From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Graham, Jr. '25

Date of birth: February 18, 1903

Date of death: August 9, 1942

Age: 39

Lucky Bag

From the 1925 Lucky Bag:


William was lost on August 9, 1942, when USS Jarvis (DD 393) was sunk by Japanese aircraft near Guadalcanal. He was the ship's commanding officer.

His wife was listed as next of kin.


From the February, 1950 issue of U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings:

To Lieutenant Commander William W. Graham, 39-year-old skipper of the Jarvis, fell the heaviest burden in meeting the crisis [of being torpedoed on August 8, 1942, during an arial attack during the invasion of Guadalcanal]. Graham was a quiet, competent, and personable officer who kept a huge store of nervous energy visible, but under control until it was needed. He had taken command only two months previously when his predecessor suffered appendicitis. Yet during that time he had won the loyalty and confidence of the veteran crew. When the Jarvis was hit while maneuvering during the air attack, many of the men believed their skipper had unselfishly interposed his ship in the way of the torpedo so as to save the more valuable Vincennes.

A torpedo hit followed by extensive flooding and fierce fire puts a 1500-ton ship in serious peril, and during the few seconds of terror and confusion after the disaster, somebody passed the word, "Abandon Ship." Accustomed to obedience, many did not question the authenticity of the order and lowered boats, life rafts, and preservers into the water. But the captain, despite his station almost over the explosion, never considered leaving his lady in distress. Aided by subordinates, he led his men in gallant and effective efforts. They put out the fire which raged forward, patched up the engineering plant, and jettisoned torpedoes which threatened to overturn the ship. The destroyer Dewey came alongside and towed the Jarvis to a shallow-water anchorage near the Guadalcanal landing beaches. Nobody took time to retrieve the boats and life rafts. Admiral Turner's flagship MacCawley loaned the stricken ship thirty men to help make temporary repairs. Graham didn't need them. Urged on by the captain's example, Chief Pharmacist's Mate George W. Head ignored his own painful burns to help other wounded sailors. Fourteen men were missing; seven others wounded; the seven were transferred to the MacCawley.

Class of 1925

William is one of 30 members of the Class of 1925 on Virtual Memorial Hall.