WILLIAM C. WILLIAMSON, JR., LTJG, USN
William Williamson, Jr. '41
Date of birth: August 29, 1919
Date of death: August 24, 1942
From the 1941 Lucky Bag:
Loss and Tribute
From Bucks County Courier Times on November 11, 2013:
Father erected Doylestown tribute to son killed in WWII
At 5:14 p.m. on Aug. 24, 1942, a wave of 30 Japanese dive bombers launched an attack on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, part of an American naval force invading the Japanese-held Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, about 800 miles east of New Guinea.
While more than half of the Japanese planes were shot down by American fighter planes and anti-aircraft fire from the Enterprise, some got through and dropped their bombs.
The first bomb slammed into the flight deck, plunged through five decks and exploded, killing 35 sailors instantly and causing extensive damage. In the next two minutes, the ship was hit by a second bomb, which detonated and killed more men; and a then third bomb, which failed to explode but still resulted in casualties.
By the time the attackers were repulsed in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 74 sailors on the Enterprise had been killed and 91 wounded. The dead were buried at sea.
One of the fatalities was a 23-year-old lieutenant from Philadelphia, William C. Williamson Jr., who had joined the Navy in 1941. Since 1956, an American flag in his memory has flown next to the former Swartzlander Community House at South Main Street and East Oakland Avenue in Doylestown.
“A new 30-foot aluminum flagpole, with the American flag attached, was erected yesterday on the lawn of the home, facing Main Street,” The Daily Intelligencer reported on Nov. 29, 1956. A bronze plaque was placed at the base of the pole, inscribed: “In memory of Lt. j.g. [junior grade] Wm. C. Williamson, U.S.N. Killed in action Aug. 24, 1942, on board U.S.S. Enterprise.”
The pole was donated by the late officer’s father, William C. Williamson, a retired banker living in Fountainville, according to the brief front-page article, which did not include comments from the donor or anyone else.
The elder Williamson, who died in 1976 at age 85, was a Navy veteran of World War I and II, according to his obituary in the Intelligencer. He lived in the Oak Lane section of Philadelphia in the early 1940s and later moved to West Wind Farm in Plumstead, although the obituary didn’t say when.
Williamson had been a board member of the Bucks County chapter of the American Red Cross, which for many years was located in the Swartzlander Community House.
Built around 1800 by Josiah Y. Shaw, the fieldstone dwelling in 1910 became the home and office of Dr. Joseph R. Swartzlander, who died in 1925. His widow, Rebecca Hart Swartzlander, died in 1947 and left the house to a trust for use by community organizations. The building was purchased in 2010 by Edison Court, which provides behavioral health services.
Jay Deppeler, a principal in Edison Court, said he didn’t know the story behind the flagpole and memorial plaque until now.
“That makes it even more special to me,” he said.
“I’m the keeper of the flag,” Deppeler added, making sure it’s in good condition and is lit by floodlights at night. “It’s labor of love and respect. I’m proud to be able to do it.”
Dan Fraley, director of the Bucks County Department of Military Affairs, said many World War II monuments in the county were erected by veterans’ organizations, but the flagpole represents a “nice tribute” from a private citizen.
“You’d expect a father to want to do something like that. He had the ability to do something and he did it,” Fraley said. It is fitting for Lt. Williamson to be honored in Doylestown even if he wasn’t from Bucks County,
“It doesn’t make any difference. When someone is killed in action, people don’t care where he’s from,” he said.
Despite the casualties and damage aboard the Enterprise, the U.S. Navy defeated the Japanese forces in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
The Enterprise was repaired at Pearl Harbor and returned to duty, participating in Pacific naval campaigns until it was damaged by a Japanese kamikaze attack in May 1945. The carrier, affectionately called the “Big E,” was the most decorated ship of the Second World War.
After the war, the Enterprise was decommissioned. In 1958, she was sold for scrap.
He had only reported aboard three days earlier, on August 21, 1942.