DARYL TUTT, USS WASP 8/2/2002
Born in St. Paul’s 26 June 1923, but when five his dad bought a farm and they moved out to the country. Stayed there and went to school in a one-room place with one teacher to take them through 1st-8th grade. But time of Depression and so eventually his dad had to sell up and move back to the city – this time Minneapolis. He was now going to school for the 9th Grade with classes as big as his entire school in the country and he didn’t really fit in. Began to be a bit of rebel and to get into trouble, so a friend of his father’s suggested he go into the forces.
DT had always been interested in aviation, so tried for the Navy to work with Naval Planes. He was rejected though – there was slight problem with one of his eyes. But a very well respected eye doctor who knew his father wrote a note to the Navy confirming DT was fine. But for some reason he was rejected again, so he went to apply for the Army instead. At the Army Office he was immediately sent onto the Navy Office – someone had over-ruled the second rejection and he was in.
Sent to Boot Camp and then afterwards the recruits had to be split up into the various departments. He sat the aviation test but was put on destroyers. He questioned the decision – after all, he’d gained 98% in his aviation test – and so was sent to the aviation school.
After that he joined the Wasp, based at Norfolk Virginia. They were doing neutral patrol, covering their east coast, the Caribbean, even as far east as the Azores. Then sent to the Orkneys. No one knew where they were going or why, and certainly knew nothing of Churchill and Roosevelt’s plans. Eventually found themselves on the Clyde loading Spitfires, so they began to get a bit of an idea. Sailed out with the British fleet and headed south. They reached Gib at dusk and were told to go into harbour – Capt. Reeves of the Wasp refused and carried straight on – just as well as Gib harbour was bombed that night. They went on to the right place, the planes went off and they returned.
Hitler got to hear of it and vowed that if the Wasp ever went into the Mediterranean again, she would never make it out. But sail in again she did. This time round they had hazy cloud cover which they used to good effect – and got away with it.
DT worked on the Flight Deck – he’d had his appendix out whilst on the way to the Orkneys – at 4am off the coast of Iceland – so was on light duties.
He remembers an English groundcrew member was working too close to a running Spit and had has head chopped off – DT saw this, albeit from a distance. One Spit took off in high pitch making it hard to climb – and so dropped off the edge. Neither the plane or pilot were ever found.
On the second trip a Spit took without his auxiliary tanks – so could not make Malta and only land in reach was enemy so Capt Reeves told him to fly round and try and land. First attempt he came in too high; second was too fast, but landed on the third attempt with thirty feet to spare. Capt Reeves immediately ordered him onto the Bridge where he pinned US Wings onto his tunic.
DT remembers sailing down the Clyde. It didn’t look as though it was big enough to carry them and they churned up mud all the way. All along he saw people come out to watch – they were cheering and waving. They tied up at the dock – lots of men and boys gathered beneath them waiting to be thrown gum and candy bars and so on. Thought England seemed to be in a pretty bad way. One night he got liberty so he and a friend went into Glasgow. There was a black-out, which he wasn’t used to, so they couldn’t see much. Met two girls in a bar and went to see a film with them. Afterwards they wandered around in the dark looking for somewhere to eat – eventually had fish and chips. One of the girls told him she was desperate to leave Britain – she was already married to an Australian and vowed that once the war was over she would either go to Australia or the States. DT got the impression she didn’t care who she married as long as he enabled her to get away.
Later the Wasp was sunk at Guadalcanal. DT on the ship at the time and was rescued. He felt fairly calm about it all at the time, but later, once he was safe and had had a chance to relax he began to shake. This lasted fifteen minutes then he was fine. Otherwise can’t really remember feeling frightened at all – feels more frightened now just thinking about what he went through.
DT left the Navy in 1946 and then joined the Federal Reserve – he finally retired from that in 1983 as a Master Chief Petty Officer. He married a girl from Minneapolis and that’s where he still lives.
He’s very proud of his time on the Wasp. He’s happy to talk about it as it was a pretty big part of his life.