Battle of Midway – Japs Caught By Surprise

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Jun 9, 1942

Japs Caught By Surprise, Report American Fliers

Young Airmen Grin As They Describe Raid


Flying Fortresses Bomb Big Jap Transport And Two Heavy Cruisers In Battle Of Midway


United Press Staff Correspondent

At an army air base, Hawaii. —
(UP) — Sprawled around their “Yankee Doodle” flying fortress under the palm trees of this air base, army aviators talked today about the battle of Midway.

They grinned like school boys on commencement day.

Capt. Paul Payne, 25, Des Moines, Iowa, who studied banking at the University of Illinois, answered for all of them when in reply to a question he said:

“We we scared? Gosh! To tell the truth I don’t know. But come to think of it, I guess we were all scared as hell, now that you mention it.”

Most of them had had the first taste of fire in the battle of Midway. They went in boys and came out veterans. They had fought off the attack of Japanese planes, and had hit a big Japanese transport and two heavy cruisers, scored a near miss which probably damaged a carrier and shot down a zero fighter.

“We came out of the mess unscratched simply because we caught the Japs by surprise the first time and were just gosh awful lucky other times,” Payne said, propping himself against the massive wheel of the Yankee Doodle.

Spotted Them First

“We spotted them long before they spotted us. It was a pretty sight to look down on those columns of ships. I don’t want to guess how many there were, but there were plenty.

“Our three flying fortresses picked the biggest one in the bunch, a battleship or a big cruiser, and we saw bombs of all three planes strike on or alongside it. Then they gave us the book.

“Then we had a piece of luck that seemed bad at the moment but turned out to be a break. One of the doors of the bomb bay stuck and we couldn’t release all our eggs. Finally we worked it open and looked for a target.”

“An d we didn’t have to look far,” said Lieut. Gone Wills, Petersburg, Tenn. “There below us was a big transport.

“I heard Payne say, ‘Let’s go get the big one,’ and got her we did. We unloaded our last bombs squarely amidships. Flames enveloped the whole superstructure and smoke, that black, oily kind, gushed from every part of her.”

“And that was our first day’s work completed,” Payne said. “We high-tailed it home and arrived right on the nose at nightfall. We didn’t have a mark on us.”

The next day the three planes in Payne’s element attacked a carrier.

“All the time it was going around like a dog chasing its tail, and it and its escorts were peeling shells at us from all directions,” Payne said.

“They had our altitude but they couldn’t get the range. The shells exploded beside us and behind us. Some came so close that the concussion slapped

Bargdill to the floor when he stuck his head out of the window of the gunner’s compartment.
(Bargdill is Coroporal Don C. Bargdill, 27, Hutchinson, Kans.)

“Just then Karotsky hollered over the phone:

“‘Three zeros from the carrier are coming after us.'”
(Zarotsky is Corporal Alexander Zarotsky, 20, Cincinnati, Ohio.)

“Bargdill, you pick it up from here. That Jap was your baby.”

Bargdill scratched at the back of his neck.

“The tracers were scooting overhead as I looked out the window,” he said. “One zero came up as fast as lightning. In a few seconds he was heading right for my side of the ship, throwing plenty of lead. And I was throwing plenty right back on him.

Plummets Into Sea

“I didn’t bother to use the sights. I just followed the tracers. They practically cut him in two. I saw the first burst hit his cowling and watched the tracers move down his fuselage. He seemed to hang in the air just a fraction of a second. Then he slid off into an uncontrolled dive. He plummeted straight down to the sea.

“He was so close when he got my last burst that I could make out his facial features. It’s the gospel truth. That Jap looked just like the cartoons. He had goggles on and he had buck teeth.

“He also had guts. He came right on into the face of that fire until it got him.

“Did he hit me? Shucks, no. He ought to have practiced more. He didn’t even come close.”

On the way back Zarotsky hurt his little finger in closing the bomb door, but it didn’t rate as a casualty.

They refueled and went back.

“Every once in a while we would see a burning ship as we flew toward the Japanese fleet. It was ample evidence that the torpedo planes and the dive bombers were having a field day of their own,” Capt. Payne said.

This time they attacked a cruiser, flying high above 25 Japanese fighters which did not rise to challenge them.

“The cruiser was zig-zagging around but we crossed its stern and the bombs fell right across it,” Payne said. “As we swung around I could see we had hit it badly. It was burning amidships and aft.”

With Payne and the others mentioned were Sergt. Barney Ford, Sergt. R.L. Pleky, Rear Gunner Leonard Hendry, Brentwood, Md.; and Corporal J.J. O’Brien, Jermyn, Pa.

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Jun 11, 1942

Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) Jun 12, 1942

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