Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

KERNS, Lester Lurensel

USS William B Preston

William B. Preston

Lester Lurensel Kerns, Metalsmith 1st Class (257-94-99), was born in 1913, the youngest of three sons to John and Lula Kerns. His father was a labourer at the Cement Mill Portland West Virginia, and in 1942 lived at Rowelsburg. Kerns enlisted on 13 June 1935 in Washington DC. He served on the USS Parrot in the Asiatic Fleet, until 7 January 1942, when he transferred to the USS W.B. Preston.

Evan Gluba, Lester Kerns, Doyle Redfern and Frederick Simpson are listed as KIA  or MIA on the Preston Ship’s log for 19 February, but are not listed with the other 10 Killed or missing in Action on the “Report of Changes” to the crew for 28th February 1942.

Kerns was awarded a Purple heart and is memorialised at Fort William Mckinley, Manila, the Philippines.

USS William B. Preston was anchored in Darwin Harbour, tending PBY Catalinas, when the Japanese attack began on 19 February 1942. She quickly got underway, zigzagging through the crowded Harbour. Four bombs exploded off William B. Preston’s bow, breaking bridge windows. She was then hit near the deckhouse, losing control of her steering and jamming the rudder. The aft living compartment was seriously damaged; the deck house was strafed and her machine guns were out of action. Fourteen men were killed, including two missing and three were wounded. Carlsen and Gluba died of wounds; the bodies of Redfern and Parks were never recovered.

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