HELM bore the name of 1875 Naval Academy graduate and Navy Cross recipient James Meredith Helm (1855-1927). Commissioned in 1937, the destroyer was underway, leaving Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Buell describes the attack and relates the problems experienced due to its unexpectedness, including a crewmember having to cut the locks on the magazine to get the ammunition from storage to the guns.
After Pearl Harbor, the
HELM joined Task Group 44 of the carrier
SARATOGA and began patrol and escort duty in the South Pacific near Australia, New Zealand, and the Solomon Islands, where it spent most of the remainder of the war. In January 1942 the
HELM was assigned a special mission to rescue Department of the Interior personnel from Howland and Baker islands. Buell describes this rescue, which included being attacked by Japanese aircraft. Buell also relates the involvement of the
HELM in the Battle of Savo Island (Aug. 7-8, 1942), rescuing survivors from the USS
CHICAGO (Aug. 7, 1942), the resupplying of AvGas to Henderson Field at Guadalcanal (Sept. 1942), and a visit in 1943 by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to the
HELM while it was anchored at Mackay, Australia.
As a member of the Task Force 58, Task Group 58.1, beginning in June 1944, the
HELM participated in the rescue (1944) of several downed aviators during the preparation for and invasion of the Marianas, and in the bombardment of Iwo Jima (Oct. 1944). In Buell's anecdotes concerning these topics, he also describes the
HELM's collision with the USS
CONNER on June 9, 1944, and also notes that for each downed aviator rescued from the sea, the
HELM would receive twenty gallons of ice cream.
Different accounts relate information on decoding a message (1942) and the Royal Navy's cryptographic use of the Bible (1943); creating a CIC (Combat Information Center) on the
HELM (1943); Captain William Braun's creative methods in acquiring SG radar for the
HELM (1943); a training exercise with a squadron of B-26s (1943); fishing behind the Great Barrier Reef and catching a shark (1943); searching for a passage through the Sunken Barrier Reef (1943); and the capture of Japanese aviators, one of whom was a Princeton graduate (1944). Other anecdotes mention the effect of the weather on operations and the problems of insuring a variety of food and of requisitioning (1943) toilet articles.