During his 41 years in the Naval Reserves Chief Warrant Officer-4 (CWO-4) Bill Wyld Jr. of Port Charlotte, Fla. may have served on more ships than just about anyone in the service. From 1948 until he retired from the Navy in 1989 he went aboard 21 ships, some of them a couple of times.
“My first ship was the USS Dyess, a destroyer whose home port was Newport, R.I., I went aboard during my senior year in high school in 1948 as a seaman,” the 85-year-old former Navy-man recalled more than 65 years later. “I had $100 in pay I used to romance the girls at the USO Club in Newport while the money lasted.”
After high school he went to work for the New York State Telephone Co. in 1948. He worked for them 41 years and retired as area supervisor of the company in Albany, NY.
“My second two week cruise in the Naval Reserve I was a quartermaster’s striker. I steered the Battleship Missouri, the ‘Big Mo,’ on a cruise to the Panama Canal Zone in 1949,” Wyld said.
“I was in the wheelhouse of the battleship behind 24 inches of reinforced concrete steering blind, when one of the Missouri’s two seaplanes was catapulted into the air. It made a big loop and continued a second loop, but this time it only made it half way and crashed into the drink killing the two sailors aboard the plane.
“The real quartermaster pushed me out of the way and took over the steering of the ship. He made a big figure eight and then a whaleboat was put over the side to look for the two men aboard the seaplane. They were dead.”
By the time of the Korean War in June 1950, Wyld was a 3rd Class Electrician serving aboard LST (Landing Ship Tank)-819 headed for Korea.
“When I first arrived in Korea we landed on the beach at Pusan. This is where the United Nation forces were surrounded by North Korean soldiers,” he said. “Seven of us went on liberty right in the middle of the Battle for Pusan.
“There were a bunch of us Navy people wandering around on shore at 2 a.m. half drunk. The Military Police stopped us and inquired: ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on? What are you doing walking around Pusan at 2 a.m?
“We could hear the artillery pounding away right outside the city, but we were on liberty. All of us Navy guys were taken to the brig by the MPs.
“We spent our time during the rest of the war moving bunches of North Korean POWs from the main camp on shore to smaller ones on little islands off shore,” he said. It was our job to move them by LST to these small prison camps.
“When LST 819 was sent back to the States before the end of the I was transferred to a destroyer escort–the USS Frybarger, DE-709. I stayed in Korea until September 1953 after the end of the war and then returned to the States,” he said.
Wyld went back to work for the phone company and spent his next two week summer cruise in the Naval Reserve aboard a submarine repair ship, the USS Antietam, repairing compasses for subs.
“In 1963 I was serving my two weeks aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Forrestal when the skipper announced on the speaker phone President Kennedy had been assassinated. When we arrived in Norfolk, Va. I was part of a nine-man welcoming committee in full dress uniform standing on the bow of the carrier greeting captains and other dignitaries who came aboard. It was tough.”
In 1974, after more than 25 years in the Navy, Wyld was made a CWO-4. At this point he became an Engineering Officer instead of an electrician aboard ship. It was his duty at that point to keep the ship running.
“My last shipboard assignment was the USS Wm C. Lawe, DD-763, an old destroyer. She was a well-run and well-maintained ship,” he said.
Wyld spent the last nine years of his Naval Reserve duty on shore performing various assignments before retiring from the service in 1989. He and his wife, Miriam, moved to Port Charlotte in 1989.
The have four children: Billy, Linda, Debbie and Sue.
Name: Charles William Wyld Jr.
D.O.B: 5 Dec. 1929
Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 1948
Rank: Chief Warrant Officer 4
Unit: Served on 21 Different Ships in Naval Reserve
Battles/Campaigns: Korean War
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, August 25, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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