WILLIAM J. AYERS, LT, USN
William Ayers '43
Date of birth: October 4, 1919
Date of death: September 26, 1945
From the 1943 Lucky Bag:
William was lost on September 26, 1945 when his airplane crashed "eight miles south of New Smyrna, Fla." (Information from September 1946 issue of Shipmate.)
He is buried in California.
From the Fresno Bee on October 3, 1945:
COALINGA (Fresno Co.), Oct, 3.—The body of Lieutenant William Judson Ayers, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clifford S. Ayers, killed in an airplane crash neat Orlando, Fla. last Wednesday, while on a routine flight, was to arrive in Coalinga today and services will be held in the Baptist Church here tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. Military rites will be held at the graveside in the Grangeville Cemetery, where the internment will be in the family plot.
The body was accompanied here by a navy escort under the command of Lieutenant John Tyler Shepard, who was Ayers' roommate at Annapolis, graduating in the same class, and the two serving almost continuously together in the war operations since 1942.
Widow In Coalinga
The young naval officer's widow, the former Echo Jensen, formerly a United Air Lines hostess, who resided in San Mateo with the couple’s 2 month old daughter, Margo, arrived here Sunday morning, having flown from Orlando to Fresno.
Avers had started on a routine training flight in 4F4 navy fighter plane from the Orlando field at about 7:30 o'clock in the evening. At an altitude of about 2.000 feet, his engine failed and, after making several attempts to start it, he radioed in his difficulties and said he was going to bail out.
A companion flyer was near him and followed the plane down. Ayers had bailed out but apparently his parachute did not open in time to break the force of his drop. He was killed instantly.
Went To Annapolis
Avers was a graduate of the Coalinga High School and attended the University of California far two years, entering the naval academy at Annapolis through a competitive examination in 1939. He was graduated with the class of 1942 and was assigned to destroyer duty, being transferred to aviation in June of last year. He had only a few weeks more to complete his training.
The destroyer mentioned was USS Kalk (DD 611), though it's not clear when he served aboard.
From the Class of 1943 anniversary book "25 years later…":
Bill was born in Coalinga, California on 4 October 1919 and appointed to the Naval Academy on 21 June 1939. After graduation in June 1942, he attended a number of short schools, served in the USS KALK and the USS PORTERFIELD in both of which he saw combat action in the Pacific. He entered flight training in January 1944. He served at the Naval Air Stations, Dallas Texas; Pensacola, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; and Sanford, Florida. It was at NAS, Sanford that he lost his life in an aircraft crash eight miles south of New Smyrna, Florida on 26 September 1945. Bill's decorations included the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal (Fleet Clasp), American Area Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with three bronze stars and the WWII Victory Medal. He was survived by his wife Echo Jansen and their daughter Margo who at Bill's death resided at Lincoln Apartments, Winter Park, Florida.