Radarman 3/c | United States Navy
After patrolling along the coast of Newfoundland, the crew of the U.S.S. Ellyson welcomed Bill Solinger aboard on March 29, 1943 and reported for duty with the British Home Fleet along with the South Dakota. His rate of radarman, a new addition to Navy ratings, was established after the technology became available and adopted aboard many vessels and had a future as one of the most valuable assets for the allies in the war. Months of vital sea service ensued from Iceland to Murmansk and the Firth and Forth chasing submarines and luring the German battleship Tirpitz from her Baltic burrow, all before a mock invasion of Norway to divert German attention from the invasion of Sicily. On the trip back to Iceland, an ice floe gouged a gaping 4x20 foot hole in the Ellyson’s bow which the Seabees quickly repaired at Hvalfiord. For shakedown of the battleship Iowa, the Ellyson returned to the United States and sailed to Argentina and back north to Newfoundland before turning across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean theater in October.
In mid-May, the Ellyson was in pursuit of U-616, a submarine chase that became the longest and most persistent in history. Several decoy balloons plotted false blips on the radar teams’ readouts that confused and prolonged the 72-hour hunt across the jeweled Mediterranean, ultimately ending in a spectacular surface engagement and capture of thirty survivors.
Showing remarkable prowess for shore bombardment, the Ellyson was selected to support the Army Rangers at Pointe du Hoc with the Western Task Force during the invasion of Normandy. Escorted by the U.S.S. Maloy among others, it was here that she was fired on for the first time when several German shells splashed nearby or shrieked through her superstructure. By late June, she was among Task Force 129 bombarding Cherbourg, which included both the U.S.S. Maloy and H.M.S. Glasgow. Ellyson was credited with knocking out two guns, sinking mines, and laying smoke for the Texas, Quincy and Glasgow during what was considered the most perilous and magnificent of bombardments.
The Ellyson went around the Iberian Peninsula to support the invasion of Southern France where she led the Destroyer Fire Support Group in crushing shore batteries, tanks, infantry and machinegun emplacements, opening the beaches for assault forces. It was the last European event for Solinger and with the Ellyson returned to the United States where she was converted to a destroyer minesweeper. On November 20, the young radarman departed his beloved crew on the destroyer and joined the U.S.S. Mona Island, a newly commissioned repair ship that inched her way into the Pacific theater by spring 1945 to await the invasion of Okinawa.
She serviced the mine flotilla during the invasion, and while the ship was not an aggressive destroyer like the Ellyson, Solinger was not short of excitement and anxiety as the Mona Island suffered innumerable air attacked during the three months of anchor at Kerama Retto. After moving to Buckner Bay and seeing the end of the war in the Pacific, the greatest threat to the crew were the vicious typhoons that frequently whisked through the area. Only one affected the Bay area but did not damage the ship despite aggressive winds in which she veered chain and had to power against the storm to ease the strain on the cable. Three days after this typhoon, Solinger left the ship and sailed for the United States for his discharge from the service. After multiple historic amphibious invasions and service in two theaters across massive expanses of sea, William left life in a tin can for his humble home in Rhode Island.
Solinger, Miriam. “William Solinger.” WWII Memorial, www.wwiimemorial.com/Registry/plaque.aspx?honoreeID=1438510.
Clark, E. Leonard. “A History of the USS Ellyson (‘Elly Mae’), DD 454, DMS 19.” Destroyer History Foundation, 1985, destroyerhistory.org/benson-gleavesclass/ussellyson/index.asp?r=45400.
USS Ellyson, War History, 1945.