WILLIAM J. WIDHELM, CAPT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Widhelm '32

Date of birth: July 13, 1908

Date of death: July 19, 1954

Age: 46

Lucky Bag

From the 1932 Lucky Bag:

Obituary

From Find A Grave:

Lietenant (Junior Grade) W. J. Widhelm, USN, was designated Naval Aviator #4148 in 1935. Graduated U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1932. He was awarded two Navy Crosses during World War II, one for action during the Battle of Midway as executive officer of Souting Squadron Eight (VS-8).

Captain Widhelm, commanding officer of NAAS Chase Field, Tex., was killed in an aircraft accident involving a two-seat T-28B. Also killed was the pilot, Marine Corps Major Kenneth Arthur Anderson, in charge of ATU-204 at Chase Field.

This crash was the first serious accident involving the then-new T-28 trainer, and a specific cause for the accident was never determined.

Chicago Tribune (IL) - July 21, 1954

ARLINGTON SERVICES PLANNED FOR FLYER KILLED IN AIR CRASH

Deceased Name: Navy Capt. William J. Widhelm

Services for Navy Capt. William J. Widhelm, 46, killed Monday in an air crash near Woodsboro, Tex., probably will be held at Arlington National cemetery.

Meanwhile, plans were made for his widow, Elizabeth, and their three children to return to the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold C. Cheney of Barrington, to live. The children are John, 10; Wendy, 8, and Sally, 4.

Capt. Widhelm held one of the navy's most distinguished records of aviation combat and service. He took command of Chase field, a navy jet training base at Beeville, Tex., on July 1. Capt. Widhelm, a 1932 graduate of the United States Naval academy, was awarded two navy crosses, a distinguished flying cross, and the Legion of Merit for outstanding combat service during World War II.

He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Wartime Service

On October 26, 1942 William's SBD-3 Dauntless was shot down during the Battle of Santa Cruz. He was flying from USS Hornet (CV 8) as commanding officer of Bombing Squadron (VB) 8.

William commanded VF(N)-75 in 1943, the first night fighter squadron in the US Navy.

Remembrances

From Naval History:

Gus Widhelm was a bigger than life character: a superb aviator and staunch friend. Upon returning to the fleet after a stint instructing at Pensacola he announced his intention to requalify in carrier landings, bombing and gunnery in the same day. Reportedly his CO said that had never been done before to which Gus replied, "Sir, you are talking to Widhelm." And he proceeded to do what he intended. (There's an undocumented account of a dead-stick carrier landing in an SB2U but I cannot confirm it.)

c. 1946 Gus learned that a fellow test pilot was due to roll out of Pax River but lacked the means of moving his family's furniture in one trip. Gus asked, "Would it help if I could get you a B29?"

We don't make 'em like that anymore. Barrett Tillman, c. 2011

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant William John Widhelm (NSN: 0-71503), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Scouting Plane and Executive Officer of Scouting Squadron EIGHT (VS-8), attached to the U.S.S. HORNET (CV-8), in action against enemy Japanese forces during the "Air Battle of Midway." On 6 June 1942, Lieutenant Widhelm participated in the bombing and strafing attacks on fleeing enemy forces. In the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire he coolly and methodically without regard for his own safety, attacked the enemy, obtaining a hit on one of the enemy cruisers. His courage and skill contributed to the victory achieved by our forces. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: 6-Jun-42
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Scouting Squadron 8 (VS-8)
Division: U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] William John Widhelm (NSN: 0-71503), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Scouting Plane and Commanding Officer of Scouting Squadron EIGHT (VS-8), attached to the U.S.S. HORNET (CV-8), in the successful aerial action against Japanese naval forces on 26 October 1942, near Santa Cruz Islands. Though met by heavy fighter opposition which shot down four of his planes, and with his own craft losing oil as a result of enemy gun fire, Commander Widhelm led his flight of scout bombers to press home the attack on a large Japanese carrier until he was finally forced to make a water landing close to the enemy fleet. His example of dogged tenacity, leadership and courage inspired all members of his flight and contributed in a large measure to the extremely heavy damage inflicted upon the enemy. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander South Pacific Area and Force: Serial 0324b (December 31, 1942)
Action Date: 26-Jun-42
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Company: Scouting Squadron 8 (VS-8)
Division: U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8)

Related Articles

John Waldron '24 and Alfred Tucker, III '31 were also squadron commanders aboard USS Hornet (CV 8) early in the war.


Class of 1932

William is one of 52 members of the Class of 1932 in Memorial Hall.