Memorial Day (part two)

MEMORIAL DAY (part two)

The Literate Show’s second Memorial Day installment covers the men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, who flew from the USS Hornet to attack the Japanese, poised to invade Midway Atoll, June 4th, 1942. While making their slow attack approach, the American squadron of 15 planes was obliterated within minutes, shot down by Zero fighters and anti-aircraft fire. Of the 30 men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, 29 perished, with a sole survivor, Ensign George Gay.

Torpedo Squadron Eight (known as VT-8) were led by Commander John Waldron, an intuitive and gutsy man of 42 years of age. Waldron, who was married with two children, defied Admiral Marc Mitscher’s orders and navigated on a hunch to find the elusive Japanese fleet. Alone at the battle scene, VT-8 had no fighter cover; the USS Hornet’s fighters had followed another route that led them away from the Japanese.

VT-8 was wiped out due to several reasons. The squadron had never flown in battle. Their torpedoes were unreliable and had to be launched “low and slow”. There were no protective US fighter planes present. The entire Japanese force was focused on destroying the slow-flying American planes—there were no other attackers. Compounding the problem was the fact that the aircraft the men were flying were obsolete and overdue for replacement.

The sole survivor, Ensign Gay, was shot down with his squadron and remained in the water for twenty-four hours. Gay lost an average of a pound of body weight per hour. He survived the war.

VT-8’s efforts did not result in any hits or damage, but the Japanese forces had become scattered, and focused on low-altitude attacks. For the Japanese, death was to come from high above. Within an hour after Waldron’s men had perished, several United States dive bomber groups attacked and sunk three aircraft carriers in rapid succession. The 29 fated men of VT-8 did not die in vain.

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About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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