Our curatorial and collections team is always eager to acquire new artifacts and archival material, but we are fascinated when the item’s primary purpose is to reveal detailed information about its original owner. Like personal diaries, aviator flight log books can teach us about an aviator’s entire flight career and the various planes he flew. We are fortunate to have a few examples of these books in our archives collection, many of which have proven to be excellent research tools.
Before the outbreak of World War II, US Navy aircrew members were issued flight log books and were required to record the details of each flight. Data they needed to log included the following: date of flight, type of plane, plane’s bureau number, duration of flight, purpose of flight, name of pilot, name of any passengers, and any noteworthy remarks concerning the flight. At the end of each month, a superior officer would total the number of flight hours and the log book would receive a stamp of approval. Ultimately, the log book became an extension of the aviator’s flight resume.
Bill Ziemer’s and Edward Ritter’s flight log books
Most of the log books in the Museum’s collections were recorded during the Second World War, three of them by members of fighter squadron VF-18. One of our more recent artifact donations consisted of William “Bill” Ziemer’s flight log book. His detailed log begins in 1942 with his flight training at the Naval Reserve Air Base in Norman, OK, where he primarily flew biplanes. Before VF-18 was attached to Intrepid, Bill and his fellow aviators completed more combat training exercises on F4F Wildcats and F6F Hellcats at Pearl Harbor. During Bill’s time off, he logged several hours of recreational flight as well. On one occasion he listed one of his younger brothers, “Ziemer, Jr.” as a passenger on an SBD-5. The brothers had enlisted in the Navy and both happened to be stationed at Pearl Harbor, so they attempted to visit one another when time allowed. Another interesting passenger of Bill’s during this period was “Cindy,” a local dog that members of the squadron had befriended.
Ziemer’s log book intensifies when VF-18 boarded Intrepid and made her way into the combat zone. Bill’s daily one- or two-hour flights stretched to three or four hours as he participated in “strikes” and “sweeps” over various islands of the Pacific throughout September and October 1944. On September 13, Ziemer noted in his log that he shot down a Japanese fighter plane known as an “Oscar.” Sadly, Ziemer’s final entry in the log book was dated October 10, 1944. On October 12, VF-18 participated in a strike at the Japanese airfields on Formosa (now Taiwan). His plane was shot down, forcing him to bail out over the airfield. According to one of Ziemer’s brothers, he was immediately captured and later died in a POW camp in August 1945.
Bill Ziemer (on left) and a fellow member of VF-18 at Pearl Harbor, c. 1944
Ziemer’s wingman, Egidio DiBatista, recorded in his log book on the same date in October that he shot down a Japanese bomber known as a “Lily.” He also included in his notes that he bailed out of his Hellcat after it had been shot down. Fortunately, unlike Bill, he was able to make it back to Intrepid. DiBatista’s flight log book is currently on display at the Museum, the page opened to his October 12, 1944 activities.
The final VF-18 log book in our collection was completed by Edward Ritter. One of the most interesting entries in his book is the note he wrote on the opening page: “Original log of flight hours flown from August 1942 to December 1944 was destroyed by explosion and fire due to enemy action – on the U.S.S. Intrepid – at 13:15 25 November 1944.” While Ritter was flying a Hellcat, he apparently left his flight log book in the Ready Room, which was destroyed during this kamikaze attack. Underneath Ritter’s note is a signature of approval from Cecil Harris, who was at that time already one of the Navy’s top aces of World War II.
The stories we can learn from the pages of aviator flight log books are numerous, and we encourage you to check out the one we have on exhibit. As our artifact collections continue to grow, we hope to acquire more log books that span the history of Intrepid’s service, allowing us to learn more about the evolution of flight over the decades.
Britta K. Arendt,