USS Jack Williams

The USS Jack Williams is an Oliver Hazard Perry–class guided missile frigate built in 1980 and named for a U.S. Navy corpsman from Harrison (Boone County) who was awarded a Medal of Honor for valor during World War II.

Jack Williams was born on October 18, 1924, in Harrison. Williams joined the navy after World War II began and was serving as a Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class with the Third Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division during the fight for Iwo Jima. On March 3, 1945, despite being severely wounded, Williams continued to aid wounded marines under intense enemy fire. Williams died of his injuries after saving several men, and he received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

The Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine, received a contract to build the guided missile frigate Jack Williams on February 28, 1977, and laid down the vessel’s keel on February 25, 1980. The vessel was launched on August 20, 1980, and christened by Fern Williams Carr, the late corpsman’s sister. The Jack Williams was commissioned on September 19, 1981, under Commander Hugh E. Carroll.

The 3,783-ton USS Jack Williams is 445 feet long and forty-seven feet wide, and has a twenty-five-foot draft. Able to reach speeds of twenty-nine knots, the frigate had a crew of thirteen officers and 206 enlisted men, including nineteen sailors who manned its helicopter. The Williams was armed with a Mark 13 missile launcher that could launch long- and medium-range missiles, a three-inch deck gun, a Vulcan Phalanx anti-missile system, four fifty-caliber machineguns, and six Mark 32 torpedo tubes. The ship’s motto was “Guardez Bien,” or “Guard Well.”

The USS Jack Williams performed several tours of duty in the Mediterranean–Indian Ocean–Persian Gulf and West Pacific–Indian Ocean–Persian Gulf commands, as well as a cruise in the Arctic Circle. It assisted Cuban refugees in the 1994 Cuban Balseros crisis, feeding 802 people rescued after they attempted to flee the island nation on makeshift rafts.

Having seen fifteen years of service, the USS Jack Williams was decommissioned at Pensacola, Florida, on September 13, 1996, and struck from the navy list. The ship was transferred through the Security Assistance Program to Bahrain and began serving the country’s navy as the BRNS Sabha (F-90).

The USS Jack Williams was one of three guided missile frigates named for men with Arkansas connections. The others were the USS Antrim, named for Medal of Honor recipient Richard Nott Antrim, and the USS Thach, named for aviator John Smith Thach.

For additional information:
“Jack Williams (FFG 24).” Naval Vessel Register. (accessed February 22, 2023).

“USS Jack Williams (FFG 24).” (accessed February 22, 2023).

“U.S.S. Jack Williams.” (accessed February 22, 2023).

Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas


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