LeRay Wilson was born in Cove, Oregon, on 4 February 1920, the son of Thomas G. and Julia Wilson. He enlisted on 8 February 1939 and was assigned to the Preston on 14 June 1940. Wilson was on the Preston, a seaplane tender, in Malolog Bay in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked American ships there on the morning of 8 December 1941.
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.
When the Japanese first attacked on 19 February, Wilson went immediately below decks and had just completed closing all doors and hatches when a bomb hit within a few feet of him. As a result of his courage and efficiency, the flooding of the ship was confined to two compartments. Metalsmith 2nd Class Wilson was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery. USS LeRay Wilson was named in his honour.
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