USS HOUSTON CA 30
“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”
William Charles DeWald
Charles De Wald 385 69 30, USN
Killed in Action March 1, 1942
William "Bill' was born October 14, 1916 near Sultan. Washington. He was the
second child of Elmer Worthy De Wald and Olga Slattelmeier De Wald. Per the birth certificate. Olga acted as her own midwife.
Bill grew up on a stump ranch west of Sultan and attended Sultan
schools, completing the eleventh grade. Back in those days, you graduated in 11
years. Sultan is in Snohomish County about 15 miles inland from Puget Sound and about 40
miles NE of Seattle. At age 19, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Recruiting
Station Seattle on June 15 1936 as an
apprentice seaman. He trained at the U.S. Naval Training Station. San Diego
from June 17 to October 3, 1936 when he was transferred to and reported aboard
the USS Sicard DD 346 for duty.
Bill changed his rating to Fireman Third Class on November 16, 1936 and was promoted to Fireman Second
Class on June 1, 1937. Fir Titan
First Class on May 16, 1938 and Machinist
Mate Second Class n May 16, 1939.
In 1936 or '37, while in San Diego Bill
married Vivian. Their divorce became final in 1941. They had no
In early 1937,
the USS Sicard and the three sister ships in her Destroyer
Squadron had their home port changed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor.
On September 18,
1939, Bill reported aboard the Light Cruiser USS Memphis CL 13 for duty. While
bill was aboard, the Memphis made a cruise
to the Territory of Alaska. Bill was
transferred to Receiving Station San Diego on May 12. 1940 and then to
Receiving Station Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. on June 1940. Bill was discharged June 41940 after serving 3
years. 11 months and 20 days with a final average for all Quarterly Marks of
Prior to his discharge, Bill had been trying to change his rate from
Machinist Mate to Aviation Machinist Mate (AMM). Bill told his brother Fred
that he wanted to aet out of working in engine rooms
because of the heat and that he was losing his hair Ultimately Bill was
successful and reenlisted on June 28, 1940 at Receiving
Station PSNSY Bremerton as a Machinist Mate Second Class with authorization to
change his rate to Aviation Machinist Mate.
Subsequently, Bill received orders to the USS Houston CA 30 and went to the
Philippine Islands aboard an unknown ship. Bill reported aboard the Houston in Manila on September
26. 1940 and was assigned to the Ship Aviation Unit - V Division. In November 1940. the Houston became the Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
Bill completed the Navy training courses for AMM3/c and AMM21c
in January and February 1941. and was recommended for
a change in rate. Bill took and passed the AMM21c test on March 4. 1941 and
subsequently his rate was changed to AMM21c. He was making $140.00 per month.
He completed the Navy training course for AMM1/c and Chief on July 23, 1941. Bill took the test for AMM1/c
on December 19, 1941. passed and was advanced in rate on February 1. 1942. Many
rosters erroneously show Bull as AMM2Jc when he was lost.
In 1941 there were four aircraft assigned to the Houston. one SOC-1. two SOC-3 and one SON-1. They were single engine, two place (seat). bi-29ng, Scout
Observation (SO) float aircraft with a wingspan of 36 ft., length 26 ft.. and height 13ft 2 in. They had a Pratt and Whitney R-1340
(radial) engine which developed 550hp. Each aircraft had a crew assigned.
Probably the most important duty the flight crewmen had was connecting the hook
from the ship's crane to the lifting cables on the aircraft so it could be
hoisted back aboard. When the aircraft returned from a flight, the crew
performed all necessary maintenance including fueling, checking oil, wiping
down (cleaning) and creasing control wires.
Part of Bill's duties included flying as an observer in the back seat of
the aircraft he worked on. In a March 1 1942 letter to his
brother. Bill said, We are required to spend four
hours in the air a month, but we get much more (flight time). Talk about a car
(having) pickup (acceleration) you should ride a plane shot from a catapult 60
miles an hour in forty feet. I get to take over controls once in awhile now but
later on I should know how to fly.' In a letter of March 15 1941, Bill said he had over five hours in
the air in Houston's aircraft and
also flown in PBY's. (There were PBY's,
twin-engine Patrol Bomber (PB) seaplanes at Sangley
Point in Manila Bay. At times. Houston V Division
personnel and aircraft were off the ship on temporary duty at Sangley Point.)
The Houston was sunk on March
1. 1942. Later, none of the survivors could recall seeing Bill during the last
battle or in the water thereafter. He was declared Missing in Action (MIA) as
of March 1, 1942 his
presumptive date of death was reported as December 26. 1945. His status was
changed from MIA to presumed dead on September
Bill was previously awarded the Good Conduct Medal for his first
enlistment. For service on the Houston he received the
Naval Presidential Unit Citation. Purple Heart Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal
with Fleet Clasp and two bronze stars. American Defense Medal with one bronze
star. World War II Victory Medal and the Philippine Defense Medal with one
bronze star. Bill's name can be found in the Tablets of the Missing area in the
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial,
together with the names of 17.581 other Sailors.
Submitted by LCDR Bruce F. De Wald
USN Ret. nephew of Bill. Bruce has been a member (NG) of the USS Houston
Survivors Association since 1979.