Remembering Second Lieutenant William V. Brooks

Brooks lg 01022014

© John Greaves Art (with the permission of Janet Greaves)

All the images of John Leonard Greaves’ paintings were uploaded from his Website where the background stories were written. His Website does not exist anymore. The only clue I have for his background stories are the image filenames.

Brooks lg 01022014

Brooks lg 01022014

This is a link to William V. Brooks’ story:

The Forgotten Story of Midway’s Marine Defenders


At 0555 hours on June 4, 1942, the heart-pounding wail of Midway atoll’s air raid siren sent the pilots of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) scrambling to their aircraft. The island’s air defense radar had detected a swarm of Japanese aircraft—“Many planes, 93 miles, 310 degrees, altitude 11,000 feet”—heading their way, and no pilot wanted to be caught on the ground when they arrived.

Second Lieutenant John C. Musselman Jr., the squadron duty officer, jumped in the command post pickup truck and raced along the line of aircraft revetments, gesturing wildly. “Get airborne!” he yelled excitedly. Within minutes, the taxiway was crowded with Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo and Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters urgently scrambling to get into the air.

Major Floyd B. “Red” Parks, the squadron commander, took off first with his five-plane division of Buffalos. He was followed closely by three other F2A-3 divisions (one with a Wildcat attached) and a three-plane division of F4F-3s led by Captain John F. Carey (two additional Wildcats, already flying a patrol, joined Carey’s division after refueling). The five divisions were divided into two equal groups, one vectored out on an azimuth of 310 degrees and the other on 320 degrees. Altogether, VMF-221 put 26 fighters into the air, although one had to turn back. Second Lieutenant Charles S. Hughes’ engine was vibrating badly and losing power. “The engine was [running] so rough it would have been suicide to try and fight the plane,” he reported.

Captain Carey’s fifth division was the first to make contact. As Carey peered intently through his Wildcat’s windshield, scattered cumulous clouds cut visibility, making it difficult to see the reported “many bogies heading Midway.” He was at 14,000 feet, with 2nd Lt. Clayton M. Canfield echeloned right and slightly to the rear, and Captain Marion E. Carl several hundred yards behind. Canfield slid behind his leader as Carey “made a wide 270 degree turn, then a 90 degree diving turn.” Canfield’s radio suddenly came alive with the electrifying “Tally-ho! Hawks at angels 12,” and, after a slight pause, “accompanied by fighters.”

Arrayed in five “V” formations 2,000 feet below, 36 Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” level bombers and 36 Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive bombers roared toward the island. An escort of 36 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros flew out of position just below and behind them, expecting to catch the Americans climbing to attack. The Marines’ altitude advantage gave them a free pass at the exposed Japanese bombers.

William V Brooks

Seated, from left: 2nd Lt. William V. Brooks, 2nd Lt. John C. Musselman Jr., Captain Philip R. White, Captain William C. Humberd, Captain Kirk Armistead, Captain Herbert T. Merrill, Captain Marion E. Carl and 2nd Lt. Clayton M. Canfield; standing, from left: unidentified, and 2nd Lts. Darrell D. Irwin, Hyde Phillips, Roy A. Corry Jr. and Charles M. Kunz. (National Archives)

More here:


US Marine pilots stationed on the tiny Midway islands were required to defend this most westerly American outpost in the Pacific Ocean against a massive Japanese air attack on 4 June 1942. This image by artist John Greaves captures the moment when Marine pilot 2nd Lieutenant William V. Brooks, flying an obsolescent Brewster Buffalo F2A-3 hampered by defective landing gear, has engaged two agile Japanese Zeros and damaged one of them with his fire.

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