From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Wilmer Illsley, Jr. '44

Date of birth: March 4, 1922

Date of death: July 16, 1943

Age: 21

Lucky Bag

From the 1944 Lucky Bag:


Wilmer was lost on July 16, 1943 when his "plane crashed on a routine training flight" near NAS Jacksonville, Florida. (Information from September 1946 issue of Shipmate.)

Donald Engen was an officer with Scout Bombing Squadron (VSB) 32 in flight training; from his memoirs:

In mid-July the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1944 came to Daytona Beach for aviation indoctrination, and in the process we lost two airplanes, two pilots, and two Naval Academy graduates when the SBDs they rode in dove into the water, just missing the target boat. An astute accident board investigation found that in both cases the new officers riding in the backseat had installed the removable control stick, most probably earlier in the fight when the pilots offered them an opportunity to fly the SBD in level flight. Later, when the pilots entered their vertical dives, the passengers rotated their seats 180 degrees to ride backwards for the thrill of the vertical dive and did not remove the aft stick. As the pilots tried to pull out of the dive, the passengers' control sticks hit the metal back of the aft seats, preventing the pilots from pulling out, and the airplanes dove straight into Lake George.

Wilmer is buried in Mississippi.

His class ring is in the collection of the US Naval Academy Museum.

Related Articles

Charles Miller '44 was lost only a few weeks later in the same type of accident, during the same aviation familiarization period and with the same squadron.

Class of 1944

Wilmer is one of 66 members of the Class of 1944 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.