ENS William Thomas Jr. O’neill

Unknown Sailor

ENS William Thomas Jr. O'neill

William Thomas O’Neill Jr. was born Nov. 28, 1914 in Stamford, Connecticut. He was the only child of Lillian Ross O’Neill, a homemaker, and William O’Neill, then a foundry worker. The mother was an English immigrant and the father a Stamford native.

The son graduated from Stamford High School in 1933 and from Fordham University in 1937. He was active in college in the Business Forum, debate, and Sodality, a Catholic organization.

Mr. O’Neill enlisted in the Naval Reserve in July 1940 and that September attended the Navy’s accelerated program for midshipmen at Northwestern University’s Chicago campus. He was commissioned an ensign on Dec. 12, 1940 by a then little-known rear admiral named Chester Nimitz, and began serving on the U.S.S. Arizona that same month.

Ensign O’Neill was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

The U.S.S. O’Neill, a destroyer escort, was launched in November 1943. The ship initially shepherded convoys in the Atlantic, but eventually transferred to the Pacific and served nearly 60 days on picket duty in the Battle of Okinawa. In late May a kamikaze suicide plane killed two of her men and wounded 17, but the ship continued on duty.


Sources: the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant; the New York Herald Tribune; The Fordham (University) Ram; the Fordham University yearbook; Stamford High School yearbook; Census; Navy History and Heritage Command. Navy photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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