Veterans' Memorial Project

Joseph Metcalf Hissem
Mt. Carroll, IL

Photo of Joseph Metcalf Hissem

World War II

College: Applied Life Studies
Graduation Year: 1939
Service branch: Navy
Rank: Ensign
Date of Birth: 12/31/1917
Date of Death: 6/4/1942

Sigma Phi Epsilon; Freshman Varsity Football Squad

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Joseph Metcalf Hissem enlisted in the Naval Reserve January 9, 1941. Following flight training, he was appointed Ensign August 30, 1941. Though he was assigned to a patrol squadron in Hawaii, Ensign Hissem volunteered for temporary duty with Torpedo Squadron 8. Thus he found himself at a turning point in history, the Battle of Midway, June 4-5, 1942. Ensign Hissem was not on board the Hornet at this time but had volunteered to fly in new TBF-1 "Avenger" torpedo bombers being delivered to Midway one day after the Hornet had sailed from Pearl Harbor. Five of the six TBFs were lost while attacking the Japanese fleet, taking off from Midway on the morning of June 4. Ensign Hissem was in one of the five planes downed by Japanese Zero fighters. In the first attack in the pivotal battle between carrier fleets, Hissem and his squadron took off from the Hornet, and without fighter protection, pressed home an attack on the Japanese carriers. Enduring a withering fire, the aircraft maintained the offensive until all were shot down. Although no ships were sunk in the gallant attack, they diverted air cover and forced a re-arming of Japanese planes, which brought victory for the U.S. fleet. Ensign Hissem was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his heroism. He is listed Missing in Action or Buried at Sea on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial Cemetery, Honolulu, Hawaii.
The U.S. Navy honored the memory of Ensign Hissem by naming the destroyer escort, USS HISSEM (DE 400) in his memory. It was launched by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Texas, December 26, 1943; sponsored by Miss Elizabeth D. Hissem, sister of Ensign Hissem and commissioned January 13, 1944. USS HISSEM was awarded a battle star for combat service in World War II. The ship was struck from the Navy list in 1975. The ship's bell was given to the city of Mt. Carrol, Illinois, where Ensign Hissem was born.

- Taken from the Division of Naval History, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships and information submitted by Ron Rands