Wiley Bartlett grew up in Lenox, Alabama. His mother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Along with flying numerous missions at Guadalcanal with the squadron’s pilots, including Swede Larsen, Wiley was part of the detachment that dug in alongside the marines to defend the southern perimeter of their line during the battles of October 24-25, 1942.
After contracting a severe case of malaria on Guadalcanal, Bartlett nearly died aboard the Kitty Hawk as it headed home across the Pacific. After convalescent leave, he was assigned to a new composite air squadron.
Shortly after reporting to the carrier Manila Bay, he discovered that Bert Earnest was one of the pilots in the squadron. “You’re going to fly with me,” Bert told him, and Wiley did. Through dozens of missions at Kwajalein, Eniwetok, and Majuro, Wiley flew as Bert’s turret gunner, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals for bravery in action.
In 1944, Wiley became a bombardier on the navy version of the B-24 bomber. Flying out of the Philippines, the squadron flew twelve-hour missions every two days to Japanese targets inside China.
He turned twenty years old as the war ended. Marrying his sweetheart, Rolande, who was then serving in the women’s naval volunteer service, he spent twenty years in the navy, retiring to go to work for the Lockheed Corporation, after which he and Rolande bought and operated a commercial fishing boat in Monterrey, California.
Wiley lives today in Repton, Alabama.