|Born||2 Jul 1905|
|Died||4 Jun 1942|
Contributor: Bob Bryant
ww2dbaseThe United States was in the process of rebuilding its navy when World War II broke out. For naval aviation, the US had a total of eight aircraft carriers, 4,500 naval pilots, and 3,500 naval aircraft, giving it more air power than the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). This power, however, was split between the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. A total of 61,658 more United State Navy (USN) pilots were trained between 1942 and 1945, but these were not available for combat during 1942, the formative period that involved four carrier-to-carrier battles between the USN and IJN. It could take 16 months or more to train a pilot and get him to a war zone. Consequently, responsibility for those early engagements fell upon those few naval aviators in place as of December 1941.
ww2dbaseEugene E. Lindsey was among the USN pilots who shouldered the load of the Pacific air war before the men enlisting after Pearl Harbor got into the fray. Gene Lindsey graduated from the US Naval Academy in Maryland, United States in 1927 and subsequently served on the USS Saratoga, Lexington, Maryland, and Enterprise, all before war broke out. In the months just prior to December 1941, Enterprise delivered Navy, Marine and Army Air Force aircraft from the US west coast to Pearl Harbor and Wake Island. Pearl Harbor was attacked as Enterprise was returning to it, and Lindsey's squadron was launched to search for an enemy carrier reported to be near Oahu. The report turned out to be incorrect. Other Enterprise aircraft flew to Pearl Harbor but were fired upon, with some shot down, by the then alert and reportedly trigger-happy Pearl Harbor defenders.
ww2dbaseFor six months after Pearl Harbor was attacked, IJN's powerful carrier fleet, the Kido Butai, dominated the Western Pacific. Lindsey had command of Enterprise torpedo squadron VT-6 as Admiral William Halsey, Jr. made aggressive hit-and-run raids on Japanese conquests, possessions, and on the homeland itself. In February 1942, Lindsey led his squadron in the bombing raids on Kwajalein and Wotje Islands, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. Enterprise aircraft sank a transport and damaged a cruiser, a submarine, and several other ships. Later that month, Lindsey and his squadron bombed Wake Island, a US territory that the Japanese had successfully invaded. In April Lindsey was aboard the Enterprise when it escorted Hornet on the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Like Halsey's other raids, it was of little strategic military importance, but it raised American morale and provided combat experience.
ww2dbaseEnterprise returned from the Doolittle Raid too late to help turn the Japanese back at the Battle of the Coral Sea. But after a short stop at Pearl Harbor, Enterprise headed toward Midway, where Naval Intelligence indicated Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's Kido Butai was planning to invade. En-route, Lindsey crash-landed his plane while landing on Enterprise and went over the side. He was rescued by the plane guard destroyer but suffered cracked ribs and a punctured lung. Even a week later, on the eve of the Battle of Midway, he was so bruised around the face that he could not put his flight goggles on. When his Air Group Commander asked if could fly, Lindsey answered, "This is what I've been trained to do."
ww2dbaseOn the morning of 4 June 1941, after Nagumo's first strike on Midway, five waves of various types of US bombers from the airfield at Midway attacked the four carriers of the Kido Butai. None scored a hit. These attacks had, however, disrupted Japanese launchings and landings. The Grumman Wildcat fighters, the Douglas Dauntless dive bombers, and Douglas Devastator torpedo bombers from USS Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown departed their carriers at different times and had become separated. By chance, the torpedo squadrons from the three carriers found the enemy first and at about the same time. Although sitting ducks for the Combat Air Patrol of Zero fighters, the torpedo bomber pilots immediately initiated their low, straight attack runs without fighter protection. The ten torpedo bombers from Hornet went in first and, one after another, all were shot down, catching fire, breaking apart, and splashing into the sea. A few were able to launch their torpedoes, but there were no hits. Only one American survived and, from the water, witnessed the rest of the battle. The failed attack had, however, further disrupted and delayed Japanese launching.
ww2dbaseMinutes later, Gene Lindsey's Enterprise squadron of fourteen torpedo bombers arrived. He split them into two seven-plane divisions so they could attack from both sides. They went in after the Kaga. As the carrier continued to try to outrace the attackers, nine freshly launched defending Zero fighters closed in on Lindsey's squadron. High above, Enterprise's ten Wildcat fighters neither heard the calls for support nor saw the attack unfold. Lindsey went down, followed by three more of his division. Fighting on, other planes from VT-6 shot down one Zero. The remaining three Devastators launched their torpedoes but, with skillful maneuvering by her captain, Kaga dodged them all. The three Devastators were all damaged by the Zeros but, with considerable luck, were able to escape the killing zone. Lindsey did not survive.
ww2dbaseBy all accounts, the sailors of Kido Butai had reason to believe they were doing well. In the last three hours they had repelled or otherwise dodged a total of seven attack waves by torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and high-level B-17 bombers and had suffered no damage. They had watched the best the enemy had to throw at them be shot into the sea. But now, with the fleet's formation broken up and many IJN planes not yet armed and fueled for launching, torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and fighters from USS Yorktown found the Japanese carriers and began to attack. By chance, the twenty-three dive bombers from Enterprise arrived almost simultaneously. The twelve torpedo planes went in first and, as with the others before them, were unescorted by fighters and were mostly destroyed by the Zeros. But then, with the Zeros disbursed and distracted, the dive bombers attacked. Within five minutes, they mortally wounded three of Japan's four carriers. The fourth was sunk by the next American strike of dive bombers. The determined and sacrificial attacks, sometimes against hopeless odds, by Gene Lindsey and pilots of eight American attack waves had culminated in crippling Japan's most sophisticated and effective naval weapons system, the Kido Butai.
Herder, Brian Lane (2020). World War II US Fast Carrier Task Force Tactics 1943-45
Prange, Gordon W. (1981). At Dawn We Slept- The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor
Prange, Gordon W. with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V.Dillon (1982). Miracle At Midway
Wouk, Herman (1978). War and Remembrance.
Parshall, Jonathan and Tully, Anthony (2005). Shattered Sword.
----- "Lieutenant Commander Eugene E. Lindsey, 2 July 1905-4 June 1942", Naval History and Heritage Command. 6 Nov 2019.
----- "Eugene E. Lindsey, LDCR, USN". U.S. Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall.
Last Major Revision: Mar 2021
Gene Lindsey Timeline
|2 Jul 1905Â||Eugene Lindsey was born in Sprague, Washington, United States.|
|4 Jun 1942Â||Pilot Eugene Lindsey and gunner Charles Grenat were killed off Midway Atoll when their TBD Devastator aircraft was shot down by Japanese A6M2 Zero fighters while attacking carrier Kaga.|
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