John Foster Williams--born on 12 October 1743 at Boston, Mass.--was appointed a captain in the Navy of Massachusetts and received command of the brig Hazard late in 1777. In the following year, he took her to sea in a fruitless search for British West Indiamen; but he and his ship eventually achieved success in 1779. While cruising in the West Indies, Hazard fell in with the privateer brigantine Active on 16 March. At the end of a "smart action" of 35-minutes' duration, "yard arm to yard arm," Active struck her colors and became Hazard's prize, after having suffered 13 killed and 20 wounded out of her 95-man crew. Hazard sent the captured brigantine back to Massachusetts under a prize crew and subsequently returned home in April, after taking several other prizes.
In May, Hazard returned to sea, this time in company with the brig Tyrannicide. At 0830 on 15 June, the two ships fell in with two British ships and--after a short, sharp engagement--forced both enemy vessels to strike their colors. later that summer, Hazard--like the rest of the Massachusetts Navy-took part in the ill-fated Penobscot expedition, an operation which eventually cost the state's navy all of its commissioned vessels.
Williams received command of the new 26-gun frigate Protector in the spring of 1780 and took her to sea in June. In accordance with instructions from the Board of War, the new warship cruised in the vicinity of the Newfoundland Banks, on the lookout for British merchantmen. Her vigilance was rewarded early in June.
At 0700 on 9 June 1780, Protector spotted a strange ship bearing down on her, flying British colors. At 1100, the Continental frigate, also flying English colors, hailed the stranger and found her to be the 32-gun letter-of-marque Admiral Duff, bound for London from St. Kitts. When the enemy's identity had been ascertained, Protector hauled down British colors and ran up the Continental flag--opening fire almost simultaneously. The action ensued for the next hour and one-half, until Admiral Duff caught fire and exploded, leaving 55 survivors for Protector to rescue soon thereafter.
With the coming of peace, Williams returned to his native Boston and died there on 24 June 1814.
George Washington Williams--born in Yorkville, S.C., on 30 July 1869--graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1890. He served the required two years of sea duty in Pensacola, before he was commissioned an ensign on 1 July 1892.
Williams served in a succession of sea and shore billets through the turn of the century: the former in Essex, Columbia, Yankee, Buffalo, Panther, Richmond, and Monongahela; the latter at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I. In addition, he served on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, in 1899 and commanded the torpedo boat Bainbridge in 1903 before commanding the 1st Torpedo Boat Flotilla. Reporting to Wisconsin (Battleship No. 9) on 5 April 1905, Williams subsequently joined the protected cruiser Chicago for a tour of duty which included participating in relief efforts at San Francisco, Calif., in the wake of the destructive earthquake and fire which destroyed much of that city.
In the years immediately preceding World War I, Williams served as ordnance officer in Montana (Armored Cruiser No. 13); commander of the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet; Inspector of Ordnance in Charge at the Naval Torpedo Station; commanding officer of the cruiser Cleveland and later of battleship Oregon, before he assumed command of Pueblo (Armored Cruiser No. 7) on 29 April 1917.
Williams--by that time a captain--was awarded the Navy Cross for "distinguished service in the line of his profession" while commanding Pueblo during World War I, as the armored cruiser engaged in the "important, exacting, and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines."
Detached from Pueblo on 6 September 1918, Williams participated in fitting out the new dreadnought Idaho (Battleship No. 42) and later served ashore in the Office of Naval Intelligence., He took the Naval War College course in 1919 and 1920 before commanding the new dreadnaught New Mexico (BB-40) from 31 May 1921 to 18 May 1922. After detachment from New Mexico, Williams became the senior member of the Pacific Coast section of the Board of Inspection and Survey.
Reaching flag rank on 29 September 1922, Williams served as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and later as the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, when the former command was reorganized. Detached from this duty in the spring of 1923, Williams subsequently served at Charleston, S.C., as the commandant of the 6th Naval District before breaking his two-star flag in Concord (CL-10) on 15 September 1924 as Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Scouting Fleet.
Rear Admiral Williams died on 18 July 1925 at the Naval Hospital, Charleston, S.C.
The second Williams (DD-108) commemorates John Foster Williams; the third (DE-372) honors Rear Admiral George Washington Williams.
(DE-372: dp. 1,350; l. 306'; b. 36'8"; dr. 9'5" (mean); s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 2 5", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.); cl. John C. Butler)
The third Williams (DE-372) was laid down on 5 June 1944 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; launched on 22 August 1944; sponsored by Mrs. E. Willoughby Middleton, the first cousin of Rear Admiral Williams; and commissioned on 11 November 1944, Lt. Comdr. L. F. Loutrel in command.
Following shakedown out of Great Sound Bermuda Williams underwent post shakedown availability at Boston before shifting to New London, Conn., on 11 January 1945. Departing on the 19th, she moved to Newport, R.I., to rendezvous with Riverside (APA-102), and got underway on the 30th for Panama. Williams escorted the attack transport to Balboa, in the Canal Zone, and subsequently sailed for the west coast in company with Sims (APD-50), arriving at San Diego on 7 February.
Williams soon steamed independently to Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 16 February. Following a period of training and minor repairs, the destroyer escort pushed on for the New Hebrides before escorting a group of LCI's from Espiritu Santo to Lunga Point from 25 to 27 March. Returning via Tulagi to Espiritu Santo on the 30th, Williams shifted to Noumea soon thereafter, to rendezvous with Vulcan (AR-5) and escort the repair ship to Ulithi where they arrived on 15 April.
After shifting to Manus, in the Admiralties, upon the conclusion of this escort mission, Williams convoyed Long Island (CVE-1) to Guam which she reached on 25 April, before escorting Copahee (CVE-12) to Eniwetok, and eventually returning to Manus on 6 May.
Four days later, the busy escort vessel departed the Admiralties with Presley (DE-371), Ross (DD-663), and Howorth (DD-592), bound for the Philippines escorting Transport Division 11. While en route on the afternoon of 15 May, ships in the group sighted a derelict mine and sank it with gunfire. The escorts delivered their charges at Leyte on 16 May, and Williams subsequently sailed for Hollandia and Manus arriving at the latter on 30 May.
Her respite in the Admiralties ended on 4 June when the warship got underway again and joined sister ship Presley in escorting a task unit bound for Tinian with ground forces of the Army Air Force 20th Bomber Command embarked. Completing this mission on the 7th Williams operated between Manus and the Marshalls into the latter part of June when she escorted Lander (APA-178) to Eniwetok.
Williams operated out of Manus through the end of the war with Japan in mid-August 1945. During this time, she carried out drills, training exercises, and harbor entrance patrols before spending the first weeks of September in operations with the Ulithi unit of the Western Carolines Patrol and Escort Group.
After a brief visit to Yap and a stint towing a derelict ammunition barge, Williams was transferred to the Marianas patrol on 20 September. She escorted Bougainville (CVE-100) to Okinawa between 24 and 27 September before getting underway on the latter date to return to Guam.
On the return passage, on the night of 29 September Williams found herself trapped in the path of a severe tropical hurricane. A huge breaking wave pounded into the starboard side of the ship and nearly rolled Williams over. One man was swept overboard and out of sight in the stormy sea. Severe structural damage occurred topside, and minor flooding occurred below decks. However, round-the clock work by damage control parties soon restored the ship to fighting efficiency, and she resumed her passage. Before she reached Guam, she spotted a floating mine and destroyed it with gunfire.
Williams underwent permanent repairs at Guam before she sailed via Pearl Harbor for the west coast of the United States. Decommissioned at San Diego on 4 June 1946, Williams was inactivated and placed in reserve on 7 October of the same year. She never saw further service and was struck from the Navy list on 1 July 1967. Stripped to a hulk, the former destroyer escort was towed to sea from San Diego and sunk as a target by shellfire and missiles launched from both ships and planes on 29 June 1968.