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Lt. Richard Beebe Williams - POW

Richard Beebe Williams
Fargo, ND
County: Cass
World War II - POW
Date of Capture: May 6, 1942
Branch of Service: Navy

The gunboat Oahu operated in Manila Bay on inshore patrol and in support of US forces on Bataan until Bataan fell on 5 April 1942, and then continued to operate about the island fortress of Corregidor until sunk by enemy gunfire 5 May 1942.  Lieutenant Williams was taken prisoner on May 6, 1942, at 11 P.M. by the Japanese.  He and the other prisoners were taken on a forced march to POW Camp #1 – Cabanatuan, Philippine Islands.  Died in captivity.

Lieutenant Williams was one of the 1,619 prisoners marching through Manila’s dusty streets on their way from Bilibid Prison to the Japanese ship Oryoku Maru.  The Oryoku Maru was not marked as a Prison-Of-War vessel.  Being unmarked, the ship was bombed and strafed by American planes from the aircraft carrier Hornet on both December 14 and 15.  On the morning of December 15, 1944, the Oryoku Maru sank in Subic Bay (Phillipine Islands), about 300 yards offshore.  Hundreds of men were killed or shot in the water as they tried to escape.  A shipmate who survived sent the family a letter stating that Bill had been injured by the bombs and had died in his arms.  His body was never recovered.