ENS(AV) Laurence “A” Williams
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ENS(AV) Laurence "A" Williams
Lawrence A. Williams was born June 3, 1914 in Ohio, likely in Oxford Township in Butler County near Indiana. His mother, Annette Ruth Barnett Williams, was a homemaker and his father, Lawrence Williams, a farmer and later the owner of a taxi business. He died in March 1931 when the son was 16.
Young Mr. Williams graduated in 1932 from McGuffey High School in Oxford, Ohio and in 1936 from Miami University in Oxford, where he earned a degree in architecture. He worked in Springfield, Lima, and Columbus before enlisting in the Navy in early 1940, earning in 1939 for 38 weeks of work $1,900 – equivalent to nearly $37,000 in 2022 dollars Mr. Williams traveled to Pensacola, Florida later that year for pilot training at the Naval Air Station.
He was commissioned as an ensign in April 1941 and briefly visited his mother and sister back home before leaving for the West Coast to join the crew of the U.S.S. Arizona.
Mr. Williams flew a Vought OS2U Kingfisher, a catapult-launched observation floatplane. A Navy photo from Sept. 6, 1941 shows Mr. Williams and radioman Glenn H. Lane returning to the Arizona. Their plane is in the water, with Mr. Williams holding Mr. Lane by his belt as Lane hooks the Vought to a crane cable that will lift them back aboard.
The floatplane scouted for possible Japanese ships and subs, and also carried the mail between ship and shore when the Arizona was at sea on maneuvers. In a letter typed at 6 a.m. on Nov. 29, 1941, Mr. Williams said “two of us” would soon leave for Pearl Harbor with the mail. “They always send two planes in when the ship is out of sight of land as a safety precaution.”
The same letter, written to Louise, his girlfriend, said there was talk about the Arizona heading to its home port in California around the new year. “However I have my fingers crossed and I’m halfway believing that we make it home for Christmas. It isn’t likely since the Japs are mixing things up here in the Pacific. For all I know they might be making trouble so we won’t be able to go home for Christmas.”
One week later Mr. Williams was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor., Dec. 7, 1941. His body was never recovered. His battle station was in one of the planes, but none could be launched on Dec. 7.
Mr. Lane was blown off the ship by one of the four major bombs that hit the Arizona. Though covered with oil, burned, and injured by shrapnel, he managed to swim to the nearby U.S.S. Nevada. He served during the rest of World War II, as well as during the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
There is a cenotaph for Mr. Williams at Oxford Cemetery, where his parents are buried.
Sources: The Oxford (Ohio) Press; Hamilton (Ohio) Journal News; McGuffey High School yearbook; Miami University yearbook; grave markers; Census; Naval History and Heritage Command; JoeSalter.com; Navy muster roll; Census. Navy photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.