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Wileman (DE-22)


William Wolfe Wileman, born on 4 May 1917 in Ventura County, Cailf., graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940 and enlisted in the Naval Reserve on 12 February 1941 as a seaman second class. After basic training at Oakland, Calif., he transferred to the Pensacola Naval Air Station for aviation training on 3 April and, the following day, received his appointment as an aviation cadet. He finished the basic course at Pensacola in August andmoved to the Miami Naval Air Station on the 31st for advanced training. His flight instruction ended on 4 November; and, on the 5th, Wileman was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve.

The Navy Directory for 1942 suggests that Ens. Wileman was assigned to Fighting Squadron (VF) 6 on board Enterprise. While he may have served briefly with that unit and on board that ship, he was definitely a member of VF-42 on board Yorktown by the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea early in May 1942. During that action in the evening of 7 May, Ens. Wileman earned the Navy Cross for shooting down at least one, and perhaps two, Japanese planes. Later, he transferred to VF-5 and saw service at various locations in the southwestern Pacific. At the time of his death on 13 September 1942, Ens. Wileman was based ashore on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands with a portion of VF-5 assigned to the "Cactus Air Force" at Henderson Field. Further details of Ens. Wileman's death are unavailable, but he was presumed dead as a result of enemy action while defending his base from Japanese air raids.

(DE-22: displacement 1,150; length 289'5"; beam 35'2"; draft 11'0"; speed 19.5 knots; complement 156; armament 3 3-inch, 4 1.1-inch, 9 20 millimeter, 8 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Evarts)

BDE-22 --an escort vessel allocated to the United Kingdom under Lend Lease--was laid down on 30 April 1942 at Vallejo, Calif., by the Mare Island Navy Yard'; aunched on 19 December 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Fred Yam; reallocated to the U.S. Navy and redesignated as DE-22 on 25 January 1943; named Wileman  on 19 February 1943; and commissioned on 11 June 1943, Lt. Aaron F. Beyer, USNR, in command.

Following shakedown along the west coast, Wileman departed San Francisco on 20 August 1943 in company with Fletcher (DD-445) and a three-ship convoy. The five ships arrived in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 27 August, but Wileman departed again a week later to escort  the transport Wharton (AP-7) on a voyage to the South Pacific. Ports of call during the cruise included Tutuila, Samoa; Noumea, New Caledonia; and Suva in the Fiji Islands. Wharton and Wileman parted company at Suva. The transport returned to San Francisco while the  escort vessel reported for a month of patrol and escort duty in the Ellice Islands. On 25 October, she departed the Ellice Islands to return to Oahu. The warship entered Pearl Harbor on 2 November and began preparations for her role in the upcoming Gilbert Islands invasion.

After about two weeks at Hawaii, Wileman stood out of Pearl Harbor as part of the screen of a convoy carrying garrison troops to the Gilberts. She reached Makin Island at midday on the 24th. As a greeting, the Japanese launched an air attack on Makin from nearby Jaluit and Mili. Three Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 land attack planes [Betty] picked out the Wileman convoy and attempted a torpedo attack. Wileman, the other escort vessel, and the ships of the convoy themselves all went to general quarters and opened fire on the intruders. Their gunfire dissuaded two of the Japanese planes from pressing home their attack, and only the third succeeded in making his drop. Neither side, however, drew any blood during the encounter. The single torpedo passed wide of the entire convoy, and American antiaircraft gunners brought down no Japanese planes.

After seeing her charges safely to Makin, Wileman began about a month of convoy escort and patrol duty between the islands of the Gilberts, Phoenix, and Ellice groups as part of the Americans' effort to consolidate their position in the Gilberts in preparation for the conquest of the Marshalls, the next hop in the Navy's leapfrog thrust through the Central Pacific toward Japan.

On 8 January 1944, the escort vessel returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for her role in Operation Flintlock, the Marshalls invasion. Twenty days later, she departed Oahu in the screen of a convoy bound for the Central Pacific. As in the case of the Gilberts operation, Wileman took no part in the actual assault phase of Flintlock. Instead, she again escorted the ships carrying part of the garrison troops, the 16th Marine Defense Battalion and a U.S. Navy Construction Battalion unit, for Kwajalein Atoll. The assault itself went forward just three days after Wileman left Pearl Harbor, and Kwajalein had been secured for three days when she reached the atoll on 10 February. The convoy entered the lagoon upon arrival, and Wileman began an uneventful 18 days on antisubmarine patrol in and around the atoll and later at Majuro. The warship departed the Marshalls on 28 February and reentered Pearl Harbor on 8 March.

After three weeks of gunnery drills and sonar exercises, Wileman left the Hawaiian Islands on 30 March 1944 in an antisubmarine hunter/killer task group built around the escort carrierAltamaha (CVE-18). The unit arrived in the eastern Marshalls at the end of the first week in April and began its search for Japanese submarines. The hunting proved less than good. During the voyage from Oahu, a plane from Altamaha claimed to have attacked an enemy submarine and took credit for a probable kill. While actually on patrol in the Marshalls, the group's only contact with the enemy almost proved to be a disaster. Just after sunset on 15 April, one of the ships in the screen sighted a torpedo heading straight for the carrier. Warned in time by voice radio, Altamaha maneuvered out of the torpedo's path, and it passed harmlessly ahead. The group failed to make contact with the torpedo's launcher, probably a submarine, and continued its patrol.

Later in the month, Wileman and her colleagues in the screen traded carriers with Task Group (TG) 11.2 and Altamaha headed back to Pearl Harbor with destroyer Coghlan (DD-606) and light minelayerPreble (DM-20) while her former screen continued the patrol with Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70). Kalinin Bay (CVE-68) also joined the hunter/ killer group just before the conclusion of the operation; but, despite the additional escort carrier, success eluded the unit. The task group concluded its patrol of the eastern Marshalls on 6 May 1944 and headed back to Pearl Harbor. The warships arrived at Oahu on 13 May, and the task group was dissolved.

Training exercises occupied the two weeks the escort vessel spent at Pearl Harbor before her 27 May 1944 departure for the Central Pacific. Wileman entered the lagoon at Eniwetok on 4 June with her convoy of 11 oilers and one tanker. From there, she moved to Majuro, arriving on the 15th. For the opening phase of the Marianas campaign, Wileman again drew escort duty rather than participation in the actual assault. On 18 June, she left Majuro lagoon to escort transports to the anchorage off Saipan. Arriving there on 22 June, she departed again on the 26th to screen a task group back to Eniwetok. She reached the atoll on 30 June and remained in the area for three weeks.

Late in July 1944, she put to sea with a group of oilers operating as a replenishment group for the Fast Carrier Task Force. For the next two months, she cruised between the Marianas and Eniwetok escorting convoys and replenishment groups in support of the Marianas campaign and the fast carrier sweeps of Japan's inner defense line and logistics routes. On 15 September, her duty in the forward area ended when she headed via Pearl Harbor to San Francisco where she arrived on 6 November.

Less than a week later, the escort vessel put to sea to return to Oahu with a convoy of six LSM's and three merchant ships. The warship entered Pearl Harbor on 21 November 1944 and soon began intensive sound and gunnery training. During her stay in the Hawaiian Islands, she also served a tour as a school ship for gunnery officers and another as a target and adversary for Pacific Fleet submarines undergoing type training.

Wileman began 1945 with a round-trip voyage to Majuro, departing Pearl Harbor on 5 January and returning on the 21st. She remained at Oahu only briefly, getting underway again that same day for the west coast and an overhaul. She arrived at Terminal Island, Calif., on the 29th. She began repairs and modifications on the 31st and completed them in mid-April. On 19 April, the warship shaped a course back to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on the 25th. There, she resumed duty as a school ship, again training gunnery personnel and acting as target ship and surface opponent for Pacific Fleet submarines. Later, she also served as escort and plane guard for Corregidor (CVE-58) and Tripoli (CVE-64) during air training operations conducted northeast of Oahu in June 1945.

On 22 June 1945, she stood out of Pearl Harbor to return to the Central Pacific. She arrived at Eniwetok on 30 June and began duty as a unit of the Marshalls and Gilberts Escort and Patrol Force (TG 96.3). For just over a month, she escorted convoys between Eniwetok and Ulithi and conducted antisubmarine patrols in the Marshalls. On 2 and 3 August, the destroyer escort voyaged to Kwajalein where she was assigned hunter/ killer and air-sea rescue duty. While at Kwajalein,Wileman received word of the Japanese capitulation on 14 August.

However, the destroyer escort continued to operate with TG 96.3 until mid-September 1945. On 14 September, she quit her Eniwetok-Kwajalein-Ulithi circuit and headed for home. She stopped overnight at Pearl Harbor on 20 and 21 September and then continued on to the west coast. The warship arrived in San Pedro, Calif., on 27 September.

The destroyer escort was decommissioned on 16 November 1945 at Terminal Island, and her name was stricken from the Navy List on 28 November 1945. In January 1947, she was sold to the Pacific Bridge Co. and was scrapped by that firm on 23 June 1947.

Wileman earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

16 November 2021

Published: Tue Nov 16 09:10:30 EST 2021