RADM William C. Carlson was born in Detroit, Michigan in February 1937. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree and was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of New Mexico in 1959. He was promoted to Rear Admiral (Lower Half) in December 1988 and retired from active service in September 1992.
His first ship was USS Agerholm (DD 826), where he served as ASW Officer and then Weapons Officer. In 1962 he was assigned to US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and graduated in 1965 with a Master of Science Degree in Underwater Physics. In 1965 he reported to USS White River (LSMR 536) as Commanding Officer, where he served until February 1968. Under his command, USS White River fired over 55,000 5 inch rocket and 5 inch 38 caliber naval rifle rounds on enemy targets and was awarded two Navy Unit Commendations for performance during gun line tours off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam.
In 1968, RADM Carlson served on the staff of Commander, Antisubmarine Warfare Force, US Pacific Fleet as ASW Weapons Officer. In 1970, he was assigned as Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer USS Goldsborough (DDG 20). He served in Goldsborough until December 1972 when he was ordered to command of USS Sample (DE 1048). In 1974 he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, graduating with highest distinction from the College of Naval Warfare in July 1075. Thereafter, RADM Carlson reported as Director, Sensors Division, Antisubmarine Warfare Systems Project Office, Naval Material Command, Washington, DC.
In June 1978, he reported to the Staff of Commander Carrier Group Seven, serving as Surface Operations Officer until February 1980, and then as Chief of Staff through May 1982. He was assigned to the Naval Sea Systems Command in July 1982, first as the first Manager, Surface Ship ASW Combat Systems Program (PMS 411) followed in July 1988, with assignment as Assistant Deputy Commander for Antisubmarine Warfare and Undersea Warfare Systems. Reassigned in August 1990, as Assistant Deputy Commander for Anti-Air Warfare and Surface Warfare Systems, RADM Carlson was named as the first Commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center in January 1992.
RADM Carlson’s decorations include: Three awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Bronze Star with Combat “V”, two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Vietnamese Navy Distinguished Service Order (2nd Class), two awards of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star and various campaign and service medals, including eight awards of the Vietnam Service Medal. He is the Navy’s 1987 recipient of the Department of Defense Superior Management Award. The American Defense Preparedness Association presented him their Bushnell Award for outstanding technical contributions to defense preparedness in the field of undersea warfare in 1992.
RADM Carlson worked in industry for ten years following retirement from the Navy, ultimately retiring as Director, Surface Ship Undersea Warfare Combat System Programs for Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems in Syracuse, New York in May 2002.