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CDR Wilhelm George "Bill" Esders
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Birth: Oct. 11, 1914
Saint Joseph
Buchanan County
Missouri, USA
Death: Nov. 1, 1994
Escambia County
Florida, USA

William was the son of John H. and Mary C. Esders who also had a daughter, Helen A.C. Esders.

William or Wilhelm as he was also known as graduated in 1932 from Central H.S. in St Joseph, MO. Wilhelm George Esders enlisted in the US Navy (NSN: 341-90-83) on 17 Oct 1934. After various assignments he was promoted to a Chief Radioman. He completed aviation training in Pensacola and qualified as a Chief Aviation Pilot (CAP). Later he received a temporary commission as an Ensign on 15 Aug 1942 then promoted to temporary Lt (jg) on 01 May 1943. Promoted to Temporary rank of Lieutenant on 01 July 1944. He was promoted to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Commander on 10 May 1949. He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 01 Jan 1955. His PEBD: 17 Oct 1934. He retired on 01 May 1960.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Saratoga (CV-3) was the flagship of the unsuccessful American effort to relieve Wake Island. A few weeks later Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She returned to the West Coast shipyard at Bremerton for more extensive repairs. During the yard period Saratoga's embarked squadrons were transferred elsewhere. VT-3 was assigned first to NAS Pearl Harbor at Ford Island then to NAS Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii while Saratoga was in the shipyards in Bremerton, WA. On 28 May 1942 the squadron was reassigned to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). About a week later on 4 June 1942 Chief Aviation Pilot Esders and his gunner ARM2 Robert Boyd Brazier launched from the flight deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) with other elements of the Yorktown air group to attack the Japanese Striking Forces approaching Midway. Although they had some friendly fighter protection enroute to their targets VT-3 had to thread their way through a gauntlet of swarming enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. His was only one of two VT-3 aircraft to survive the torpedo attack on the Japanese carrier Striking Force on 4 Jun 1942. The other torpedo plane was piloted by MACH Harry Lee Corl and his gunner, ARM3 Lloyd F. Childers. Ten planes did not return. Esder's gunner/radioman, Robert Byrd Brazier was seriously wounded during their attack on the Japanese fleet. Although they survived the attack they were forced to ditch in the Pacific when they ran out of fuel on the way back to their carrier. It was after Ensign Esders got the wounded Petty Officer Brazier into their life raft that his wounds proved to be fatal. He died and was buried at sea. It was also during this time that a Japanese dive bomber was preparing to attack the raft containing Ens. Esders and Petty Officer Brazier. Fortunately, a friendly fighter intervened and shot down the enemy plane. That pilot was Ltjg Arthur James Brassfield. CAP Esders was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his gallantry and heroic service on 4 Jun 1942.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Radio Electrician Wilhelm George Esders, United States Navy, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in the Solomon Islands on 4 - 5 October 1942. While serving in a Torpedo Bomber in an attack on a heavy cruiser, he assisted in making two hits and a probable third, despite poor visibility and very heavy gunfire from the cruiser and three accompanying destroyers. The next day he took part in the bombing of an ammunition dump at Cape Esperance, resulting in a terrific explosion.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 319 (October 1943) & 321 (December 1943)
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Chief Aviation Pilot Wilhelm George Esders, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Torpedo Plane of Torpedo Squadron THREE (VT-3), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. During participation in a Torpedo Plane assault on Japanese naval units, Ensign Esders, observing his Squadron Commander crash in flames, gallantly took the lead of the squadron and pressed home the attack to a point where it became relatively certain that the successful accomplishment of his mission would entail a great loss of life. Nevertheless, by his courageous initiative and aggressive leadership, he enabled his squadron to reach its objective and score several hits on enemy aircraft carriers. His loyal devotion to duty and utter disregard of personal safety contributed materially to the success of our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Panama City News-Herald (Panama City, Florida) - 12 Oct 1943, Tue - Page 8
Floridians Win FDR Citation For Work On Japs
Two Pensacola Men Members of Torpedo Squadron Eight

Washington, Oct. 12 – (AP) –
Torpedo Squadron Eight, virtually wiped out in the battle of Midway, then reorganized to claim vengeance against the Japanese in the Solomon’s, again is back in service aboard an aircraft carrier.
The Navy revealed this today in announcing the squadron has become the first command in the Navy to receive two Presidential unit citations for valor.
The first citation came for the Midway battling. Then, under command of the late Lt.Comdr. John Waldron, Pensacola, Fla., the squadron went out from its carrier with orders to “intercept and attack.”
Those orders were carried out, although all pilots and plane crews realized their fuel supplies would be exhausted before they could return to the carrier. The enemy was stopped. But only three of the officers and men of Torpedo Eight survived – Lt. (jg) George Gay, Houston, Texas; Lt. (jg) Albert K.E. Arnest (sic), Richmond, Va., and Earnest’s gunner, Harry H. Ferrier, West Springfield, Mass.
Reorganized under Lt. Comdr. Harold H. “Swede” Larsen, Collingswood, N.J., the squadron went into the Solomons with the battle cry “Attack.” And Torpedo Eight did. It’s record shows 40 attack missions carried out there, with one battleship, five heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, one destroyer, one cargo ship and two aircraft carriers hit by the squadron’s torpedoes.
It’s Presidential citation for those actions came in a joint recognition for the entire First Marine Division which wrested positions in the Solomons from the Japanese. Other units of the division have not been identified.
The officers and men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, who served through the Solomons campaign, include: Lieut. (jg) Wilhelm G. Esders, Pensacola, Fla.; Lieut. (jg) Corwin F. Morgan, Gainesville, Fla.,; James Clyde Hammond, Aviation chief machinist’s mate, Pensacola, Fla.; Conrad Hugh Lawrence, aviation metalsmith, first class, Daytona Beach, Fla.; Edgar Lloyd Hawkins, aviation metalsmith, second class, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Edgar Fred Helzel, aviation metalsmith, second class, Orlando, Fla.
Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) - 03 Apr 1944, Mon - Page 7
Flier, Rescuer Finally Meet
By E.V.W. Jones
Miami, Fla., Apr. 2 – (AP) –
In June, 1942, Lt. (JG) Wilhelm G. Esders, of St. Joseph, Mo., was a member of a torpedo squadron on the aircraft carrier Yorktown: Lt. Arthur J. Brassfield, of Browning, Mo., was a fighter pilot on the same ship. The two Missourians never met.
June 4, 1942, Esders and his squadron took off from the Yorktown for a point 150 miles away where a Japanese aircraft carrier was launching her dive-bombers for attacks on the Americans.
Esders scored a hit on the Nipponese ship, but intense anti-air craft fire mortally wounded his gunner [PO Robert B. Brazier] and punched countless holes in his plane. Gasoline streamed from his fuel tanks. Before he was halfway home, his gauges registered empty, and he radioed that he was alighting on the ocean.
His plane nosed down, the tail above the waves. Esders released his tiny lifeboat, got the dying gunner on it, and was ready to climb aboard himself when he heard the motor of a circling plane.
Above him was a Japanese dive bomber. It circled several times, then nosed down into a dive, aimed straight for him. He was fascinated. At that moment, an American fighter streaked out of nowhere, machine guns chattering. The Japanese jerked out of the dive and sought safety in flight. Esders watched the unknown fighter over-take the enemy and send him spinning to death.
Brassfield was busy, too, that June morning. A part of the fighter cover over the Yorktown, he sent his fighter among a swarm of enemy dive-bombers and shot down two. The Japanese formation broke and the angry growls and whines of dogfights spread over the sky.
Brassfield chased one enemy craft for miles and ripped it apart, then caught sight of another, circling. Brassfield had to look hard to see what interested the Japanese: the tail of a plane and the spot of orange of a life raft on the sea.
In an instant, the fighter pilot decided his course of action. He aimed his plane at the midway point of the enemy’s dive and slapped his throttle wide open as the enemy nosed down. Brassfield opened fire at 1,500 yards, much too great a distance for effective shooting. But the Japanese jerked out of the dive and tried to escape. Brassfield sped after him, sent him spinning to death.
Esders was picked up by a destroyer and eventually returned to duty. More than a year later, he was ordered to the Miami naval air station to serve as an instructor. There Lt. Stuart Ludlum interviewed him.
Brassfield, too, reported to the Miami naval station. He, too, was interviewed by Lieutenant Ludlum, who went back and read over his reports, compared them. Then Ludlum called both veterans of the battle of Midway together. “You don’t realize it, but you two know each other,” he told them.
The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) - 03 Nov 1994, Thu - Page 20
Wilhelm G. Esders
Esders, the last surviving pilot of a doomed torpedo attack by three Navy squadrons at the famed World War II Battle of Midway, died Tuesday at his Pensacola home. He was 80. At Midway in June 1942, 39 of 41 pilots and all but one crewman of the U.S. torpedo planes perished. Their exploits became famous because of a 1942 Life magazine article. Esders participated in the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) - 04 Nov 1994, Fri - Page 36

Cmdr. Wilhelm G. Esders, 80, last surviving pilot of a doomed torpedo attack by three Navy squadrons at the World War II Battle of Midway, died of a heart attack Tuesday in Pensacola, Fla. At Midway, 39 of 41 pilots and all but one crewman in the assault perished. Only Lloyd Childers, a radioman-gunner who later became a Marine Corps pilot, is still alive.
During his long and distinguished naval career, CDR Esders was presented with numerous awards. These are just a few of the more significant ones: Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and the Presidential Unit Citation.
[Newspaper articles transcribed and bio compiled by G47]

Family links: 
  Lillie Louise Cary Esders (1918 - 2006)*
*Calculated relationship
Barrancas National Cemetery
Escambia County
Florida, USA
Plot: 39, 0, 446
Maintained by: G47
Originally Created by: US Veterans Affairs Offi...
Record added: Feb 25, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 629163
CDR Wilhelm George Bill Esders
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CDR Wilhelm George Bill Esders
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CDR Wilhelm George Bill Esders
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Thank you for your WWII service as part of the "Cactus Air Force" at Guadalcanal.
- Richard Blunk
 Added: Jul. 7, 2014

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