WILLIAM D. SAMPLE, RADM, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Sample '19

Date of birth: March 9, 1898

Date of death: October 2, 1945

Age: 47

Lucky Bag

From the 1919 Lucky Bag:

The Class of 1919 was graduated on June 6, 1918 due to World War I. The entirety of 2nd class (junior) year was removed from the curriculum.

Loss

William was lost on October 2, 1945 when the seaplane he was aboard crashed on Honshu, Japan. He was Commander, Carrier Division 22.

There is more on the flight and search operations. The wreckage wasn't located until November 1948.

Biography

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William as a CDR, circa 1941

From Wikipedia:

William Dodge Sample (9 March 1898 – 2 October 1945) was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and an Escort Carrier Division commander in World War II. He was the youngest rear admiral in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II.

Sample was born in Buffalo, New York and graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in June 1918.

During World War I, Sample served aboard the transport Henderson. For meritorious service during a fire onboard Henderson, he received a letter of commendation from the Secretary of the Navy. Detached in August 1918, he served on several destroyers based at Queenstown, Ireland. He remained in the European Waters Detachment after the end of World War I.

In December 1921, Sample was transferred to the gunboat Pampanga in the Asiatic Fleet.

Sample attended flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida and was designated a Naval Aviator on 23 June 1923. Shortly thereafter, he served as Commanding Officer of Scouting Squadron VS-1. In the 1920s, he successively served in the Aviation Departments of the light cruisers Raleigh and Richmond, and battleships Arizona and New York.

Sample served on board the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Lexington, commanding Fighter Squadron VF-5 on the latter from 1932-1934. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Sample saw duty at the Bureau of Aeronautics from 1935-1937 followed by duty as Navigator on Ranger in 1938. In 1939, Sample was assigned as Air Operations Officer on Yorktown. His last duty before World War II was as Supervisor of Aviation Training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.

At the outbreak of World War II, he assisted in the conversion of the oil tanker Santee into an escort carrier. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Commander. Assuming command of Santee on her commissioning, he was awarded a letter of commendation for service during Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa).

Captain Sample assumed command of Intrepid on 19 April 1944. In May 1944, he was transferred to serve as Commanding Officer of Hornet and in the ensuing months participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and a strike against the Volcano Islands.

In late summer 1944, Sample was promoted to Rear Admiral, flying his flag aboard the escort carrier Marcus Island as Commander, Carrier Division 27 (CarDiv 27), for the invasion of Palau. In October 1944, at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, his CarDiv 27 was part of Task Unit 77.4.2 (TU 77.4.2, otherwise known as Taffy II) at the Battle off Samar under Rear Admiral Felix B. Stump. In early 1945, Commander, CarDiv 27, and Marcus Island supported the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf, Philippines. For the Invasion of Okinawa, Sample moved his flag to CarDiv 22 and Suwannee.

During the Leyte invasion, Rear Admiral Sample "desired a better view of operations" and decided to hitch a ride in a torpedo bomber. He lay in the "tunnel gun" position and observed through the window below the tail. The plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. Sample was severely cut on the head and shoulders. James C. Edinger, ARM3c, USNR, of Foxburg, Pennsylvania, came down from the "blister" where he was manning a .50 in (13 mm) machine gun, and applied first aid. Edinger said that it took them more than an hour to return to Marcus Island, during which he kept kicking Sample in the face with his foot to keep the Admiral from passing out. Sample was a big man: Edinger was afraid that if they ended up in the water, he wouldn't be able to get him out of the plane. Each time Sample would warn Edinger to make sure the .30 cal machine gun in the tail was empty. He was afraid that when they landed the gun would go off. Later, Sample explained to Edinger that he could see the headlines in the paper, "Admiral lands upon carrier: shoots hole in deck". According to the ship's surgeon, Commander Lee, "the excellence of Edinger's treatment helped prevent infection". Admiral Sample was awarded the Purple Heart, and at Sample's request, Edinger was promoted to Aviation Radio Man, Second Class.

On 2 October 1945, shortly after the war ended, Sample was listed as missing after his Martin PBM Mariner aircraft failed to return from a familiarization flight near Wakayama, Japan. Rear Admiral Sample was officially declared dead on 3 October 1946.

The remains of Sample, Capt. Charles C. McDonald of Suwannee (CVE-27), and the seven members of the flight crew were discovered in the wreckage of the aircraft on 19 November 1948, recovered, and returned to the United States to be interred together at Arlington National Cemetery on 17 May 1949.

William was survived by his wife, Mary Lee, and daughter, Carolyn. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Rear Admiral [then Captain] William Dodge Sample, United States Navy, was awarded the Legion of Merit (Posthumously) for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. HORNET (CV-12), on 20 June 1944.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 362 (April 1947)
Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Hornet (CV-12)

Namesake

USS Sample (FF 1048) was named for William; the ship was sponsored by his daughter.

Related Articles

Charles McDonald '24 was also lost in this crash.


Class of 1919

William is one of 11 members of the Class of 1919 in Memorial Hall.