First Dayton Resident Killed In World War II

First Dayton Resident Killed In World War II

James Ueal Williams 17 Killed on board the USS Cushing

In July of 1942, James Ueal Williams of Dayton went off to war. His two brothers W.E. and Ford were already in uniform, fighting in World War II.

Ueal, as he was called, was the seventh of eleven children. Williams father, James A. Williams had reluctantly signed the papers that permitted his son to join the Navy, although he was not wanting Ueal to go off to war, but Ueal had two brothers that were already enlisted. W.E. was in the Airforce and Ueal would join his brother Ford in the Navy.

One letter that was sent home reflected on the feelings of a  young boy being so far from home.

Seaman Second Class Ueal Williams served on the USS Dixie and had been transferred to the USS Cushing on September 15, 1942.

Ueal was onboard the USS Cushing when it was in the force that moved out to intercept the Japanese fleet in the Naval battle of Guadalcanal the night of November 13, 1942.

As the range closed, she suddenly sighted three enemy destroyers at 3,000 yards. In the bitter gunfire which followed, the USS Cushing received several hits amidships, resulting in a gradual power loss, but she determinedly continued to fire her guns at the enemy, launching her torpedoes at an enemy battleship.

Fires, exploding ammunition, and her inability to shoot any longer made the "abandon ship" order unavoidable at 0230. Her burning hulk was last seen from Guadalcanal at 1700 when she sank about 3,500 yards southeast of Savo Island.

The USS Cushing lost about 70 men either killed or missing; some men were rescued from the water, and many were wounded. Despite the loss, along with the task force, she had aided in saving Guadalcanal's Henderson Field from bombardment by the Japanese forces.

Her hulk currently rests at the bottom of the waters around Savo Island, in an area around Guadalcanal known as "Ironbottom Sound”.

Family members had stopped receiving letters from Ueal, and the letters they sent him were being returned. On January 10, 1943, the family received a telegram that said Ueal was missing and presumed dead.

He was the first person from Dayton killed in World War ll. Brady-Williams Post 100 of the American Legion in Dayton bears his name, along with that of Fred E. Brady of Dayton, who was killed in World War I.

Among his mother’s treasured possessions were a frame photo of Ueal, a packet of letters he wrote to her in 1942, and the Purple Heart that had been awarded to her son posthumously.

Ueal was officially declared dead on November 14, 1943. A memorial marker stands in the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.

Muster Roll for the USS Cushing 1942
Memorial marker stands in the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.

One of the letters sent from Ueal to his family.This letter is reprinted verbatim.


August 21, 1942

Dear Mom & Dad & All,

                Thought I would write while I have time. I have been busy for the last few days & haven’t had time. I am getting along fine & hope you all are too. I got a letter from Altha, Vergie, and a card from Ethyl today & sure was glad to hear from them. Mama, I have moved to another camp over on the other side of town from where Ford is, but I will see him in a week or so. Well, I guess it is kinder lonesome around home now. But it will not be so very long till us boys can come home for good cause the War won’t last long I don’t believe.   I am going to send the money for that bank note very soon. Dad can go pay it for me. I guess is very lonesome there with the kids at school. Just keep your chin up when the War is over & your boys come home, I know you all will be proud of all three of us. But we cannot think of that now. For we have a job to do and with the prayers of you folks & the forces of Uncle Sam we will gain the Victory & then we can live in peace. And peace is something worth fighting for. Vergie said those guitars look forsaken but if they look too lonesome just put them somewhere where you will not see them. Do not let a little thing like that get y’all down. Well, how are you standing the hot weather up there. I sure hope you do not get sick like y’all usually do. That cushion case I sent y’all was not so good, but it was the best they had here. I tried to get one with a verse on, but they were out of them, so I just had to get any thing I could. Tell Dad I am trying to do what he said & make Uncle Sam a good man. I am taking good care of my health & do not worry about me getting drunk, for I never intend to do that. Well I had better close for this time. Good-by to all. Tell the kids to write to me. Answer soon. I send my love to the family.

                                                                                                                                                Your Son



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Published byDean

Born and raised in Dayton Tennessee, I have served in various public service positions in the past. I have a great interest in the History of our town. This site is a way for me to share some of the great history of the area.


  • David Williams

    June 29, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    My dad. W.E. (Dub) used to tell me stories about them as children growing up.

    • Shelia Shaver ( McClure )

      June 29, 2020 at 11:26 pm

      David Williams are you related to Tommy “Mule” Williams?

  • Mary Beth Porter

    July 1, 2020 at 3:48 am

    This touched my heart how proud this young man was to serve.

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