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
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
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.