Donald Wilson: Ships

USS Chicago (CA-29)

Donald and Delbert Wilson, Dexter, Iowa. Early 1934, having been to Des Moines to join the Navy.


Donald got to Electrical Interior Communications school on the east coast and afterwards was assigned to the brand new carrier, USS Yorktown. He was a plank owner, meaning he was a member of the crew when the ship was placed in commission.


USS Yorktown (CV-5)




The Yorktown operated out of Pearl Harbor during most of 1940, but in early 1941 was secreted through the Panama Canal, headed to the Atlantic. The carrier made six two-week Neutrality Patrols out of Norfolk, Virginia, and Casco Bay, Maine, between May and November, protecting convoys headed to Europe and back to North America.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the carrier was sent back into the Pacific, where it was part of the early skirmishes and battles of the Pacific war. It was damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea, where the carrier Lexington was lost.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) at Pearl Harbor after the Battle of the Coral Sea. National Archives photo #80-G-21931

A month later, the Yorktown was part of the Battle of Midway. The carrier was bombed and the crew abandoned ship. Although crippled it didn’t sink. It stabilized enough that a savage attempt was made. Donald Wilson earned a citation for being part of that attempt. While aboard, the Yorktown was doomed by torpedoes, and they abandoned ship once more and were rescued. The carrier rolled over and sank the next morning.


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USS California (BB-44)

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U.S. National Archives and Records Administration photo taken December 7, 1941.

Survivors were taken to Pearl Harbor where the electricians were assigned to help bake out an engine of the battleship CaliforniaThe battleship had been sunk when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but had been raised and overhaul had begun. When two engines were operable, the ship limped to the west coast where overhaul was completed at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

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After more Electrical Communications school in Washington, DC, in early 1944 Donald became a plank owner on yet another carrier, the USS Hancock.


USS Hancock (CV-19)




The ship was in every major battle in the Pacific the last months of the war, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, except when out of action because of kamikaze damage.

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Taken near Japan between the surrender and the actual signing of the papers. CEM Donald Wilson is to the left of center in the front row.

See: The “Fighting Hannah”: A War History of the U.S.S. Hancock (CV-19) by E.G. Hines, USNR.

That Gallant Ship: U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5) by Robert Cressman.

Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family during World War II by Joy Neal Kidney.

Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression by Joy Neal Kidney.


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