Thomas C. Buell Papers

Manuscript Collection #538
Buell, Thomas C.
Physical description
0.073 Cubic Feet, 46 items , of typescript anecdotes.
Preferred Citation
Thomas C. Buell Papers (#538), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1941-1945) including typescript anecdotes, information on decoding a message, problems on variety of food, toilet articles, and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

Captain Thomas Chapin Buell was a 1941 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He served aboard theUSS HELM (DD 388) during World War II and this collection contains anecdotes concerning his service.

Scope and arrangement

The USS 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.

Administrative information
Custodial History

December 7, 1987, 46 items; Anecdotes of service on board the USS HELM during World War II, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1941. Gift of Captain Thomas C. Buell, Coronado, California.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Captain Thomas C. Buell

Processing information

Processed by C. Crews, April 1991

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Buell, Thomas C.
Corporate Names
Helm (Destroyer)
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941--Personal narratives
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Area
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American