle of Coral Sea proved to the Navy and the Japanese that the acquisition of actionable intelligence was real and that it was going to help turn the tide of the war. Both events were inextricably linked in terms of how each battle was approached.The strategic bombing survey was done by the United States. It was commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to determine the effectiveness of the B-29 [Annotator’s Note: American heavy bombers] bombing of Japan. There was also a naval survey of Japanese naval officers to learn more about the impact of the intelligence and how they felt fighting the United States o America.


Yamamoto [Annotator's Note: Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet] did not receive complete backing from the Japanese high command to occupy Midway. The Japanese high command thought that it was too far away. The Japanese Army had the most reservations. The Doolittle Raid however, had helped Yamamoto's claim to occupy Midway because they had no idea where the planes were coming from. They originally thought that Doolittle's planes were coming from Midway. Their plan to capture Midway was to eventually disrupt operations on Hawaii and potentially occupy Hawaii. Yamamoto wanted to eliminate Hawaii as the forward operating base for the United States. It would have ensured that the Japanese would have had complete dominance in the Pacific. Showers does not like to speculate on "what ifs." Showers’ assignment to work with Joe Rochford was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to him. He worked with the intelligence "giants" of his time. Showers wa the only person in the entire crew that worked on the intelligence in Hawaii to make Admiral. His work in the Pacific gave him a great base to further his career. Today Showers is the oldest living intelligence specialist in the Navy. [Annotators note: At the time of this interview.] His job in the Pacific allowed him to serve thirty years in the Navy and twelve years in the CIA. Showers did not know Rochford that well but was able to learn a lot about his service. Showers never got personally acquainted with him but he respected him and followed his career. He believes it is sad that Rochford was not able to provide his intelligence services the rest of the war.Showers' experience as a naval intelligence specialist in World War II helped him become an Admiral in the Navy. He has continued to help the Navy on intelligence issues and has had a long and distinguished career.

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