By Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) G. Roy, USNR (Ret.)

At the Battle of Midway, Bill Roy covered the conflict from the signal bridge and flight deck of the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) taking both still and motion pictures.

During the battle, Yorktown came under determined attack by dive-bombers and torpedo bombers from the Japanese carrier Hiryu. Yorktown was struck by two Japanese air-launched torpedoes, and developed an alarming list. When the order was given to abandon ship, Bill Roy preserved his images of this historic battle by taping up three cans of film and stuffing them under his shirt and life jacket before leaping into the Pacific Ocean. He spent several hours in the sea and assisted with the care of wounded sailors before being taken aboard the destroyer USS Hammann. Fortunately, his motion picture coverage of the battle survived its lengthy immersion in the ocean.

This famous image taken during the Battle of Midway by William (Bill) G. Roy shows the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) shortly after she was hit by three Japanese bombs on 4 June 1942. The dense smoke is from fires in her uptakes produced by a bomb that punctured them and knocked out her boilers. The photograph was taken from the starboard side of the flight deck, just in front of the forward 5"/38 gun gallery. With more Japanese attacks expected at any moment, repair crews are working frantically to bring their ship back into operational condition.

Bill Roy returned to the crippled Yorktown aboard the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) as a volunteer member of a salvage party to attempt to save the ship. While Hammann was tied up alongside Yorktown, both ships were struck by torpedoes fired by the Japanese submarine I-168. Hammann was torn apart and Bill Roy took the last photographs of the destroyer as it disappeared beneath the sea. A number of Bill Roy's Midway photographs can be viewed at the web-site of aviation and marine artist John Greaves. Some of Bill Roy's Midway photographs can also be seen in the book, "A Glorious Page in our History", co-authored by Robert J. Cressman, Steve Ewing, Barrett Tillman, Mark Horan, Clark Reynolds, and Stan Cohen.


In telling his story, Bill Roy uses the US Pacific Fleet timings of events at Midway between 4-7 June 1942. Those timings were based on Honolulu Time not Midway Time. Most historical accounts of the Battle of Midway, including those of the Naval Historical Center, Washington, use Midway Time. The noted Battle of Midway historian, Mark Horan, has explained that the United States Navy revised timings given in Battle of Midway Action Reports to accord with Midway Time 1942. The US Pacific Fleet times in Bill Roy's story can be converted to Midway Time 1942 by simply deducting two hours.


William (Bill) Roy's story:

Yorktown launches its strike at the Japanese invasion force

Japanese air attacks on USS Yorktown

The end of USS Yorktown

About William Roy

© Copyright Lieutenant Commander William (Bill) G. Roy, USNR (Ret.). All rights are reserved.This story has been reproduced on the Pacific War Web-site by permission of the copyright holder.