Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free


Bill Schmidt


Date and Place of Birth: July 30, 1920 New York, New York
Date and Place of Death: November 24, 1943 Gilbert Islands
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Unknown
Rank: Ensign
Military Unit: US Navy
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations


Bill Schmidt was an excellent college athlete who participated in many sports. He joined the Navy as soon as he graduated and survived just one month in combat in the Pacific.


William C Schmidt Jr was born on July 30, 1920 in New York city. He attended Kent School in Connecticut where he participated in baseball, soccer, hockey, squash and football.


Schmidt then attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts where he continued his athletic participation. Schmidt played soccer, hockey and football - he was captain of the baseball team his sophomore year and college squash champion.


Schmidt graduated from Williams in February 1942 and immediately entered the Naval Reserve. He trained at Columbia University's Midshipman's School in New York and graduated with the rank of ensign.


While awaiting overseas duty, Bill Schmidt married Anne Lyon on August 2, 1943. Schmidt left for the Pacific on the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), an escort carrier on October 21, 1943. Ensign Schmidt was gunnery officer and athletic director on the brand new ship that was skippered by his uncle, Captain I D Wiltsie.


The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor one week later where operational exercises were carried out. On November 10, 1943, she joined TF52, Northern Attack Force, bound for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.


The United States' first major thrust into the central Pacific began on November 20, and Liscome Bay's airplanes played a vital part in neutralizing enemy airfields and supporting ground operations.


USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56)


With the island secured, the task force began to leave the area. At 0510 on November 24, 1943, as Liscome Bay was 20 miles southwest of Butaritari Island and flight crews were preparing for a dawn mission, a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175, struck the Liscome Bay near the engine room causing a huge explosion. The aircraft carrier listed to starboard and 20 minutes later she sank. 591 crew members lost their lives including Ensign Bill Schmidt and his uncle Captain Wiltsie. 272 were rescued.


Bill Schmidt was originally listed as missing in action, and on December 21 a memorial service was held at Thompson Memorial Chapel at Williams College. It was a year later that his death was officially confirmed. "I received in this morning's mail," wrote his father, William Schmidt, to Phinney Baxter, president of Williams College on December 5, 1944, "an official communication from the Secretary of the Navy to the effect that Billy must be presumed killed in action in the Pacific."


Thanks to Linda Hall, Archives Assistant at Williams College for taking the time to research much of this information and mail it to me.


Added September 14, 2006. Updated December 21, 2006.

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.