July 3, 2008 · Updated 2:11 PM
As a 17-year-old U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class, Harry Ferrier headed to Midway with the understanding that his squadron would be part of a first line of defense to prevent an enemy attack of Hawaii and the west coast of the United States.
What he didnt know as a young enlisted man 60 years ago, was that the U.S. Navy was expecting a Japanese attack aimed at American forces based at the atoll and two islets at the end of the Hawaiian chain.
The Battle of Midway raged on June 4, 1942, after Japanese forces had been sighted just 150 miles from Midway. Ferrier was the radioman in a TBF-1 single-engine airplane piloted by Ens. Albert K. Earnest, and he is lucky to be alive. Ferrier, Earnest and another pilot, Ens. George Gay, were the only three men of the 48 in their squadron to have survived the battle.
Ferrier will be a guest speaker at an Association of Naval Aviation function on Friday, June 7 at the Officers Club at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He will recount his experience at the Battle of Midway, and his incredible story of survival.
Ferrier narrowly survived the battle. The aircraft in which he was flying was hit by 64 machine gun bullets and nine cannon shells. One of the bullets killed the turret gunner, Jay Manning, and another blew a hole in Ferriers cap, hitting him in the head. While the bullet grazed Ferriers scalp, knocking him out, it did not go through his skull.
Earnest, also injured, still managed to drop the single torpedo his plane carried onto a Japanese carrier and returned to Midway for a crash landing.
It was the only one of the six TBF-1 aircraft from the squadron to return.
The airplane was pretty well shot up. Incidental to that, we found out later that day the other five had been shot down and didnt come back, Ferrier said with obvious sadness.
Ferrier attributes his survival of the battle not to luck, but to divine intervention.
The Lord was with me, Ferrier said during an interview on Monday.
Ferrier remained in the Navy for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1970 at the rank of commander. During World War II, after the Battle of Midway, Ferrier also engaged in battle at the invasion of Guadalcanal and flew in many air combat missions throughout the war.
Ferrier is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, three awards of the Air Medal, four Presidential Unit Citations and several theater of operations medals and awards.