USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE, Pacific Ocean – USS William P. Lawrence
gets its name from Vice Adm. William Porter “Bill” Lawrence, who was
shot down over North Vietnam and held prisoner of war. Following his
return home, he was awarded the Silver Star for the ill-fated
mission and the Distinguished Service Medal, which is the country's
third highest military award, for his inspirational leadership while
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 4, 2015)
- USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) participate in a show of force transit off the coast of San Clemente Island near Southern California. The Sailors from John C. Stennis Strike Group are undergoing Composite Training Unit Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise (COMPUTEX/JTFEX), the final step in certifying to deploy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Susan C. Damman)
Even as a boy in Nashville, Tennessee, Lawrence was a
leader. He served as class president and as a ranking
officer in NJROTC. He was named all-city in football and
all-state in basketball, was a member of the state
championship basketball team and won a Boys' Tennis State
Championship. After graduating high school as valedictorian,
he attended the U.S. Naval Academy.
the Naval Academy, Lawrence excelled in three varsity sports
and served as class president. He most notably led the
initiative to establish the Brigade Honor Concept, a key
element in Midshipmen moral development, even today. During
his senior year, he served as commander of the Brigade of
Midshipmen. He graduated in 1951 “with distinction” and was
ranked eighth out of a class of 725.
After receiving his “Wings of Gold” in Pensacola,
Florida, in 1952, Lawrence was assigned to Fighter Squadron
193 and made two deployments to the Far East aboard the USS
Oriskany (CVA 34). Lawrence next attended the U.S. Naval
Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland. He graduated
first in this class, and continued to serve there as a test
pilot in the Flight Test Division as well as an instructor.
In 1958, he became the first naval aviator to fly twice the
speed of sound in a Navy airplane, the F8U Crusader III.
Lawrence deployed three more times and was serving as
commanding officer of Fighter Squadron (VF) 143 aboard USS
Constellation (CV 64), when he and his radar intercept
officer were captured during an air raid in Vietnam, June
1967. The two were held as prisoners of war at the “Hanoi
Hilton” or Hoa Lo Prison. Lawrence became renowned for his
resistance to his captors, along with fellow inmate Cmdr.
(later Vice Adm.) James B. Stockdale. He also composed a
poem entitled “Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee,” which was later
designated by the state legislature as the official poem of
the state of Tennessee. Lawrence was released in March 1973
as part of Operation Homecoming.
repatriation and convalescence, Lawrence continued to serve
his country with unparalleled excellence as: Commander Light
Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet; director, Aviation Programs
Division and assistant deputy chief of naval operations (air
warfare); superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy; commander,
U.S. Third Fleet; deputy chief of naval operations
(manpower, personnel and training)/chief of naval personnel.
Lawrence retired from active duty in 1986. He
subsequently served as the chair of Naval Leadership at the
Naval Academy until 1994 and also as the president of the
Association of Naval Aviation from 1991 to 1994. He was a
visiting professional scholar at the Freedom Forum First
Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, where he was
researching the U.S. military and media relations.
Awards established in his name include the Naval Academy's
Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence Award, a sword given annually
to the most outstanding female athlete in the Brigade of
Midshipmen; and the Navy's Vice Adm.William P. Lawrence
Award, a trophy given annually to the most outstanding air
traffic control maintenance technician in the Navy.
The Lawrence family has a strong relationship with the USS
William P. Lawrence.
Lawrence's son Bill Jr. visits
the ship often and has participated in family day cruises
and the 2015 Prisoner Of War Ceremony. Bill Jr. reflected on
his father's legacy, “He became known as the ‘Sailor's
Admiral' ... because he knew that even the Navy's most
modern ships and aircraft were nothing but sophisticated
hardware [without] the crews who manned them ... The men and
women who made up those crews were always his passion,
priority and focus.”
By U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Jane M. Baird, USS William P. Lawrence Public Affairs
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