Archives: Carbon's only Medal of Honor winner was Navy pilot
While many sacrificed during the darkest days of World War II and many couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel in the middle of 1942, an award for a naval pilot from the area brought spirits up and proved that Carbon boys could hold their own with anyone in the world.
In May 1942 the United States had only begun to strike back against the Japanese military, which had struck the devastating blow at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Earlier in the year at the Battle of Midway the United States navy, while taking heavy losses had given the Japanese fleet an even bloodier nose. The swing was on the way up for the Americans.
Then came the Battle of the Coral Sea. Right in the middle of that fight was Lieutenant William E. Hall, a young man born in Storrs on Halloween 1913 and grew up in Hiawatha. The 29 year old pilot of a Dauntless Dive Bomber he helped in the destruction and sinking of the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho on May 7 and then on May 8 on another mission, and greatly outnumbered he shot down three enemy airplanes, while he himself was critically injured and barely was able to bring his damaged plane back to deck of the USS Lexington.
Hall attended Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant and then went on to college at the University of Redlands in San Bernadino, Calif. According to an article in the Sun Advocate on Oct. 22, 1942, Hall came back to Hiawatha after graduation and taught music at the Consumers school for a year before joining the Navy in 1938.
The man was apparently a dichotomy; a mix of fighter and musical artist. While his majors in college had to do with music and art, his reputation amongst locals was that he was a scrapper. According to some he was in many fights as a kid and a teenager, usually coming out on top of any situation he was in.
After joining the Navy Hall went to flight training school in Florida and got his wings in the fall of 1939. At that point he was a naval aviator with the rank of Ensign. His first flying days off an aircraft carrier came when he was assigned to the USS Yorktown on which he stayed until February 1942. While on that carrier he was involved in raids concerning the Marshall and Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific. A short time later he was sent to the USS Enterprise and then later that spring on to the Lexington.
After he was wounded he was sent to San Diego, Calif. to recuperate. His injuries were extensive, but he slowly recovered and at the same time apparently fell in love.
In July 1942, while still not totally recovered, he got a two week furlough and came home to Hiawatha. He had someone with him, one of the nurses that had taken care of him. While in Hiawatha visiting his parents, he married Cristine Chapman.
His father, G.F. Hall was the preparations inspector at the Hiawatha King Coal Mine at that time.
Hall apparently was never sent back into combat but instead became a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Daytona Beach, Florida, then in 1944 was sent to another air station in Miami, Florida and then to Seattle, Wash. at the naval air station there.
He spent that last part of his active naval career with a special night attack unit in the western Pacific. However, it appears he never saw combat again.
After his discharge from active duty in 1946 he stayed in the reserves for 14 more years until 1960.
Hall went on to live a full life in the mid-west where he died in 1996. He is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
In October 1943 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt. Hall then became only one of six native Utahns to ever win the medal which is more often than not is awarded posthumously.
He is also the only person from Carbon County who has ever won the Medal of Honor.`
(Some information for this article also came from the Hawaii Reporter from an article written about William Hall by Duane A. Vachon).