ROBERT D. WILLIAMS, ENS, USN
Robert Williams '45
Date of birth: February 17, 1922
Date of death: May 18, 1945
From the 1945 Lucky Bag:
On the morning of 18 May 1945, following a grueling four-day period of fire support, Longshaw, en route to her patrol area, ran aground on a coral reef just south of Naha airfield, at 0719. Other attempts to free her failing, tug Arikara (ATF-98) arrived at 0945. At 1000, tug's skipper, Lieutenant John Aikin, and Radioman First Class James J Zikus, boarded to arrange recovery and communications. Towing commenced at 1100. At 1101, Japanese shore batteries opened up, hitting the water between Arikari and Longshaw. The stranded destroyer attempted to fight back as best she could; but, as she opened fire, her bow was completely blown off by a hit in the forward magazine. When efforts to save her appeared hopeless, the order "Abandon Ship" was relayed by word of mouth from the bridge. At 1105, all hands on the bridge were killed, injured, or stunned; the Longshaw's skipper, Lieutenant Commander Clarence William Becker, was reportedly there, mortally wounded, along with Radioman Zikus of the Ariaka. At 1115, the abandon ship order reached the aft fire room and engine room.
About 1200, LCI(L)-356 came alongside to remove all wounded. The ship was burning, shells were exploding in their magazines, and the decks were hot enough to cause burns; many in the rescue party were awarded medals.
The casualties included 86 dead or missing, including the skipper. (The missing were later declared dead.) In addition to the dead and missing, 95 crew members were wounded, and 113 crew members survived the sinking.
Later in the afternoon, Longshaw, battered beyond salvaging, was destroyed by gunfire and torpedoes from U.S. ships.
Robert’s body was not recovered. He was survived by his grandmother.
Burton Brown '45 was also in 4th Company.