|Ensign William Wileman was a carrier fighter pilot. The USS Wileman was named for him after his death.|
Seventy-five years ago today newspapers across the country ran headlines like New Japanese Air Attacks On Solomons Fail and MacArthur Sends Bombers to Blast Jap Island Base. At home the favorite song was I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo by the Glenn Miller Band. Folks were going to the movies to watch Cary Grant in Talk of the Town or Humphrey Bogart in Across the Pacific. That Sunday night, families could listen to Sergeant Gene Autry or Inner Sanctum Mystery.
September 13, 1942 was also a day that would see the demise of at least 60 Americans who died serving their country that day. One of them was "Buddy" Wileman.
William Wolf "Buddy" Wileman never had a chance to reach his 100th year birthday this year. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on May 4, 1917 in California. His mother was born in Ohio and his father was born in Pennsylvania. His father was a farmer and later worked for the water company. William had one older sister. By 1940 William's sister had married but he was still living with his parents. He was in his third years of college at UC Berkeley and was working as a plant pathologist. At some point between the 1940 census and shipping out to the Pacific when the war start, William married his wife Dorothy.
After graduating from college, William enlisted in the US Navy Reserve. He trained as a pilot and by November 1941 he was commissioned as an ensign flying carrier based fighters. He was part of the F4F Wildcat fighter squadron on the USS Lexington at the Battle of Coral Sea during which he earned the Navy Cross. After the Lexington was sunk he transferred to the USS Yorktown and likely was at the Battle of Midway where the Yorktown as also sunk. In August his squadron was transferred to Guadalcanal as part of the CACTUS Air Force to defend Henderson Field.
On the afternoon of September 13, 1942 radar reported Japanese bombers on the way to bomb the American Marines and Henderson Field. Ensign Wileman flew his Wildcat along with a dozen American pilots to intercept 27 bombers. His division made passes at the bombers a couple of times but didn't claim any kills. Japanese Zeros protecting the bombers heavily damaged Wileman's plane. While he was attempting an emergency landing on Henderson Field, his F4F crashed and burst into flames. He was critically wounded when pulled from the plane and died later that day.
A year after Ensign Wileman's death, a destroy escort was named in his honor. The USS Wileman was active the Pacific from August 1943 until the end of the war.
Within a year of his death, his wife Dorothy joined the WAVES saying, "Now that Bill's gone, I can't think of anywhere I would rather be than in the WAVES." She remarried in 1949.
His remains were returned to be buried at Bardsdale Cemetery in Fillmore, California.
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