Delbert Wilson: Ships

Donald and Delbert Wilson, Dexter, Iowa. Early 1934, back home from a trip to Des Moines to join the Navy.

Delbert Wilson served his whole first enlistment on the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, from 1934-1937. The ship had been commissioned in 1931.


Delbert is in the back row, fourth from the right. USS Chicago.

USS Maumee

Delbert was an Electrician’s Mate aboard the USS Maumee (OA-2) from June 1942 to February 1943. The Maumee, first commissioned in 1916, was the first surface ship in the U.S. Navy powered by diesel engines. Decommissioned after WWI, the oiler was brought out of reserve for an extensive overhaul at Baltimore, Maryland, during which she received steampower propulsion, and recommissioned in June 1942. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet she was employed as a training ship off the North Carolina Capes with periodic refueling runs to the Bermuda training area until November 1942.


Steaming from Norfolk, Virginia, via Bermuda, she arrived Casablanca near the end of November to refuel small craft during the liberation of North Africa. She sailed for home toward the end of December, returning to Norfolk in early January 1943.

maumee (1)

USS Achelous


Delbert served on the USS Achelous (ARL-1), one of 27 tank landing ships converted to landing craft repair ships, one a month (March 1943) before coming down with mumps, getting married, and being accepted to go Gyro school.

delgyro (2)
Delbert is on the left in the back row.

After Delbert graduated from Gyro school, he was accepted for Electrical Interior Communications school, then 1944 was assigned to the Submarine School at New London, Connecticut, where he ran an Attack Teacher for several months. He was in submarine school at the end of the war but hadn’t yet been assigned to one.


The Wilson family stories are told in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression and in Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II.


  1. Joy, what can I say about this one except thank you. That Dad of mine was a handsome man and I can see why my Mom fell in love with him. He did seem to have done a lot of different things while in the Navy.

    • Twenty years! Delbert’s brother Don had planned to make the Navy a career. They both started out on the Chicago, then Don ended up on the Yorktown. Survived it’s sinking and joined the crew of the Hancock at the end of the war (another post will be about his ships), but after losing his three youngers brothers during the war and his father not long after, he decided he was done going to sea.

  2. Great post about Delbert Wilson’s naval service! Am writing a book about USS Chicago (CA-29) and wonder if you have more information on his service aboard her 1934-1937?

    • Both Delbert and Donald Wilson were assigned to the CA-29. I have transcribed their letters, and still have Donald Wilson’s letters. (I gave Delbert’s to his descendants, also photos.) After attending a naval school, Donald became a plank-owner on the CV-5 and survived the Midway sinking, even awarded a Navy Citation Medal for the salvage attempt–he had to abandon ship twice. Please contact me at

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