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Biography - William G. Thompson

Audio interview:  William Thompson

I joined the U.S. Navy in November 1942.  At boot camp in Newport. Rhode Island I was constantly called "Bill" because everything was stenciled with W G Thompson, I grew tired of explaining I was called "George" and thus began to answer to "Bill" after being called "George" for 23 years. 

After boot camp I was sent to Washington, D. C. to work at the Navy Dept.  it was there at the Knights of Columbus USO that I met my future wife.  On Sept. 1943 I was ordered to go on a DE as Yeoman 3C; so I left Washington to board the ship at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where the DE USS Enright was loading ammunition.  When I arrived at Philadelphia, I was told the ship had already left and was in Delaware Bay.

I was then shipped from Philadelphia Navy Yard to Lewes, Delaware, where I boarded a net-tender late at night and was taken out to the USS Enright that was anchored out in Delaware Bay.  I boarded the ship by climbing up a cargo net and gave my orders to the Officer of the Day.  When he took my orders in to the Captain, I heard the Captain say, "Yeoman!, I don't need a Yeoman, ask him if he can cook."  That's my entry into the USS Enright.

Ever since I was twelve I had been playing the harmonica and I always carried it with me.  My war cruising watch was the #1 Starboard K-gun which was close to the #3 3" 50 Gun Turret and under the Gun Turret was a rope locker with a door. Late at night I would get out of the weather by going into the rope locker and because I had the earphone and telephone assignment I would entertain the ship with my harmonica playing whether they liked it or not.

Charles Mims who was stationed at the #3 Gun Turret had asked me to exchange harmonicas so he could try mine out.  On April 16, 1944 the USS Enright was struck by a Portuguese freighter, the S. Thome, just aft of midship on the port side. I was stationed at the #1 Starboard K-gun and I walked around the #3Turret to see that the ship was approaching our ship. 

At the time of the collision, a number of depth charges were set free, rolling on the deck. As far as I know, one of those depth charges struck me in the back of my legs and broke all the bones in my left knee area.  I was tended by two corpsmen (I can't recall their names but I am very grateful for the knowledge that they had ).  They gave me medication, put my leg in a splint and put me in a wire basket stretcher.  Within two days our ship docked in Brooklyn Navy Yard drydock, and I was taken to Brooklyn Navy Hospital, while I was severely injured, Charles Mims went overboard and was lost with my harmonica.

During my 13 months in the hospital recuperating, I took USAF classes to help me with my entrance into a college.  I was sent to the Fargo Bldg. at the Boston Navy Yard on limited shore duty for six months before being released.  In December 1945 I started studying electrical engineering at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.   In July 1946 I married Eleanor Vogel.  I graduated from Notre Dame in January 1950 and after that worked at various Engineering jobs until 1966 I went to work at NASA Goddard Space Center in Washington, D.C.   I worked on Voyager I and II which are still up there sending down valuable information.  For the last ten years I was Technical Officer on the TIROS program which is the weather satellite.  I retired in 1994.



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