WILLIAM E. HANK, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Hank '25

Date of birth: September 25, 1902

Date of death: November 13, 1942

Age: 40

Lucky Bag

From the 1925 Lucky Bag:

Loss

William was lost on November 13, 1942 when USS Laffey (DD 459) was sunk by Japanese surface gunfire and torpedoes during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He had been the commanding officer since the ship was commissioned on March 31, 1942.

Laffey was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for this action, which included a near-collision with the Japanese flagship, a battleship, and the wounding of the Japanese task force commander with machine gun fire. In August he and Laffey rescued survivors of USS Wasp (CV 7).

His wife, Claribel, was listed as next of kin. He has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery.

Career

From Destroyer History: "Before World War II, he served at various shore stations and in New York, Hull (DD 350) and Saratoga."

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander William Edwin Hank (NSN: 0-59695), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), during action against enemy Japanese naval forces off Savo Island during the Battle of Cape Esperance on the night of 11 - 12 October 1942. Boldly engaging a Japanese force of two destroyers and a cruiser, Lieutenant Commander Hank, despite his extremely hazardous position in a leading group and the terrific fire of the enemy, fought his ship with devastating effect upon the opposing vessels. Directing the fire of his guns with cool and daring accuracy, he enabled the LAFFEY to sink one hostile destroyer, to damage another, and to assist in the sinking of a cruiser. By his indomitable fighting spirit, expert seamanship, and gallant devotion to duty, he contributed largely to the success of the battle and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Laffey (DD-459)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander William Edwin Hank (NSN: 0-59695), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), during an engagement with Japanese naval forces near Savo Island on the night of 12 - 13 November, 1942. On this occasion the force to which Lieutenant Commander Hank was attached engaged at close quarters and defeated a superior enemy force, inflicting heavy damage upon them and preventing the accomplishment of their intended mission. This daring and intrepid attack, brilliantly executed, led to a great victory for his country's forces. By his indomitable fighting spirit, expert seamanship, and gallant devotion to duty, Lieutenant Commander Hank contributed largely to the success of the battle and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Laffey (DD-459)
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 320 (November 1943)

Namesake

USS Hank (DD 702) was named for William; the ship was sponsored by his widow.


Class of 1925

William is one of 29 members of the Class of 1925 in Memorial Hall.