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Blockbuster "Midway" drops faster than Japanese carriers on … Midway

SAN DIEGO – William Fentress was just a teenager when he sailed to Midway as a Marine cook.

At a private screening Thursday for the movie based on the beat he saw with his own eyes – we come to how bad the movie was in a second – the 94-year-old silently told of his experience aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-5) and the months which led to the important commitment.

"We came to Hawaii after the Battle of the Coral Sea and would have at least 30 days to patch up the ship," Fentress told the Military Times.

But the Navy could not spare 30 days and ordered the aircraft to be ready to go to Midway after only 72 hours of repairs.

  WWII and Midway veteran William Fentress arrive at a screening event in San Diego. (JD Simkins)

"We were all crazy," laughed Fentress. "We thought we would stay in Hawaii."

When seemingly endless waves of low-flying Japanese fighter planes approached Yorktown on June 4, 1942, all Tennessee natives could do to hold on and watch. Fentress and the others are supported for impact before torpedoes down the already injured carrier, shaking it like a rag doll and sending men scurrying into the sea.

"I couldn't swim a lick," he said. “You know, Tennessee got nothing but creeks anyway. … When I hit the water, I don't know what I was thinking to tell the truth. I was just trying to go up and down. But when I hit that water, I suddenly learned to swim.