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LeRay Wilson (DE-414)

(DE-414: dp. 1,350; l. 306'; b. 36'8"; dr. 9'5"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 2 5", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (h.h.), 2 dct.; cl. John C. Butler)

LeRay Wilson, born at Cove, Oreg., 4 February 1920, enlisted in the Navy 8 February 1939. Assigned to William B. Preston (AVD-7) on 14 June 1940, Wilson was on the seaplane tender in Malolog Bay in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked American ships there on the morning of 8 December 1941. He remained on her throughout the succeeding months of valiant struggle in which plucky American ships defied overwhelming odds fighting to hold back the enemy advance toward Australia. Japanese bombers finally caught up with William B. Preston at Darwin, Australia, 19 February 1942. Despite the rapidity with which the attack developed and the very obvious danger of being trapped by an explosion, Wilson went immediately below decks and had just completed closing all doors and hatches when a bomb hitting within a few feet of him caused his death. Because of his courage and efficiency, the flooding of the ship was confined to two compartments. Metalsmith 2d Class Wilson was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery.

LeRay Wilson (DE-414) was laid down 20 December 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.; launched 28 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Julia Wilson, mother of LeRay Wilson; and commissioned 10 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. M. V. Carson in command.

After shakedown off Bermuda, the new destroyer escort departed Boston 15 July 1944 for the Pacific war zone. With calls at San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok, LeRay Wilson arrived Manus, Admiralties, as the Navy prepared for the invasion of the Philippines. Departing 12 October, she escorted the fabled "Taffy 2" to Leyte, arriving 18 October. For the next 12 days, the destroyer escort remained on station screening Rear Admiral Stump's escort carriers while they repelled the attacking Japanese Fleet and provided aircover for the landings. The ship arrived Manus 3 November and returned to the battle 20 to 28 November, escorting more carriers to provide aircover for the enemy-infested convoy lanes east and southeast of Leyte.

With Leyte secured, the ship immediately became involved in the Lingayen Gulf operation. While on antisubmarine patrol near the western entrance to Lingayen Gulf 10 January 1945, LeRay Wilson experienced the full fury of the Japanese suicide attacks. Spotting an enemy two-engine bomber dead ahead about 25 feet off the water, the ship's gunners unflinchingly maintained continuous and deadly gunfire, diverting the aircraft enough to save the ship. As the suicide plane splashed, Its starboard wing crashed the ship's port side, killing six gunners, seriously wounding seven more, and causing extensive damage. LeRay Wilson continued patrolling until relieved later the same day, then steamed for Manus. In his battle report Lt. Comdr. M. V. Carson, commanding officer, wrote of his gallant men: "I say that those men made naval tradition. May their gallant acts live always in the memory of a grateful nation....They were my shipmates and I am proud of them."

During February and March 1945, the ship repaired its port side and prepared for the largest and one of the toughest operations of the Pacific war, the capture and occupation of Okinawa. During April, she escorted two convoys of supply ships from Saipan to Okinawa. On 1 May LeRay Wilson began antisubmarine and antiaircraft screening duties off Okinawa. On 26 May she detected and made runs on a suicide midget submarine. Two days later, quick action from the destroyer escort splashed an enemy suicide plane before it could crash a sister ship. She departed Okinawa 16 June and arrived Ulithi the 26th.

For the remainder of the war, LeRay Wilson supported the strikes on the Japanese homeland, escorting oilers and other logistics ships to rendezvous with Admiral Halsey's 3d Fleet in the East China Sea. After V-J Day, she steamed to Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender and occupation duty.

The ship departed Tokyo Bay 12 October for Okinawa en route to duty along the coast of China, remaining there until she sailed 26 December for San Francisco, arriving 16 January 1946 and joining the Pacific Reserve Fleet. LeRay Wilson decommissioned 15 January 1947.

With the advent of the Korean war and the need for more fighting ships, LeRay Wilson recommissioned 28 March 195L After 2 1⁄2 years of training and patrol duty between the west coast and Pearl Harbor, the ship departed Pearl Harbor 27 August 1954 for the first of four WestPact cruises. LeRay Wilson continued these peacekeepipg missions to the Far East until she decommissioned at San Diego 30 January 1959 and reentered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. At present she is berthed at Mare Island, Calif.

LeRay Wilson received four battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Tue Apr 19 17:19:52 EDT 2016