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Abandon ship

Adrift at Sea

Shot down by two Zeros

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Wiley grew up during the Great Depression and he joined the Navy in 1940 just shortly after he graduated from high school partly because there were no jobs at this time. His 2 older brothers joined the CCC [Annotator's Note: Civilian Conservation Corps].Wiley says he joined the Navy because he would always have a dry bed and something to eat. He wanted to stay out of the trenches and always have a job. After boot camp, he was assigned to the USS Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5] which was in Pearl Harbor. He went aboard a destroyer to Pearl Harbor to join the Yorktown. He was amazed when he first saw the Yorktown, he could see her behind a 2-story building.Wiley was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 5 [Annotator's Note: VT-5], but much to his disappointment, his first assignment was to do typing in the office. Wiley states that he always wanted to fly even as a young boy. Wiley wanted to be a radioman because of his interest in electronics and radiomen got to fly. He eventually became a radioman and started flying. Wiley's initial rating was Radioman 3rd class. This allowed him to fly in the Douglas TBD "Devastator" torpedo bomber.Wiley explains that his first flight was in a TBD when he hitched a ride and flew over Oahu. His first flight as a radioman was about a year later. Wiley explains the Yorktown's role in the Marshall Islands Raid and the Coral Sea battle. Wiley was sitting under the flight deck during Coral Sea and explains that he was scared during Coral Sea knowing that the Japanese would be aiming for the flight deck in the battle. Yorktown was hit twice and had several near misses.After Coral Sea the Yorktown headed back to Pearl Harbor to be repaired. She pulled into Ford Island and was repaired for action in 72 hours. The repair supplies were manhandled aboard, hand to hand into the ship.

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Wiley relates that at the time of the hit and run carrier raids, they had more aircrew than airplanes. Being a new radioman, he was not the first man chosen to fly in combat. The older hands, as he terms it, the "first string" would fly the more important missions. Still, Wiley says that every day you flew at least once.At Midway the first crews were told what they were up against, but the rest of the ship was pretty much in the dark. The crew knew that they would be in a battle but were unaware of what they were facing in 4 Japanese carriers.At Coral Sea, Wiley was in the ready room when Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5] was hit by Japanese bombs. He was performing the duties of a talker in the ready room. Wiley says that when the bomb hit the Yorktown you could hear it; it was horribly loud. It was difficult to tell what was a hit and what was a near miss. An armor piercing bomb hit the Yorktown and passed through the other ready room, Ready Room #3. The bomb went through the room and exploded in the bowels of the ship.Wiley went topside and saw USS Lexington [Annotator's Note: USS Lexington, CV-2] burning at Coral Sea and thought that the ship burning could be his ship in the next battle and, as it turned out, it was. He says that they were unaware exactly what damage had been done to the Japanese at Coral Sea. He says he heard the report from Lexington's Robert Dixon, "Scratch 1 flattop!"After Coral Sea the "first string" air crews went ashore while Wiley and the "second string" stayed aboard Yorktown prior to Midway.

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After Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5] left Pearl Harbor for Midway she took on the Saratoga Air Group [Annotator's Note: Air Group 3 from USS Saratoga, CV-3]. Wiley says that Air Group 3 had a rough time landing aboard Yorktown. He watched as Air Group 3 came aboard. Wiley describes the action in which 1 of Air Group 3's fighters landed and crashed into the Fighter Squadron Executive Officer [Annotator's Note: Don Lovelace] and killed him in the crash.Wiley says that VT-5 was replaced by VT-3 because they were worn out after the hit-and-run carrier raids and Coral Sea. He says that there was a lot of confusion after the transition. Wiley assumed the duties of the talker in the ready room for the Battle of Midway. He says that it was nice not to know the guys in VT-3 well because at Midway none of them returned and it was easier for those guys not to return as opposed to their friends in VT-5.Wiley talks about the bomb damage at Midway and describes how 1 of the bombs made a hole in the flight deck and another killed the gun crew at the aft 1.1-inch anti-aircraft gun. Yorktown stopped dead in the water after being hit by the bombs. The damage control parties repaired the damage and got the ship's boilers lit and produced enough steam to power the Yorktown after she had been hit by the Japanese bombs.An hour or so later Yorktown was attacked again, this time by torpedo planes. Between attacks Wiley went back to the ready room for want of something to do. During the Japanese attack Wiley and some other shipmates hid under the Captain's dining tables in his mess room. Wiley could see some of the torpedo planes coming in. Yorktown was hit by 2 torpedoes and immediately listed to port. After a half an hour the Captain, Buckmaster, ordered abandon ship. Wiley went over the side and lowered himself in the water and swam towards a destroyer. Wiley swam out to a destroyer and climbed aboard and immediately found himself surrounded by his oil soaked ship maters. He slept on the deck of the destroyer that night and had no food. The following day he was transferred over to the cruiser Portland [Annotator's Note: Heavy cruiser USS Portland, CA-33] via a breeches buoy.

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Wiley noted that there were no other survivors of his plane. His wingman returned to the Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise, CV-6] and was in the midst of a battle and his plane was damaged. However, he managed to land his plane.Wiley says that the first time Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5] was hit he was scared to death but at Midway he wasn't as frightened. When his plane was shot down he says he didn't have any fear at all. The closer you get to dying the less you fear it, he says.After inflating the boat he climbed in and took stock of his injuries, which were mostly shrapnel injuries. He had 2 oars, a signal mirror and a Boy Scout knife. The raft also had fishing gear and some food rations. His ration bag was shredded however, so his rations were gone, but he did have 3 canteens of water. He had nothing to eat at all. Wiley talks further about his mindset when he was by himself in the raft and how he made peace with the fact that he may die here. The next morning he saw a ship and started to signal it. Soon a destroyer approached his raft. When Wiley realized that it was Japanese he laid down in his raft. The Japanese ship passed by and left him alone.His next challenge was dealing with his first shark. A shark was swimming close to his boat and he shot him in the head with his 45 caliber pistol [Annotator's Note: pistol, caliber .45 model 1911] and it left. The next morning several sharks were swimming around him. They stayed for quite a while, he had sharks following him every day he was in his boat. He ended up in this lifeboat for 15 days and he wrote down his experiences while adrift at sea. Wiley noted that he was shot down on August 24 [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Eastern Solomons started on August 24, 1942]. On the 15th day he noticed an island and the wind took him close to it. Wiley rowed towards the island and eventually came to a reef. The waves picked up the boat and pushed him across the reef into a lagoon. When he approached the island, 3 guys in a canoe approached him and took him in. 2 of the 3 men spoke some English or as he called it, "pidgin English". He was so thirsty that he drank 7 coconuts and ate boiled green bananas.

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Wiley was put into a shack and slept the night there. That night he met the Chief of the tribe and was taken to a neighboring island and he spent the next 6 months as their guest. His wounds were taken care of and washed out by the natives. The natives fed him an took care of him. The island's boys stayed with him almost every day and were fascinated by him.Wiley explained that a large amount of his time on the island was filled with time spent fishing and gathering food. He explains that the majority of the food was fish, bananas, and breadfruit.After about 5 and a half months, he received a message from an islander that other natives found survivors of a B-17 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress] crew. Wiley went out and met these survivors and they discussed the situation they were all in. There were 9 survivors from this B-17 and they had also been in their rubber boats for 15 days like Wiley. The stark reality hit them on how could all [Annotator's Note: there were now 10 of them] survive with this environment without wearing out their welcome. The problem was with straining the limited amount of food supplies that the islanders had at their disposal and more importantly how to evade the Japanese and find their way back to friendly lines at Guadalcanal. Most of the islander's canoes were too small to get 10 men to Guadalcanal in. The natives did eventually find a very large canoe, but it needed many repairs.The survivors were split up and put on different islands so as to stretch the food situation too much. Captain Clausen was the pilot of the B-17. Clausen took charge of the survivors and he stayed with Wiley and the B-17 navigator.Wiley said that he always thought he would be able to get back to American lines.

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Wiley discussed how the natives found a large canoe that they could use. They filled the holes in the canoe with sap from the breadfruit trees. They cooked coral to make a powder and with the sap they made a type of cement to patch the holes. An outrigger was constructed for the canoe and a sail was made as well.After the canoe was repaired, Captain Clausen, Lieutenant Gibson, Lieutenant Orwick, Wiley, and Ghani [Annotator's Note: a native guide] all boarded the canoe for the journey to Guadalcanal. The party waited for the wind to be right and they left on a late afternoon and crossed the reef. The wind changed and forced them in another direction and they lost their sail. They paddled back to the island and made repairs. 3 nights later they left again. The crew had paddles and coconuts to drink as well as canteens and dried fish. They had a slight complication when they reached Bougainville. There was a large Japanese base on the south end of the island that they were trying to avoid. However, the current took them dangerously close to this base. They took the boat's sail down to try to avoid the base. Nevertheless, Ghani instructed them to raise their sail and about that time the wind changed and they were able to avoid getting too close to the Japanese base.They still had some tense moments when a few Japanese planes flew over them and checked their canoe out. Soon after they landed on the island of Choiseul. On this island, they met some natives that worked with the Coast Watchers [Annotator's Note: Allied military intelligence operating on Pacific Islands during WWII] and they continued on their journey and stayed with these new natives for a few days. They eventually met 2 Coast Watchers - Seton and Nicolas Wadell. They stayed with the Coast Watchers for a few nights. The Coast Watchers sent a message to Guadalcanal and arrangements were made for the survivors to be picked up by a PBY [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina].

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The survivors hiked down the mountain to an enormous canoe that had paddlers down both sides with space in the middle. The natives paddled for 3 days to another harbor and stayed in an abandoned village.The PBY Catalina, with 6 F4U Corsair escorts, was a day late, but it did eventually land and unload supplies for the Coast Watchers and picked up Wiley and the rest of the survivors.The next day Wiley met with Admiral Mitscher and the admiral ordered him home. He was flown back to the United States and at each stop there was someone to take care of him.Upon reaching the States Wiley was taken and a new uniform was bought for him and he was allowed to phone home, which still makes him emotional today.Wiley discussed the plight of the 5 remaining B-17 crew on the island. The Navy did not want to return to the island because it was beyond the range of most of the fighters. The solution was made and B-24's [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator] escorted a PBY to the island and picked up the rest of the survivors. They also returned Ghani to his island with several gifts.

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After the war, Wiley did meet the island chief's grandson and granddaughter. The relatives of the chief came to the US and he entertained them while they were here. Wiley and his wife hosted Ursula and Thomas, the chief's relatives in their house after the war at various points through their life. Wiley has never been back to the island where he stayed, but his son had the opportunity to visit, which he did.After Wiley returned to the States, he was given 30 days leave and he was supposed to report to Naval Air Station Alameda but he developed a case of malaria and was declared unfit for combat by the doctor because of his wounds that he sustained during his ordeal. This news made Wiley upset because he wanted to go to Pensacola and attend flight training. He was given limited service and went to Iowa for the remainder of the war. While there he repaired radios and other electronics.The day the war ended the limited service men like himself, were discharged from the service very quickly. Wiley moved to California in 1960 for work for North American Aviation, helping to build missiles.

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Wiley stayed on the Portland [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS Portland, CA-33] for 2 days and slept on the deck because the lack of space. Wiley says that the guys didn't feel a sadness leaving the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5], but when on the Portland the guys felt good because they had survived. He and the rest of the survivors from Yorktown were transferred to the USS Fulton [Annotator's Note: Submarine tender, USS Fulton, AS-11]. After arriving in Pearl Harbor he was eventually transferred to a Marine camp and assigned to VT-3, Torpedo Squadron 3.Wiley was unaware of the victorious outcome of the Battle of Midway even after reaching Pearl Harbor. He performed a lot of training with his new unit VT-3 with the new pilot, Harry Corl. Corl was 1 of the 2 pilots that survived Midway from VT-3. His squadron also received new TBF torpedo planes [Annotator's Note: TBF "Avenger"]. They were larger, faster and could carry a larger bomb load. As a result, they did a lot of training with these new planes. Wiley and his squadron was assigned to the USS Enterprise [Annotator's Note: aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, CV-6) and went down to the South Pacific and took part in the Guadalcanal invasion conducting search missions.His squadron eventually went north up to the Solomon Islands chain and discovered the Japanese cruiser Tone on a search mission. The cruiser began to fire on them and soon after 2 Zeros [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter aircraft] attacked them. Corl took evasive maneuvers and Wiley was told to turn on the transmitter and send a message.While he was working on his equipment there was an explosion and he was bleeding from his legs. After this he climbed out of the radio compartment and sat in the turret. Wiley was facing backwards and he blacked out as the aircraft hit the water. He came to under water and went through the escape hatch and attempted to reach the surface. Once he got to the surface all he noticed was a wheel from the airplane and a deflated rubber boat. When the plane crashed, the boat was ejected from the plane. Wiley swam over to the boat and inflated it.

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After Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5] left Pearl Harbor for Midway she took on the Saratoga Air Group [Annotator's Note: Air Group 3 from USS Saratoga, CV-3]. Wiley says that Air Group 3 had a rough time landing aboard Yorktown. He watched as Air Group 3 came aboard. Wiley describes the action in which 1 of Air Group 3's fighters landed and crashed into the Fighter Squadron Executive Officer [Annotator's Note: Don Lovelace] and killed him in the crash.Wiley says that VT-5 was replaced by VT-3 because they were worn out after the hit-and-run carrier raids and Coral Sea. He says that there was a lot of confusion after the transition. Wiley assumed the duties of the talker in the ready room for the Battle of Midway. He says that it was nice not to know the guys in VT-3 well because at Midway none of them returned and it was easier for those guys not to return as opposed to their friends in VT-5.Wiley talks about the bomb damage at Midway and describes how 1 of the bombs made a hole in the flight deck and another killed the gun crew at the aft 1.1-inch anti-aircraft gun. Yorktown stopped dead in the water after being hit by the bombs. The damage control parties repaired the damage and got the ship's boilers lit and produced enough steam to power the Yorktown after she had been hit by the Japanese bombs.An hour or so later Yorktown was attacked again, this time by torpedo planes. Between attacks Wiley went back to the ready room for want of something to do. During the Japanese attack Wiley and some other shipmates hid under the Captain's dining tables in his mess room. Wiley could see some of the torpedo planes coming in. Yorktown was hit by 2 torpedoes and immediately listed to port. After a half an hour the Captain, Buckmaster, ordered abandon ship. Wiley went over the side and lowered himself in the water and swam towards a destroyer. Wiley swam out to a destroyer and climbed aboard and immediately found himself surrounded by his oil soaked ship maters. He slept on the deck of the destroyer that night and had no food. The following day he was transferred over to the cruiser Portland [Annotator's Note: Heavy cruiser USS Portland, CA-33] via a breeches buoy.

Annotation

Wiley discussed how the natives found a large canoe that they could use. They filled the holes in the canoe with sap from the breadfruit trees. They cooked coral to make a powder and with the sap they made a type of cement to patch the holes. An outrigger was constructed for the canoe and a sail was made as well.After the canoe was repaired, Captain Clausen, Lieutenant Gibson, Lieutenant Orwick, Wiley, and Ghani [Annotator's Note: a native guide] all boarded the canoe for the journey to Guadalcanal. The party waited for the wind to be right and they left on a late afternoon and crossed the reef. The wind changed and forced them in another direction and they lost their sail. They paddled back to the island and made repairs. 3 nights later they left again. The crew had paddles and coconuts to drink as well as canteens and dried fish. They had a slight complication when they reached Bougainville. There was a large Japanese base on the south end of the island that they were trying to avoid. However, the current took them dangerously close to this base. They took the boat's sail down to try to avoid the base. Nevertheless, Ghani instructed them to raise their sail and about that time the wind changed and they were able to avoid getting too close to the Japanese base.They still had some tense moments when a few Japanese planes flew over them and checked their canoe out. Soon after they landed on the island of Choiseul. On this island, they met some natives that worked with the Coast Watchers [Annotator's Note: Allied military intelligence operating on Pacific Islands during WWII] and they continued on their journey and stayed with these new natives for a few days. They eventually met 2 Coast Watchers - Seton and Nicolas Wadell. They stayed with the Coast Watchers for a few nights. The Coast Watchers sent a message to Guadalcanal and arrangements were made for the survivors to be picked up by a PBY [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina].

Annotation

Wiley stayed on the Portland [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS Portland, CA-33] for 2 days and slept on the deck because the lack of space. Wiley says that the guys didn't feel a sadness leaving the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown, CV-5], but when on the Portland the guys felt good because they had survived. He and the rest of the survivors from Yorktown were transferred to the USS Fulton [Annotator's Note: Submarine tender, USS Fulton, AS-11]. After arriving in Pearl Harbor he was eventually transferred to a Marine camp and assigned to VT-3, Torpedo Squadron 3.Wiley was unaware of the victorious outcome of the Battle of Midway even after reaching Pearl Harbor. He performed a lot of training with his new unit VT-3 with the new pilot, Harry Corl. Corl was 1 of the 2 pilots that survived Midway from VT-3. His squadron also received new TBF torpedo planes [Annotator's Note: TBF "Avenger"]. They were larger, faster and could carry a larger bomb load. As a result, they did a lot of training with these new planes. Wiley and his squadron was assigned to the USS Enterprise [Annotator's Note: aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, CV-6) and went down to the South Pacific and took part in the Guadalcanal invasion conducting search missions.His squadron eventually went north up to the Solomon Islands chain and discovered the Japanese cruiser Tone on a search mission. The cruiser began to fire on them and soon after 2 Zeros [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter aircraft] attacked them. Corl took evasive maneuvers and Wiley was told to turn on the transmitter and send a message.While he was working on his equipment there was an explosion and he was bleeding from his legs. After this he climbed out of the radio compartment and sat in the turret. Wiley was facing backwards and he blacked out as the aircraft hit the water. He came to under water and went through the escape hatch and attempted to reach the surface. Once he got to the surface all he noticed was a wheel from the airplane and a deflated rubber boat. When the plane crashed, the boat was ejected from the plane. Wiley swam over to the boat and inflated it.

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