Willingham

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Joseph Harris Willingham Jr

Joseph H Willingham Jr
Joseph H Willingham Jr

Joseph Harris Willingham, Jr. was born in Pell City, Alabama on March 20, 1905 and maintained Pell City as his home of record all his life.

He graduated from the US Naval Academy with the class of 1926 and was classmate with William C. Eddy whose cover design for the 1926 class yearbook lead to the the creation of the Dolphin pin now worn by all qualified US Submariners. He also happened to be a classmate of Mannert L. Abele, the future CO of the ill fated USS Grunion lost in Alaskan waters in WW II and Howard Gillmore of the Growler as well as 18 other WW II skippers.

He later married the former Evelyn Nason who was two years his junior but out lived him by 30 years.

In 1936 he was the commanding officer of the USS R-2 when it visited Hastings, New York for its annual Farragut Day celebration. The Navy's first Admiral David G. Farragut called Hastings home.

Fellow officers on the R-2 on that occasion were Lieutenant J. H, Cross; Lieut. G. W Kehl, later to command the USS Archerfish on her first two war patrols; Lieut. Roy M. Davenport, later to be XO of the USS Cachalot and then the USS Silversides and then to command the USS Haddock on patrols 4 thru 7 and the USS Trepang on her first two patrols and Ensign J. M. McMahon.

He was relieved of this command in 1938 by Lieutenant Alan Boyd Banister and was transferred to the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor until he was given command of the USS Tautog SS 199 on July 3, 1940. On Dec 7, 1941 he was witness to the tracers from his submarines guns hitting and detonating a torpedo on a Japanese plane totally destroying it.

Tautog under Willingham's command became known as a submarine killer sinking 3 Japanese submarines on her second patrol. He remained as CO through Tautog's first 4 patrols and was relieved on Nov. 28, 1942. He was then given command of the USS Bowfin on May 1, 1943 and made one 57 day patrol with her. Willingham was awarded two Navy Crosses for the second Tautog patrol and submarine sinkings. He was award a third Navy Cross for his actions with Bowfin.

He was relieved of command of Bowfin on Oct. 26, 1943 and transferred to be the Operations & Gunnery Officer of Submarine Squadron Eight on Nov 5, 1943 where he remained until the 19th of January 1944 when he was made Commander of Submarine Division 262 on June 12, 1944 until May 15th, 1945. After an even longer break between assignments he became the Commander Submarine Squadron Twenty Eight on Aug 1945.

After the war he was given Command of the Naval Ammunition Depot at Hingham 1946 – 1948.

Captain Joseph Harris Willingham, Jr. died on December 29, 1948 at age 43. This is only a guess but it appears he was given shore duty to assist in his recovery from what ever was going on with him as the time between assignments look to be getting longer.

He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery Plot: Section 11, Site 62. His wife Evelyn passed away on April 17, 1978 and is buried with him.

US Navy Photo.

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