John Ford (Film Director)

Webnote: John Ford, well known Hollywood film director, was head of a special photographic unit for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The following story is his memory of the time he spent with Massie Hughes, the future Captain of two USS Block Island carriers, during the initial hours of the Battle of Midway. Massie Hughes was in command of the Midway Sand Island Seaplane Base (VP-23) during the Battle of Midway, 3-7 Jun 1942. Massie Hughes and John Ford remained friends after the war.

“I proceeded to make a pictorial film history of Midway. I photographed the Gooney birds, I photographed the PT's and all that sort of thing. I didn't believe much in the impending action, if it did come I didn't think it was going to touch us. So I worked, spent about 12 hours a day in work, had a good time up there, a wonderful station. On June 3rd, my friend, Massy Hughes, Cmdr. Massy Hughes, asked me to take the aircraft patrol with him the next day. He said, he speaks in a southern accent, he said, "Well, it looks like there is going to be a little trouble out there - -" To resume, Massy Hughes, he says, "Well it might be some trouble tomorrow, you and I are too damned old for this war anyway, so we better take the easy dog leg." That was the northeast triangle, a segment of the aerial patrol route. So we got aboard, took off, it was very, very cloudy weather, didn't see anything for a long time, finally the radar picked up something, and we presumed it was one of our task forces. About 60 miles off we saw through a rift in the clouds as we started to go over, we suddenly saw a couple of cruiser planes coming for us. Taking a quick look, we realized they were Japanese. We hadn't any idea that we had seen their task force so Massey did a quick bank, got up in the clouds, stayed there for a while, finally ran out of clouds. We got down to about three feet from the water and really got some speed out of that old PBY (twin-engine patrol bomber seaplane, known as "Catalina"). At one time he said he thought he was doing about 89 miles an hour. We managed to get back.

It's too bad we just saw the task force for a moment, it was so far away, otherwise I might have gotten a good picture of the disposition and so forth, but we did get a pretty accurate, just in a flash, we got a pretty accurate view, you could tell pretty much what was there. “


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