The Battle of Midway
June 3 - 6, 1942
MIDWAY VETERANS
DAILY LOG: SOC PILOT ABOARD
PORTLAND (CA-33)
BY ENS RALPH V. "KAISER" WILHELM,
(AV-N), USNR

Daily Log
CDR Ralph V. Wilhelm, USN (RET)

The following is an excerpt from Ralph "Kaiser" Wilhelm's daily log, kept from November of 1941 - August, 1942, when the Navy directed all personnel to refrain from keeping diaries or logs lest they fall into enemy hands. This portion deals with Ralph's voyage on heavy crusier Portland (CA-33) at Midway.

 

Friday, 29 May [1942]Pearl Harbor, T. H.
I had the duty today so didn't go over to N.A.S. I wrote Kay a letter this morning. Our new number nine was brought aboard this morning. Number ten hit the ship while being hoisted aboard, due to the fault of the craneman, so Mike took it back to the air station for a new elevator. I had the 1200-1600 watch this afternoon and the 04-08 in the morning. About 250 men received liberty of a few hours today. There is no overnight liberty even for those having families on the beach. We are getting underway in the morning, where to I don't know. The Indianapolis got underway this morning. Commander Wirth checked up on our wedding gift from the Wardroom at Wichmans today and the boss said he found out complete negative information on it. They censored mail this evening but I wrote instead. I wrote to Kay again also a few others.

Saturday, 30 May1st Day at Sea
We got underway at 0845. It was supposed to be at 0800 but we had an acute appendicitis case at the last minute which we transferred to the
Vestal. I had the 0400-0800 watch and saw to it that our U.S. Mail left the ship. The Yorktown, Astoria, five DDs' and ourself left Pearl this morning but we didn't know what for. The ship fired her 5" battery this morning and this afternoon she fired her 8" turrets. Bob, Al, and I flew during the firing. Mike was supposed to go up in No. 12 but it wouldn't turn up properly so didn't fly it. The Captain and Commander bawled out the plane captain but the planes are getting old and it wasn't his fault. I thought that we might go back in port this evening but about 1500 the Yorktown planes flew out and landed on the carrier, then I knew we were not going in. Mike and Byron flew inner air patrol this afternoon. We are now heading Northwest on course 320 at 19 knots but no one seems to know where to.

Sunday, 31 May2nd Day at Sea since Pearl Harbor
103rd Day since San Francisco
136th Day since seeing Kay
From now on I will insert the above resume on the last day of each month. I had intermediate patrol this morning. I had my biggest flying month with 57.4 hours giving me a total of 919.3 hours. From scuttlebut that is spreading there is supposed to be a Japanese task force out in this area north of Oahu and Midway. Riley claims that an Army B-24 sighted them 1200 miles off Pearl heading North about a week ago. The boss claims that we have been told not to expect overhaul for four or six months yet. It is also rumored that the
C
HESTER did not go in overhaul but is going to bring the SARATOGA out here.

Monday, 1 June3rd Day at Sea
I towed the sleeve this morning for the force and all the ships fired on it with 1.1s', 20 m.m., and machine guns. I then made high runs at 7,000 feet so they could calibrate their rangefinders but it was very cloudy and I doubt if they saw me at all. Al flew the mid-day inner air patrol on which he sighted two tankers and two DDs' ahead. He reported them by message drop to the
Y
ORKTOWN and as he was pulling away he accidentally dropped one of his bombs ahead of the carrier. They made quite a stink over it. We fueled three destroyers yesterday so were were low on fuel and therefore we fueled from the tanker CIMARRON this afternoon. She and the PLATTE joined with us this afternoon. These two tankers left Pearl with TaskFor 16 so evidently they are up here some place. We are still on course 320 at 19 knots. The PLATTE is with us but the other tanker has dropped behind.

Tuesday, 2 June4th Day at Sea
The boss, Al and I had the dawn intermediate patrol but it was so cloudy and rainy that it turned into an inner patrol. Al and I were recovered at 0900 but, the boss stayed out until 1100. Byron and Mike had the inner patrol this afternoon. At 1700 this evening we ran into TaskFor 16 composed of two carriers many CAs' and DDs'. We haven't exactly joined them but we are steaming along a few miles from them. We are now on course 270 but no one seems to know exactly where we are going. The sun set at 2104 this evening, very late so we put the clock back 30 minutes. We have the new YE homing receivers in three of the planes. We listened to the ZB transmitter from the carrier and it sounded pretty good.

Wednesday, 3 June - Our First Anniversary - 5th Day at Sea
Byron had the dawn patrol. Al and I had the mid-day and Mike the evening patrol. That morning about 0900 we received word that Dutch Harbor, Alaska had been bombed at 0600 by the Japs. A second report came in later that they had received a second attack at 1030. It also said that there were 4 bombers and fifteen fighters which doesn't sound right. I hope the Army bombed their carrier or whatever they had. At the time of the attack we were about 350 miles north of Midway steaming north. Shortly after, we turned south and are now heading for a point 200 miles north of Midway at which we should arrive at 0600 tomorrow morning. Two orders of the day for tomorrow have been printed this evening. The first said that the Japs were expected to attempt the taking of Midway to-day, to-night or to-morrow. About a half hour after it was printed the Commander came down and personally helped gather them all up. Evidently the Captain didn't like the paragraph mentioning Midway because they were re-printed with that few lines deleted. The Commander told Bob that possibly if they did get in a fight we would told to shift for ourselves and attempt to fly to Pearl, 1200 miles away, by refueling at French Frigate Shoals along the way. To be on the safe-side we each made a chart of the islands between Pearl and Midway. I also have my spare laundry bag ready for taking with 4 canteens of water, 5 emergency rations, and a flashlight. Scuttlebut has it that the Japs have four carriers and a large occupation force out there some where. I bought a Bulova watch today to replace the one at Pearl when I dove into the water. I also got a new wallet, a shavemaster electric razor, and two bottles of perfume. I wrote Kay an anniversary letter and will send her some perfume the next time mail leaves.

Thursday, 4 June6th Day at Sea
This has been a day that will live long in my mind. Just as the last battle we were in had a name [Battle of the Coral Sea], this also should have a name such as "The Battle of Midway," or something like that. Al and Bob had the dawn patrol. At about 0900
1 the fighters on patrol sighted a submarine. They machine gunned it and a DD depth charged it, they think it was sunk. At 1000 we heard that two CVs' and two BBs' were sighted 180 miles off Midway Island and about 240 miles from us. The Island had been bombed at this time, evidently from these carriers. The Army reported another force of CAs', DDs' and 10 Transports to the south of Midway, evidently waiting until it had been bombed by the carriers before they attempted to land troops. At 1000 our force split up and Task Force 16 headed straight for the enemy and we attempted to get on the other side of them. The YORKTOWN launched 17 SBDs' with 1,000 lb. bombs and 12 TBDs' with torpedoes at 1030. The ENTERPRISE and HORNET launched before that. The Army has been bombing the Jap forces since last night and this morning claimed to have all ready damaged a carrier, set a battleship on fire, and sank a transport. We recovered our two planes at 1130. The remaining flights were called off so I didn't fly today. We were on an alert all day so had only sandwiches for lunch. About 1400 the 17 SBDs' returned to the carrier and reported they had sunk an enemy carrier. At 1415, as our SBDs' were circling the carrier being picked up, it all started. At first I saw the CV challenging some bogeys. Then out on the beam of the formation, about five miles, I could see many dog fights going on between our fighters and the Jap planes. I saw 7 planes shot down in flames before the ships were bombed. Three pilots bailed out in their parachutes. Then all hell broke loose again and the Jap dive bombers made their attack. Only about eight got through after our fighters finished with them but that was drastic for the YORKTOWN because they got two direct hits on it which left it smoking badly. Three bombs hit her direct and a few fell close to her stern. It looked as though one went right down her stack. A few near misses fell around one of the DDs'. It seemed to last about ten minutes and then there were hardly any planes in sight. The YORKTOWN was smoking badly and look just about like the LEXINGTON looked a month ago [at Coral Sea], before she sank. Task Force 16 was over the horizon about 25 miles when we were attacked. I believe she was also attacked but didn't suffer any damage. They sent over the VINCENNES, PENSACOLA and two DDs' to help us. We continued to run circles around the carrier while they attempted to put out the fire. Two SBDs' made crash landings in the water when they ran out of gas and were picked up by a couple of the ships. The ASTORIA shot off two panes to fly into Midway, evidently with a message. About 1600 the carrier was able to put out the fire and she looked all right again except she could only make 20 knots and had to steer with her engines because a near miss on her stern probably damaged her rudder. We made all preparations to take her in tow but we didn't have to. About 1630 we received a message from the YORK. to "prepare to repel air attack." The CV launched about seven fighters and then the Jap. torpedo planes came in sight. There were about seven that came straight in and seemed to fly in formation. They flew for the carrier and dropped their fish. We put up a tremendous barrage, even firing the 8" turrets, but most of them got though. The fighters jumped on them afterwards and I don't think many got away. The YORKTOWN evidently received about five torpedoes because she was listing about 45 when the planes left. We received another message to repel air attack a little later but it was friendly planes coming from the other carriers to form a combat patrol over us. The YORKTOWN abandoned ship shortly after the attack and the survivors were picked up by the DDs'. One of the destroyers was going to come along side us and transfer survivors to us but just as soon as one line was thrown over they were told to cast it off. About 1900 when everyone was taken off the YORKTOWN we all turned east and left her sitting there alone looking as though she would roll over any minute. An hour later the ENTERPRISE and a few ships came into sight. She sent us a message that the HORNET was 30 miles east of her and that both of their air groups were out after the 4th enemy carrier. That news sounded good because we then knew that the Japs were receiving more damage than they had given us. The other two CAs' went over to rejoin the carrier and now we, the ASTORIA, and six DDs' are steaming east. The destroyers transferred some of their injured to us this evening after dark for medical treatment. This is a big battle and should last for many days yet. Today should go down in history. FRED WEBER and SEVERN ROMBACH were lost today.

Friday, 5 June7th Day at Sea
The boss and I had the dawn inner air patrol from 0600 until 1100. My plane didn't turn up properly so I sat up there [on the catapult] for about ten minutes until the leads dried off. At about 0830 the DDs' took turns coming along side and transferred 1,550 survivors from the
Y
ORKTOWN to us. We also fueled them. The ASTORIA has the Admiral and his staff aboard and this afternoon they departed with four DDs' to go back and try to help towards the salvaging of the YORKTOWN. There are quite a few officers aboard that I know very well. LT. Mead is also here. McCarthy and a couple more ENTERPRISE pilots are here because they couldn't find there own carrier so came back to the YORKTOWN. Mac was the fellow I saw make the forced landing in the SBD. He hit the dashboard so has his head bandaged up. The YORKTOWN pilots confirmed the report that my class made LT.(j.g.) so now I have to get the despatch aboard so I can start getting paid. There are sure a lot of people on here. Two fellows are sleeping on the deck in my room. They say that only two of the twelve TBDs' sent out ever returned. We started steaming towards Oahu at 25 knots this evening because we are to meet the submarine tender FULTON tomorrow and transfer the survivors to her for transportation to Pearl. That means we won't go in. Task Force 16 is still engaging the enemy.

Saturday, 6 June8th Day at Sea
At 1300 we met a tug which was on its way to help tow in the
Y
ORKTOWN. About 1400 the FULTON came alongside and we commenced transferring the survivors. They rigged three "trolley-cars" and sent them over two in the basket. I typed out a memo to the Communications Officer of the FULTON and asked him to please send over a copy of the despatch concerning my promotion. This he did so now all I have to do is get the Captain to swear me in. He has been pretty busy tonight so will get him tomorrow. The stretcher cases of men that were injured were tied in the stretcher and hoisted over on cranes. About 2000 hours when we had only ten more men to transfer on stretchers, the DDs' got a sound contact and we hoisted "emergency unit" cut the lines to the FULTON and the ships scattered. After dark we transferred the remaining men in a motor launch. I was mistaken about the ASTORIA going back to the YORKTOWN. She transferred the people going back to the DD HAMMANN and sent her back. We are to rendezvous with the ASTORIA and the PLATTE in the morning so we can fuel. The scuttlebut is that we are going to join the SARATOGA when she gets here in a couple of days. The YORKTOWN is supposed to have received a couple of fish from a submarine which righted her a little bit. I wrote to Kay and had McCarthy mail it for me.

Sunday, 7 June9th Day at Sea
Well, today I made LIEUT.(J.G.) and now my pay and allowances jump from $264.25 to 371.01 per month. Al and I were to have the dawn patrol but as it turned I was the only one to fly. We were waiting until we sighted the
A
STORIA, PLATTE and two DDs' before being shot off. About 0600, just at sunrise, quite a number of people sighted a yellow very star a couple of miles behind us. The MORRIS was sent back and I was also catapulted to try and locate its source. I searched for an hour and a half but couldn't see a thing. I was hoping I might see a lost pilot in a life raft but I believe it must have been a submarine because the emergency recognition for subs this morning was a yellow star. When I returned we had joined the other ships and the tanker was along side us. Two ASTORIA planes were up for the inner air patrol so I was recovered. Al and Mike had the mid-day patrol. I took the oath of acceptance for (jg) about 1630 from the Captain. I then bought 2 boxes of cigars and passed out the 100 in the wardroom and the warrant officers mess for dinner and to the men in the division this evening. We are supposed to meet the SARATOGA in the morning. We got the news today that Dutch Harbor had been attacked again yesterday and that the HAMMOND was sunk by a submarine yesterday. The good news of the day was 4 CVs' sunk, 1 damaged, 1 BB sunk, 2 badly damaged (one of which was probably sunk), 1 CA sunk in 15 seconds by two 1600lb. bombs from an Army bomber, 4 badly damaged, and, many transports and destroyers sunk or damaged. There are many enemy subs in this area so we might go some where else, where to I don't know- maybe Alaska. We are on course 130, which is towards Pearl.

N.B. We heard today that the destroyer HAMMANN had been sunk but that quite a few survivors were picked up. It evidently happened the same night the YORK. was torpedoed.

Monday, 8 June10th Day at Sea
The boss and Byron had the dawn patrol and were recovered at 1100 when relieved by the
A
STORIA. We joined up with the SARATOGA, SAN DIEGO and 4 destroyers, also the tanker KASKATIA. The CHESTER brought the carrier out to Pearl but she didn't come out here. I hope she went back to the States again to go into the yard so we can be next. The SAN DIEGO is the same as the A.A. CL ATLANTA and has A.A. guns all over her. Bob and I were to have the evening hop but the carrier took it. She has 105 planes on here and it looks it. I believe they will transport some to the ENTERPRISE and HORNET. She has a squadron of TBFs' which look like a nice plane. There is a chance the tanker brought us mail but I doubt it. We are now on course 330 heading away from Pearl but I understand we'll be back there on the 17th. A pilot of one of our TBDs' was interviewed over the radio from Pearl and he mentioned how he was shot down and saw the Japs abandon there ships from the wreckage of his plane. Tow of our planes, #10 and 11, were badly damaged during the attack from the concussion of our own A.A. guns. We changed the two upper wings on #10 and it is all ready to fly again but #11 will have to be turned in. I bought a band for my watch.

Tuesday, 9 June11th Day at Sea
The
S
ARATOGA takes the patrol now to four hours after sunrise and again from four hours before sunset until sunset. We and the ASTORIA take the patrol in the middle of the day. Sunset tonight was at 2109, very late, so we had six hours of patrol divided into two hops. Bob and mike had the first and Al and I the second. Visibility was about eight miles today due to a haze which hung on the horizon. Al missed the ship when he came back from his search and finally found it at 1720. I had landed at 1700 and the Captain was worried about him. Our three planes in commission are now equipped with YE receivers but we don't have the signals used by the carrier so it doesn't do us much good.

Wednesday, 10 June12th Day at Sea
We were supposed to rendezvous with Task Force 16 this morning but it was so foggy that we didn't see them until noon. The
S
ARATOGA was going to transfer planes to the HORNET and ENTERPRISE as soon as we joined up but it closed in again and remained that way all day so it was delayed. We are now heading south in order to try and get out of this low visibility. As it is now we can't even see the other ships in the formation. Byron and I were scheduled for inner air patrol but no one flew due to the weather. I wrote a letter to Kay this morning. The Japs today finally admitted there was such a thing as The Battle of Midway but claimed they sank the HORNET and ENTERPRISE and they they themselves had only one carrier sunk, another damaged and one cruiser damaged. Of course we know they are damn liars. They also claim making a landing on one of the Aleutian Islands but I don't know how true it is.

Thursday, 11 June13th Day at Sea
No flying today as the carrier took all the patrols. It was clear this morning due to our heading south so the SARATOGA transferred her extra planes to the ENTERPRISE and HORNET. The TBFs' really climb fast and land slow. It has been announced that we are now heading for Pearl. The scuttlebut is that we are due for another period of upkeep and tender overhaul alongside the VESTAL. If such is the case and I think it is we won't head for the States for a long time. I think we'll probably accompany the SARATOGA down into the Coral Sea again. I hate the thought of it as that will mean about another four months before we can even hope of going into the yard. Task Force 16 is out to do some more damage probably to the Marshalls. I hear that the Army has taken a couple of islands in the Solomon group. The shoring in the anchor chain locker up in the bow of the Sweet "P" is giving way again so that is another reason for overhaul. I understand this new pay bill I might get $122.00 for subsistence and rental instead of $96.20 - I hope so.


1. Times are not local. Subtract two hours for Midway time.
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