John Poster Williams—born on 12 October 1743 at Boston, Mass.—was appointed a captain in the Navy of Massachusetts and received command of the brig Hazard late in 1777. In the following year, he took her to sea in a fruitless search for British West Indiamen; but he and his ship eventually achieved success in 1779. While cruising in the West Indies, Hazard fell in with the privateer brigantine Active on 16 March. At the end of a "smart action" of 35-minutes' duration, "yard arm to yard arm," Active struck her colors and became Hazard's prize, after having suffered 13 killed and 20 wounded out of her 95-man crew. Hazard sent the captured brigantine back to Massachusetts under a prize crew and subsequently returned home in April, after taking several other prizes.
In May, Hazard returned to sea, this time in company with the brig Tyrannicide. At 0830 on 15 June, the two ships fell in with two British ships and—after a short, sharp engagement—forced both enemy vessels to strike their colors. Later that summer, Hazard—like the rest of the Massachusetts Navy—took part in the ill-fated Penobscot expedition, an operation which eventually cost the state's navy all of its commissioned vessels.
Williams received command of the new 26-gun frigate Protector in the spring of 1780 and took her to sea in June. In accordance with instructions from the Board of War, the new warship cruised in the vicinity of the Newfoundland Banks, on the lookout for British merchantmen. Her vigilance was rewarded early in June.
At 0700 on 9 June 1780, Protector spotted a strange ship bearing down on her, flying British colors. At 1100, the Continental frigate, also flying English colors, hailed the stranger and found her to be the 32-gun letter-of-marque Admiral Duff, bound for London from St. Kitts. When the enemy's identity had been ascertained, Protector hauled down British colors and ran up the Continental flag—opening fire almost simultaneously. The action ensued for the next hour and one-half, until Admiral Duff caught fire and exploded, leaving 55 survivors for Protector to rescue soon thereafter.
With the coming of peace, Williams returned to his native Boston and died there on 24 June 1814.
George Washington Williams—born in Yorkville, S.C., on 30 July 1869—graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1890. He served the required two years of sea duty in Pensacola, before he was commissioned an ensign on 1 July 1892.
Williams served in a succession of sea and shore billets through the turn of the century: the former in Essex, Columbia, Yankee, Buffalo, Panther, Richmond, and Monongahela ; the latter at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. In addition, he served on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, in 1899 and commanded the torpedo boat Bainbridge in 1903 before commanding the 1st Torpedo Boat Flotilla. Reporting to Wisconsin (Battleship No. 9) on 5 April 1905, Williams subsequently joined the protected cruiser Chicago for a tour of duty which included participating in relief efforts at San Francisco, Calif., in the wake of the destructive earthquake and fire which destroyed much of that city.
In the years immediately preceding World War I, Williams served as ordnance officer in Montana (Armored Cruiser No. 13); commander of the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet; Inspector of Ordnance in Charge at the Naval Torpedo Station; commanding officer of the cruiser Cleveland and later of battleship Oregon, before he assumed command of Pueblo (Armored Cruiser No. 7) on 29 April 1917.
Williams—by that time a captain—was awarded the Navy Cross for "distinguished service in the line of his profession" while commanding Pueblo during World War I, as the armored cruiser engaged in the "important, exacting, and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines."
Detached from Pueblo on 6 September 1918, Williams participated in fitting out the new dreadnaught Idaho (Battleship No. 42) and later served ashore in the Office of Naval Intelligence. He took the Naval War College course in 1919 and 1920 before commanding the new dreadnaught New Mexico (BB-40) from 31 May 1921 to 18 May 1922. After detachment from New_ Mexico, Williams became the senior member of the Pacific Coast section of the Board of Inspection and Survey.
Reaching flag rank on 29 September 1922, Williams served as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and later as the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, when the former command was reorganized. Detached from this duty in the spring of 1923, Williams subsequently served at Charleston, S.C., as the commandant of the 6th Naval District before breaking his two-star flag in Concord (CL-10) on 15 September 1924 as Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Scouting Fleet.
Rear Admiral Williams died on 18 July 1925 at the Naval Hospital, Charleston, S.C.
The second Williams (DD-108) commemorates John Foster Williams; the third (DE-372) honors Rear Admiral George Washington Williams.
(ScStr.: t. 97 (gross); l. 90'0"; b. 21'0"; dr. 7'9" (mean); dph. 9'0"; s. 8.0 k.)
Apparently, sometime in 1917, E. T. Williams—a tug built in 1898 by Thomas McCluskey at Baltimore, Md.— was chartered by the Navy and assigned the classification SP-3241. However, records of the vessel's naval career are both sparse and conflicting. Although Navy General Order No. 314, issued on 28 July 1917, had specified that scout patrol vessels bearing compound names should thereafter be known solely by their surnames—in this case Williams—the 1918 issue of Ships Data, U.S. Naval Vessels listed the tug as E. T. Williams. It also reported that she was assigned to the 5th Naval District. The 1919 issue, on the other hand, states that E. T. Williams was ". . . not taken over." No logs or other records have been found to resolve the matter or to delineate the details of the tug's service—if any— in the Navy.
(Destroyer No. 108: dp. 1,191; l. 314'4½"; b. 30'11½"; dr. 9'2" (mean); s. 34.02 k.; cpl. 113; a. 4 4", 2 1-pdrs., 12 21" tt.; cl. Wickes)
The second Williams (Destroyer No. 108) was laid down on 25 March 1918 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Union Iron Works plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 4 July 1918; sponsored by Mrs. H. G. Leopold, the wife of Comdr. H. G. Leopold; and commissioned on 1 March 1919 at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., Comdr. Matthias E. Manly in command.
Following shakedown, Williams and Belknap (Destroyer No. 251) departed Newport, R.I., on 5 June 1919, bound for the Azores. Arriving at Ponta Delgada on the llth, Williams proceeded to Gibraltar, where she picked up information pertaining to minefields still extant in the Adriatic, for delivery to the Commander, Naval Forces, Eastern Mediterranean. The destroyer's brief tour of duty in this area of the world took her to Spalato, Yugoslavia; Gallipoli, in the Dardanelles; and Trieste, Italy, where she operated as part of the American naval forces keeping watch on the tense local situations there in the aftermath of the World War.
After returning to the United States—via Spalato and Gibraltar—and arriving at New York City on 1 August 1919, Williams was eventually assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Classified DD-108 on 17 July 1920, the destroyer operated out of San Diego until decommissioned there on 7 June 1922 and placed in reserve.
The German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 began hostilities in Europe, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately declared America's neutrality. To augment the fleet units already engaged in the Neutrality Patrol hurriedly placed off the eastern seaboard and gulf coast of the United States, the Navy recommissioned 77 destroyers and light minelayers.
Williams was accordingly placed in commission at San Diego on 6 November 1939, Lt. Comdr. Louis N. Miller in command. Following a refit at Mare Island, the destroyer operated in the San Diego area until sailing for Panama on 5 February. Transiting the Panama Canal on the 16th, she lay at Balboa for a brief time. During her stay there, the destroyer "manned the rail" in honor of President Roosevelt, who was then engaged in an informal inspection of the Canal Zone's defenses. Underway soon thereafter, Williams arrived at the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Key West, Fla., on 27 February.
Over the ensuing months, Williams operated with the Atlantic Squadron of the fleet, conducting neutrality patrols as well as training cruises. While conducting her scheduled operations from Key West, the destroyer took part in short-range battle practices and ship-handling drills, while keeping a weather eye on shipping in her vicinity. In March, she conducted an astronomical survey in the Bahamas.
On 9 April, Williams transported a survey party to Palmetto Island in the British West Indies before shifting to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After moving back to Key West for a time, Williams departed Florida's waters on 2 June and arrived at New York on 4 June. She conducted two training cruises for embarked Naval Reserve contingents, which kept her busy into the late summer of 1940. After a final refit at the Boston Navy Yard, she departed Charlestown, Mass., on 18 September, bound for Canadian waters; and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia, two days later.
As one of the 50 flush-deck destroyers transferred to the British under lend-lease—in return for leases on important base sites in the Western Hemisphere— Williams was selected as one of the six units slated for the Royal Canadian Navy. Soon after her arrival at Halifax on 20 September 1940, she got underway for a brief familiarization cruise for the Canadian crewmen. Williams was decommissioned and turned over to the Canadian government on 24 September; her name was subsequently struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1941.
Renamed HMCS St. Clair (1.65)—her name commemorating the river which forms the boundary between Michigan and Ontario—the destroyer was fitted out for convoy escort duties and sailed for the British Isles on 30 November, in company with HMCS St. Croix (ex-McCook, DD-152) and HMCS Niagara (ex-Thatcher, DD-162).
Operating with the Clyde Escort force, St. Clair escorted convoys in and out of the heavily travelled "western approaches" to the British Isles in the spring of 1941. Late in May, when the powerful German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen slipped through the Denmark Straits, the "flush decker" became involved in the intensive and widespread effort to destroy the German dreadnought. Eventually, a British force located and sank Bismarck on 27 May, but not before the tragic loss of the battle cruiser HMS Hood on 24 May. The search for the elusive German battlewagon brought some of the British units dangerously close to exhaustion of their fuel supplies. Two "Tribal"-class destroyers, HMS Mashona and HMS Tartar, were located by German long-rang bombers soon after Bismarck had slipped beneath the waves and sunk in devastating attacks. St. Clair, near the battle area, became involved in the action when she, too, came under attack. The old destroyer doggedly put up a good defense—shooting down one, and possibly, a second, enemy plane.
St. Clair subsequently joined the Newfoundland Escort Force after this group's establishment in June 1941 and operated on convoy escort missions between Newfoundland and Reykjavik, Iceland, through the end of 1941. St. Clair was assigned to the Western Local Escort Force following repairs at St. John, New Brunswick, in early 1942, and operated out of Halifax over the next two years, escorting coastwise convoys until withdrawn from this service in 1943 due to her deteriorating condition.
Operating as a submarine depot ship at Halifax until deemed unfit for further duty "in any capacity" in August 1944, St. Clair was used as a fire-fighting and damage control hulk until 1946. Handed over to the War Assets Corp. for disposal, on 6 October 1946, St. Clair was subsequently broken up for scrap.
Williams (DE-290)—a Rudderoiv-class destroyer escort—was slated to be built at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem-Hirigham Shipyard; but the contract for her was cancelled on 12 March 1944.