WASHINGTON — Vice Adm. Stanhope Cotton Ring's version of the Battle of Midway was discovered by his daughter, Susan Keith, tucked away in a sea chest that Ring shared with his wife, Eleanor. Keith, from a venerable San Diego Navy family, said she came across the document about six months ago as she went through old records of her mother, who died four years ago.
"I knew it was his letter," she said in a telephone interview from San Diego. "I recognized his gorgeous handwriting."
The "Lost Letter of Midway" was published in the U.S. Naval Institute's monthly "Proceedings" magazine this month.
Retired Navy Capt. Bruce Linder, who edited and annotated the letter for the Annapolis, Md.-based Naval Institute, discovered it as he discussed with Keith material for a book on San Diego's naval history. He said he was about to leave when she asked: "Of course you've heard about the Midway letter?"
"After borrowing the letter for an evening, I became convinced that I had stumbled upon something of significance . . . that told an entirely different story than that told in the more popular histories of battle," Linder said.
He said former naval aviators who flew in the war or in similar circumstances "confirmed for me that Ring's take on what had happened at Midway was much closer to the truth than what had largely been surmised by historians."
As for Ring, he rose to command three carriers, including the storied Saratoga, and had a string of prestigious commands as a rear admiral and vice admiral. And Nimitz personally awarded Ring the Navy Cross for valor at Midway.