Born in Drummonds, Tenn., 30 April 1916, William Finnic Cates enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve 21 January 1942. While serving as Seaman Second Class in San Francisco (CA-38), Cates was killed in action 12 November 1942 when a Japanese torpedo plane, which he kept under fire while refusing to leave his station, crashed aboard the ship. For this heroism, he received the Navy Cross posthumously.
(DE-763: dp. 1,240; l. 306'; b. 36'8"; dr. 11'8"; s. 21 k.; cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 3 21" tt, 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Cannon)
Cates (DE-763) was launched 10 October 1943 by Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Inc., Tampa, Fla.; sponsored by Mrs. P. Dyer; commissioned 15 December 1943, Lieutenant G. A. Prouse, USNR, in command; and reported to the Atlantic Fleet.
Between 27 February and 1 May 1944, Cates guarded two convoys carrying American troops to ports in Ireland and Wales in the lengthy preparations for the Normandy Invasion. Overcoming the threat of submarine attack and the everpresent hazards of vicious North Atlantic weather, she aided in the completely safe passage of critically needed men.
After a brief period training with submarines from New London, Conn., Cates completed 1944 with five convoy voyages from New York to ports in Ireland, Great Britain, and France escorting tankers, carrying critical petroleum products to support the push of the Allies across Europe. Cates opened 1945 with a brief training period in Casco Bay, Maine, then a return to tanker convoy duty from Boston to Scotland, returning to New York 18 February. Two weeks later she sailed in the escort of another convoy, but had to break off and return to Earle, New Jersey, for repairs, followed by refresher training in Casco Bay. This training became most realistic when Cates took part in a 2%-week antisubmarine sweep along the northeast coast. She returned to New York 20 April, and sailed 4 days later escorting tankers to Liverpool.
Returning to New York with empty tankers 23 May 1945, Cates sailed on to training in Cuban waters, passed through the Panama Canal, and arrived at Pearl Harbor 31 July for training and overhaul. Arriving at Eniwetok 30 August, she began 6 months of convoy escort supporting the redeployment of troops in the Far East, calling at ports in the Philippines, Japan, and Okinawa until 18 February 1946, when she cleared for San Pedro, Calif., Norfolk, Va., and Green Cove Springs, Fla. She arrived at the latter port 22 April for duty training reservists until 28 March 1947, when she was decommissioned there. Cates was transferred to France under the Military Assistance Program on 11 November 1950. She serves in the French Navy as Soudanais.