WW2 Sailor Bruno Gaido Will Be Portrayed by Nick Jonas in the Movie Midway (2019)
Six historical facts to know before watching Hollywood’s rendition
Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Bruno P. Gaido is an American hero who will be portrayed in the upcoming movie Midway by Nick Jonas. The time constraints of a movie force screenwriters to adapt the screenplay to historical events. Sometimes an adaptation yields a better story. I’m not sure how this one will play out but here are six historical facts to know about Bruno Gaido before watching the movie.
1. The Japanese bomber crash/severed tail incident actually happened
One of the Midway movie trailers shows Nick Jonas as Air Machinist Mate Bruno Gaido downing a Japanese “Nell” bomber that crashes and cuts the tail off the parked plane he’s shooting from. Many people think the scene is an over the top fabrication, but it actually happened.
Although this scene is real, others in the yet-to-be-released movie surrounding Gaido might not be historically accurate. I consider myself a storyteller so I understand and appreciate the need to adapt actual events for a movie. Yet, I also want to know what’s real and what’s not. I’ve researched Bruno Gaido and his story follows below. I have no idea how much of Gaido’s story will be told in Midway (2019) or how far the movie will venture from reality. As a result, this article might contain spoilers. SPOILER ALERT!
2. Gaido developed a reputation for toughness before war broke out
Bruno Peter Gaido entered the service in 1940 with his last home of record as Milwaukee, WI. He developed a reputation for toughness while serving on the USS Enterprise. In June 1941, newly reported pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade Norman “Dusty” Kleiss got into his SBD Dauntless aircraft to make his first carrier landing. He was surprised to find Airman Machinist Mate Third Class Bruno Gaido sitting in the gunner’s seat instead of the usual pile of sandbags used for initial carrier qualification flights. Sandbags ensured proper weight and balance. Kleiss tried to talk Gaido into getting out of the aircraft for his own safety, but Gaido persisted, responding, “You got wings, don’t ya?” Encouraged by Gaido’s confidence, Kleiss made several perfect landings with Gaido as a passenger.
3. The Japanese bomber incident happened four months before the Battle of Midway
On February 1, 1942, five Japanese bombers attacked the Enterprise near the Marshall Islands. After the unsuccessful bomb run, four headed for their home base. The fifth, piloted by Lieutenant Kazuo Nakai, was badly damaged and returned in an attempt to crash onto the Enterprise and inflict damage. Although the anti-aircraft fire was intense Lt. Nakai’s plane progressed towards the carrier. Bruno Gaido jumped into a parked SBD Dauntless aircraft and manned the rear machine gun. Gaido’s fire into the low-flying bomber’s cockpit caused it to lose control. The Japanese bomber barely missed the flight deck, its wingtip cut the tail off Gaido’s Dauntless, and spun the parked aircraft.
Historical note: The Enterprise after action report simply identified the plane as a “Japanese Bomber”. Some early historical accounts misidentified it as a G4M Betty bomber and that continues to appear in many references. Later historical research on the Japanese records from the time indicate that it was a G3M Nell bomber. Midway (2019) correctly illustrates the plane as a G3M Nell.
4. Gaido was spot promoted for his skill and heroism
Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, the task group commander spot-promoted Gaido to Aircraft Machinist Mate First Class for his skill and heroism. The people who saw the incident credited Gaido with keeping the Enterprise from being hit in the close call.
5. Gaido’s plane ditched after the Midway air attack and his body was never found
On June 4, 1942 at the Battle of Midway, Gaido was the radioman/gunner in Ensign Frank O’Flaherty’s Dauntless assigned to Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6). They were part of the attack on the Japanese carrier Kaga led by Lieutenant Commander C. Wade McClusky. After the attack, O’Flaherty’s Dauntless ran out of fuel since the gas tanks had been holed by enemy fire. Although other US aviators saw O’Flaherty and Gaido safely ditch the plane and get into a life raft, the pair were never found by air-sea rescue. Gaido was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
6. Only after the war did his fate became known to Americans
The fate of O’Flaherty and Gaido was revealed through post-war interviews with captured Japanese sailors. Ensign O’Flaherty and Aircraft Machinist Mate Gaido were found and captured by the crew of the Japanese destroyer Makigumo. The Japanese claimed to have gotten useful information from them about the defenses of Midway Island, but the two provided nothing of value regarding the U.S. carriers. However, neither had been to Midway Island so they probably provided believable but fictitious information. After the Japanese decided that O’Flaherty and Gaido were of no more value, the two were bound with ropes, weighted down, thrown from the destroyer, and drowned. Japanese accounts state that both met their end with stoic and dignified defiance. None of the responsible Japanese officers survived the war, so there was no war crime prosecution.
Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Bruno Peter Gaido stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die so that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives — in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.
Further Reading on Midway and Bruno Gaido
The early written accounts from both Japanese and American sources had inaccuracies that besmirched nearly all history published before 2005. Therefore, I recommend Craig Symonds’ The Battle of Midway (affiliate link) published in 2011. It sets the standard for studies of the Battle of Midway and provides more information on Bruno Gaido.
Update After the Movie Release on Nov 8
“I’ve seen most war movies and Midway (2019) is in my top 10.” Check out my Midway (2019) Movie Review.
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