Powell, William Thomas, GM2c

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Last Rank
Gunner's Mate 2nd Class
Last Primary NEC
GM-0000-Gunner's Mate
Last Rating/NEC Group
Gunner's Mate
Primary Unit
1941-1942, GM-0000, USS San Francisco (CA-38)
Service Years
1939 - 1942
GM-Gunner's Mate

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Home State
Year of Birth
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Casualty Info
Home Town
Cincinnati, Ohio
Last Address
Not Specified

Casualty Date
Nov 12, 1942
Hostile, Died of Wounds
Artillery, Rocket, Mortar
Not Specified
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

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 Military Association Memberships
World War II Fallen
  1942, World War II Fallen [Verified]

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 Duty Stations
US Navy
  1941-1942, GM-0000, USS San Francisco (CA-38)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Attack on Pearl Harbor
  1941-1941 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Battle of Wake Island
  1942-1942 Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)/Cape Esperance (Second Savo)
  1942-1942 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Bombardment - Marshall and Gilbert Islands
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
GM 2/c William T. Powell  
William Thomas Powell—born on 3 October 1918 in Cincinnati, Ohio—enlisted in the Navy on 4 October 1939 and received training at the Naval Training Station, Newport, R.I., before reporting to the heavy cruiser San Francisco (CA-38)—then a unit of the Atlantic Fleet's Neutrality Patrol—on 17 December 1939, at Norfolk, Va.  

He advanced through the ranks to attain the rating of gunner's mate, 2d class, on 1 April 1942. San Francisco, while Powell served in her, took part in the war in the Pacific from the outset. The ship lay at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941 and participated in the ensuing operations: the abortive relief expedition to Wake Island; screening Task Force (TF) 17 during the Marshalls-Gilberts raids and Lexington (CV-2) in TF 11 during the raid on Rabaul.  

San Francisco also took part in the initial American offensive in the South Pacific—the invasion of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal remained a bitter battleground from August 1942 to February 1943, and history records the many sharp battles fought in the hotly contested waters of the Solomons. On 12 November 1942, a large formation of Japanese bombers— twin-engined "Betties"—attacked a formation of American transports off Lunga Point. With ample warning, the vital ships got underway, screened by destroyers and cruisers—San Francisco included, and the intense antiaircraft fire and superb seamanship on the part of the Americans prevented the enemy from successfully pressing home his attack.  

The victory had not been achieved without cost, however, as an already-damaged "Betty" loosed her torpedo off San Francisco's starboard quarter. The "fish" passed alongside, but the plane crashed into San Francisco's after control station. Gunner's Mate Powell was manning a 20-millimeter Oerlikon on the gun platform at the time. He courageously refused to abandon his post in the face of the oncoming plane, and with cool determination and utter disregard for his own personal safety, maintained a steady fire on the crippled "Betty" until she hit nearby, killing Powell in the fiery explosion that engulfed his position. Fifteen men, including the cruiser's executive officer, were killed and 29 wounded.  

For his perseverance and relentless devotion to duty, Gunner's Mate 2d Class Powell received the Purple Heart and Navy Cross posthumously. He also received, posthumously, the Presidential Unit Citation awarded San Francisco for her performance at the Battle of Cape Esperance and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

USS William T. Powell, DE-213
William T. Powell Training Facility in San Diego, California.
Awarded posthumously for actions during World War II  
Gunner's Mate Second Class William Thomas Powell, U.S.N.

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Gunner's Mate Second Class William Thomas Powell, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action against the enemy while serving as a Gunner aboard the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), during an engagement against enemy Japanese naval forces near Savo Island in the Solomons on the night of on November 12 and 13 1942. Courageously refusing to abandon his gun in the face of an onrushing Japanese torpedo plane, Gunner's Mate Second Class Powell, with cool determination and utter disregard for his own personal safety, kept blazing away until the hostile craft plunged out of the sky in a flaming dive and crashed on his station. His grim perseverance and relentless devotion to duty in the face of certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Action Date: November 12 - 13, 1942  
Service: Navy  
Rank: Gunner's Mate Second Class  
Division: U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38)  
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