Granvil Ray 'G. R.' Williams

BRANCH OF SERVICE
U.S. Navy

HOMETOWN
San Antonio, TX

HONORED BY
John C. Burkhardt, SVC MOPH, Chapter 1919, Austin, Texas

ACTIVITY DURING WWII

ENLISTED IN THE NAVY IN DECEMBER 1939. UPON COMPLETING HIS TRAINING IN SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA HE WAS ASSIGNED TO THE BATTLESHIP WEST VIRGINIA, STATIONED IN LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA. HE OFTEN PARTICIPATED IN TRAINING EXERCISES ON THE OPEN OCEAN, WHILE GOING IN AND OUT OF PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII. ON THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 5, 1941, THE ENTIRE SIXTH FLEET HAD BEEN CONDUCTING NIGHT BATTLE EXERCISES. HE HAD BEEN APPROVED FOR LEAVE BEGINNING ON DECEMBER 7, 1941. JUST BEFORE 08:00 ON DECEMBER 7, 1941, THE ALARM SOUNDED FOR EVERYONE TO MAN THEIR BATTLE STATIONS. HE RAN TO HIS BATTLE STATION, THE FORWARD ANTI-AIRCRAFT DIRECTORY, HIGH ABOVE THE SHIPS BRIDGE. HE WAS IN POSITION AS THE JAPANESE PLANES STARTED COMING IN AND FLYING PAST THE SHIP. WHEN HE LOOKED DOWN AT THE PLANES HE COULD SEE THEIR RISING SUN INSIGNIAS AND THE EXPRESSION ON THE PILOTS FACES AS THEY PASSED. HE WAS THEN BLOWN OFF HIS FEET AS THE BATTLESHIP ARIZONA WAS ATTACKED. THE BATTLESHIP ARIZONA WAS BERTHED NEXT TO THE BATTLESHIP WEST VIRGINIA. THE ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS JUST BELOW HIM WERE HIT AND HE STARTED TO MAKE HIS WAY DOWN TO THE GUNS JUST AS THE SHIP STARTED LISTING TO ONE SIDE AND SINKING. WHEN HE ARRIVED HE HAD TO PULL A DEAD SAILOR OFF THE ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS AND HAD JUST RETURNED THEM TO ACTION WHEN A BOMB DETONATED NEAR MID-SHIP. THE EXPLOSION BLASTED HIM INTO AND OVER THE GUN SHIELD, OVER THE SAFETY RAIL AND INTO THE WATER. HE HIT THE WATER WITH A BROKEN RIGHT SHOULDER AND LEG, WITH FLASH BURNS TO ALL EXPOSED SKIN. OIL FROM THE FUEL TANKS WAS ALREADY COVERING THE WATER, WHICH BLINDED HIM AS HE STRUGGLED TO SURVIVE. HE LOST CONSCIOUSNESS, BUT A SHIPMATE HELD HIS HEAD ABOVE WATER TO KEEP HIM FROM DROWNING. A SAILOR PULLED HIM INTO A LIFE RAFT AND HE WAS THEN TAKEN TO FORD ISLAND WERE HE RECEIVED MEDICAL ATTENTION. HE REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS AND LAY THERE HELPLESS, JUST LONG ENOUGH TO SEE MORE JAPANESE PLANES COMING IN AND SHOOTING DEFENSELESS SAILORS STRANDED IN THE WATER, MANY OF WHOM WERE ALREADY WOUNDED. HE WAS THEN GIVEN A SHOT OF MORPHINE. WOKE UP IN A PLANTATION HOSPITAL, BEFORE BEING TAKEN BACK TO THE PEARL HARBOR NAVAL HOSPITAL. HE WAS HOSPITALIZED ONLY FOR ABOUT A MONTH WHEN HE REQUESTED IMMEDIATE ASSIGNMENT TO A COMBAT POSITION, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD NOT FULLY RECOVERED. HE WAS ASSIGNED TO THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER ENTERPRISE AS A 20MM ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNNER, WHERE HE PROUDLY SERVED DURING ENGAGEMENTS AROUND KWAJALEIN ATOLL IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS; THE SOLOMON AND GILBERT ISLANDS; WHERE HE WAS AGAIN WOUNDED (HIT WITH SHELL FRAGMENTS). IN 1943 HE WAS REASSIGNED TO THE BATTLESHIP WEST VIRGINIA, WHICH HAD BEEN RAISED AND REPAIRED IN BREMERTON, WASHINGTON. HE WAS THEN GIVEN 30 DAYS LEAVE TO RETURN TO SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS. WITHIN ONLY A FEW DAYS HE RETURNED TO DUTY ON THE BATTLESHIP WEST VIRGINIA. HE RECEIVED NUMEROUS CITATIONS AND AWARDS FOR HIS SERVICE BUT HE IS MOST PROUD OF HIS PURPLE HEART, WITH ORDERS PERSONALLY SIGNED BY ADMIRAL NIMITZ.