Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour


USS William B Preston
Starboard side view of the aircraft tender USS William B. Preston

Harvey Emmerson Oswald, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (410-33-30), was born in Columbus, Ohio, on 11 September 1918. He was the eldest child of three, and the only son of Harvey Elmer and Zola Oswald of 934 East 13th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio. He enlisted on 3 October 1939 and was posted to the Preston on 14 June 1940.

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.

Oswald was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for manning the .5 Guns on 19 February 1942. He was twenty-three and unmarried when he died in Darwin. He was buried at sea.

The citation for his Silver Star is as follows:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to Harvey E. Oswald (4103330), Machinist's Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy, for gallantry in combat and courageous devotion to duty as a member of the Ammunition Party attached to the U.S.S. WILLIAM B. PRESTON (AVD-7), during a surprise aerial bombing attack by enemy Japanese forces at Darwin, Australia, on 19 February 1942. Within a few minutes after the sounding of general quarters, Machinist's Mate Second Class Oswald and a comrade ran on their own initiative, manned a machine gun and opened fire on the enemy. They lost their lives a short time later when a bomb struck in that vicinity.

(From Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309, December 1942.)

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