From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Willis Maxson, III '43

Date of birth: March 18, 1920

Date of death: October 8, 1943

Age: 23

Lucky Bag

From the 1943 Lucky Bag:


1943 Maxson 1.jpg

From Together We Served:

On her first war patrol, Skate was assigned to serve as a beacon during American carrier strikes at Wake Island and to rescue any downed aviators. In the first operation of its kind ever carried out, the Skate in three days rescued six U. S. Navy aviators who had been shot down during the air strikes. The submarine was under almost continuous bombardment by shore artillery and was frequently subjected to strafing by enemy aircraft. On October 6th, in the process of one of the rescues, Skate's assistant O.O.D., Lieutenant (jg) Willis E. Maxon III, was strafed while actively assisting in searching for survivors. He died aboard the submarine two days later. On October 7th she rescued two aviators who had been shot down close inshore. They were Lieutenant Harold J. Kicker and Ensign Murray H. Tyler. They became the first two aviators rescued by the Lifeguard League. During the course of World War II, Tyler would be pulled out of the sea three times by American submarines. On October 8th, they rescued a pilot who had been in the water for two days. The same day, three more aviators were saved.

His wife was listed as next of kin.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Willis Edward Maxson, III (NSN: 0-165882), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as Junior Officer of the Watch onboard the U.S.S. SKATE (SS-305), during an attack by a U.S. warship on an enemy base at Wake Island on 7 October 1943 Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Maxson defied extreme danger to remain steadfastly at his post while his ship effected the hazardous rescue of two naval aviators shot down within 5000 yards of the Japanese base. While searching for a third, the vessel was attacked by a Japanese dive-bomber, and was forced to dive to escape. During this action, while braving concentrated fire, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Maxson received a mortal wound. His conduct throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 327 (June 1944)
Action Date: 7-Oct-43
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade
Company: Junior Officer of the Watch
Division: U.S.S. Skate (SS-305)


An article on lifeguard operations from submarines mentions Willis.

Class of 1943

Willis is one of 83 members of the Class of 1943 on Virtual Memorial Hall.