This comment was about Bill Brooks who was flying a Brewster Buffalo at Midway.
I too had the honor of knowing Bill.
My wife worked at his rehabilitation facility, she called me and said she had met one of the most amazing brave men at her work. Asked him if it was alright for me to meet him. He was most gracious. Meeting and talking with Bill was like knowing an old friend that you just clicked when you enjoyed each other’s company. I would have to say, I was most blessed.
He loved telling his stories about his WWII service. Midway, Guadalcanal and many others. Every time he talked about Midway, it brought tears to his eyes on the amount of loss of his friends and fellow pilots, he felt that day. Telling the stories was very overwhelming for him.
I do also remember he talked about when he crash landed on Midway airstrip. He said when he finally came to a stop, he could not get out of his plane. However, when he slid to a stop he was close to a AAA battery that was already in combat with the Japanese Zeros flying overhead. He said one of those men ran out to his plane and was able to get the window slid so he could egress the plane. He said if it was not for him, he would have been a sitting duck for another attack.
While he was in the rest home, I visited him there too. He was simply a joy to be around. I got to visit him many times, because we all knew he would not ever be able to go back home. I told him I had worked at USSTRATCOM and our Commander at the time was General Cartwright. He said he knew him! So when I got back to work I contacted General Cartwright’s front desk. I was told General Cartwright didn’t know he was there and would like to visit him. General Cartwright did and they had the most amusing time talking about the old days. General Cartwright thanked me for setting it up, and so did Bill. General Cartwright gave him a coin.
Bill was not a boastful man, he was a very humble man and spiritual. I didn’t know until after he passed away that he was one of the founding fathers of Bellevue University in Bellevue Nebraska. His interest and passion was people.
Thank you Mr. Greaves for doing the Litho of Bill in his Buffalo over Midway Island. It was such an awesome painting turned into a print of that fateful day when I know Bill probably didn’t think he would make it back alive, but was willing to do everything he could to stop the attack.
I also got to meet his lovely wife and talked a lot about their experiences in life. In conclusion, I want to say, thank you Mr. Bill Brooks for your service to our nation.
I thank God and my wife for giving me such a blessing to have had the opportunity to know Mr. Bill Brooks.
Steven K. Douglas
Post written in 2017. More at the end of the post.
In my search for more information to use on my blog paying homage to VF(N)-101 I had found this Website earlier this week.
It was about the Battle of Midway.
There was something that caught my attention.
A painting and the story behind it. I had to look and read the story.
“The Other Sole Survivors”Torpedo 8 TBF Avenger at Midway – June 4, 1942
All paintings © John Greaves Art (used by permission)
Now the story behind the painting.
The only survivor of a flight of six TBF Avenger torpedo planes struggles to return home to Midway Atoll after attacking the Japanese fleet. Flown by ENS Albert Earnest with radioman Harry Ferrier RM3c and turret gunner Jay Manning Sea1c, the badly damaged TBF has hydraulics shot out causing the tail wheel to drop and the bomb bay doors to open. Without a working compass, Earnest flew east towards the sun and climbed above the cloud deck where he could see the column of smoke rising from Midway in the far distance. Earnest managed to bring back the TBF using only the elevator trim tab for altitude control and successfully landed. Manning died in his turret and Earnest and Ferrier were wounded.
There is another story behind this story.
I wrote John Greaves to get his permission to use his painting on my blog.
But little did I know…
GREAVES, John Leonard
John Greaves died unexpectedly and peacefully at home on Monday, January 9, 2017 in Airdrie, AB at the age of 52 years. John is lovingly remembered by his wife Janet, and their 2 daughters; Emma and Katy of Airdrie, his parents; Len and Eleanor, brother; Stewart of Abbotsford, B.C., Janet’s sister; Sandra (Sam) Hamilton and family of Saskatoon, SK. John was born in Calgary, AB on September 1, 1964. John and his family moved to B.C. prior to John and his brother starting school, eventually settling in Abbotsford where John attended Abby Jr and Sr High School. John attended Fraser Valley College where he pursued his passion in Art, then went on to further study in graphic arts and business at BCIT. A Memorial Service will be held at Aridrie Alliance church, 1604 Summerfield Blvd, Airdrie, AB., on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 1:30, with a reception to follow. Sandy Isfeld and Nathan Kliewer will be officiating, please join us in Celebrating John’s Life In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John’s memory to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 240, 2323 – 32 Ave. NE, Calgary, AB, T2E 6Z3.
Messages of condolence may be left for the family at http://www.myalternatives.ca.
John Greaves’ artwork is being used on this blog by special permission of his wife Janet…
In Memoriam of John Leonard Greaves (1964-2017) All paintings © John Greaves Art (used by permission)
Epilogue 24 April 2021
The last remaining Marine fighter pilot from the battle of Midway was buried last weekend , with full military honors, in Bellview , NE.
William Brooks got out of the Marines at the end of WWII as a Major. In addition to the Buffalo he flew the Wildcat, Hellcat and Corsair.
Here is a copy of his action at Midway;
2nd Lieutenant William. V. Brooks
I was pilot of F2A-3, Bureau number 01523, Our division under Capt. Armistead was on standby duty at he end of the runway on the morning of June 4, 1942, from 0415 until 0615. At about 0600, the alarm sounded and we took off. My division climbed rapidly, and I was having a hard time keeping up. I discovered afterwards that although my wheels indicator and hydraulic pressure indicator both registered “wheels up”, they were in reality about 1/3 of the way down. We sighted the enemy at about 14,000 feet, I would say that there were 40 to 50 planes. At this time Lt. Sandoval was also dropping back. My radio was at this time putting out no volume, so I could not get the message from Zed. At 17,000 feet, Capt. Armistead led the attack followed closely by Capt. Humberd. They went down the left of the Vee , leaving two planes burning. Lt. Sandoval went down the right side of the formation and I followed. One of us got a plane from the right side of the Vee. At this time, I had completely lost sight of my division. As I started to pull up for another run on the bombers, I was attacked by two fighters. Because my wheels being jammed 1/3 way down, I could not out dive these planes, but managed to dodge them and fire a burst or so into them as they went past me and as I headed for the water. As I circled the island, the anti-aircraft fire drove them away. My tabs, instruments and cockpit were shot up to quite an extent at this time and I was intending to come in for a landing.
It was at this time that I noticed that a important feature in their fighting. I saw two planes dog-fighting over in the east, and decided to go help my friend if at all possible. My plane was working very poorly, and my climb was slow. As I neared the fight both planes turned on me. It was then that I realized I had been tricked in a sham battle put on by two Japs and I failed to recognize this because of the sun in my eyes. Then I say I was out-numbered, I turned and made a fast retreat for the island, collecting a goodly number of bullets on the way. After one of these planes had been shaken, I managed to get a good burst into another as we passed head-on when I turned into him. I don’t believe this ship could have gotten back to his carrier, because he immediately turned away and started north and down. I again decided to land, but as I circled the island I saw two Japs on a Brewster. Three of my guns were jammed, but I cut across the island, firing as I went with one gun. But I could not get there in time to help the American flier and as soon as the Brewster had gone into the water I came in for a landing at approximately 0715 (estimated).
It is my belief that the Japs have a very maneuverable and very fast ship in their 00 fighters, plenty of fire-power . They can turn inside the Brewster, but of course on the speed I would be unable to say as my wheels were jammed about 1/3 way down all during the fight, causing considerable drag.
My plane was damaged somewhat, having 72 bullet and cannon holes in it, and I had a very slight flash wound on my left leg.
It is my express desire that Lt. Sandoval, deceased be logged up with the bomber which one of us got in our first run.
I had the honour and privilege of meeting Bill Brooks a number of years ago. He was most gracious, patient and a true gentleman, welcoming myself, my wife and our 2-month old son into his home in Nebraska with his sweatheart. I was truly saddened to learn that he had departed for his final solo flight.
You were truly one of a kind.
More information here:
Second Lieutenants William V. Brooks and William B. Sandoval made a pass down the right side of the enemy formation. “One of us got a plane from the right side of the Vee,” Brooks said. When he pulled out of the dive, two fighters attacked him. “I could not out-dive these planes [his landing gear had partially locked in the down position], but I managed to dodge them and fire a burst or so into them as they swept past.” At this point Brooks was close enough to Midway for anti-aircraft fire to drive the Japanese off.
Brooks stayed in the fight. “I saw two planes dog-fighting…and decided to go help,” he said. “My plane was working very poorly, and my climb was slow. As I neared the fight, both planes turned on me!” Brooks believed he had been tricked—that the Japanese were staging a sham battle to attract him. “I turned and made a fast retreat, collecting a goodly number of bullets on the way.” With his aircraft shot up, he decided to land. “As I circled the island, I saw two Japs on a Brewster,” he continued. “Three of my guns were jammed, but I cut across the island, firing as I went with my one gun.” He was too late, and the Marine was shot down. Brooks landed his tattered aircraft with 72 bullet and cannon holes in it.
Sandoval was not so lucky. One of his squadron mates reported that he leveled off on his firing run and got “nailed” by a backseat gunner. He failed to return and was listed as killed in action. He was later credited with a victory after Brooks requested that “Lt. Sandoval, deceased, be logged up with the bomber which one of us got in our first run.”