WILLIAM H. WILSON, ENS, USN
William Wilson '60
Date of birth: October 5, 1935
Date of death: April 26, 1961
From the 1960 Lucky Bag:
Bill Wilson, while standing OOD watch aboard USS Redfin (SS 272), was swept overboard at 1830 on 26 April . Bill was attempting to visually identify a radar contact when a 15-foot wave struck the boat tossing him over the side. The man-overboard alarm was given immediately and a rain squall at sunset added to the confusion. Bill was evidently knocked unconscious for he was spotted in the water making no attempt to swim. All that was found after a lengthy search was Bill’s foul weather jacket.
Bill joined the Navy in 1953 and later went on to get his dolphins as a whitehat. He came to the Academy from NAPS with three years of service behind him. His friends will testify that he was a highly motivated sailor-he wanted nothing but sea duty. Bill leaves a widow and a little girl surviving him. SHIPMATE, June-July 1961
I don’t know if anyone else has sent anything in about how Willie Wilson lost his life, but I was there so I’ll try. Willie and I were in the same submarine school class. Our class was the first class to go to sub school straight from the Academy since the end of World War II. After graduation, we were both assigned to USS Redfin (SS 272) and reported to the ship in an interim dry docking in January 1961 (wow, was it cold inspecting the ballast tanks). Willie and I qualified as OOD Underway in March. We were coming back from an underway training exercise near Bermuda when Willie was lost overboard. I was relieved as OOD by Willie at 1600. The seas were moderate with long rollers coming from the port quarter. About two hours later the ship took a heavy roll to starboard. Almost immediately, the lookout announced "Man overboard" on the IMC - it was Willie. The XO got to the bridge first and caught one glimpse of Willie and then he sank from view. We searched for 36 hours without success. Upon return to port, a memorial service was held in the chapel at the Naval Base in Norfolk. That’s about it. Willie’s wife and I did not keep in contact after I left Redfin. Gary Cogdell, 7th Co 30th Year Book
From an email on May 7, 2018:
I was in the forward torpedo room sitting around talking to several shipmates when suddenly the submarine Redfin took a roll to starboard. I was sitting on a five gallon bucket that had been converted to seat. The roll threw me from my seat. As I was recovering from the deck, Over the 1-MC came the dreaded announcement, "Man overboard stb't side" . All hands sprung into action. I made my way to the bridge to provide another pair of eyes. On the way to the bridge I overheard someone saying Mister Wilson was washed overboard. The bridge was nothing more than a lot of professional activity. The officer of the deck was conducting the necessary maneuvers as every one else was looking for Mister Wilson. The quartermaster in conning was marking and plotting courses to insure that no where on this part of the ocean would go unsearched. It seemed darkness came to fast and of course impaired the search. It was ill fate that Mister Wilson was not recovered. The submarine Redfin housed a stunned and broken hearted crew. The search continued through the night and the next day to no avail. When finally what everyone dreaded to hear, the search was suspended and we were underway to Norfolk, our home port.
On a personal basis, I had come to know Mister Wilson as a very congenial individual. He had a positive attitude and all the traits of a great Naval officer. He seemed to have time to chat when he came to the torpedo room for one reason or another. Mister Wilson rapidly gained the respect of the enlisted personnel during the short period he was onboard. He had a constant military bearing about himself. I would always go to the bridge after meals and when Mister Wilson had the bridge, I always enjoyed conversations with him. I went on to retire from the Navy and served in combat in country Vietnam. In the saddest corner of my heart I will always have a place for William H. Wilson, Ens. U.S. Navy James H. Gradeless, TM1 (SS)
On March 31, 2018, Billy's sister, Sharron, provided the pictures below and additional family information. His wife, pictured, is Eva; their daughter, born one month before Billy's loss, is Dana. Billy's father was a Chief Petty Officer and served in both world wars.