William Henry Green, Jr.
Born: November 6, 1922
Hometown: Louisiana, MO
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date/Place of death: July 9, 1943 / Indian Ocean 9-00 S, 81-00E
Date/Place of burial: July 9, 1943 / Indian Ocean 9-00 S, 81-00 E / Lost At Sea
William H. Green signed on as Engine Cadet aboard the Liberty Ship SS Samuel Heintzelman at Charleston, SC on May 11, 1943. He was joined by his Pass Christian classmate John N. Stewart who signed on as a Deck Cadet. The ship sailed the same day for Fremantle, Australia via the Panama Canal.
After safely crossing the Pacific the Samuel Heintzelman sailed from Fremantle,
Australia, on 1 July, en route to Calcutta by way of Colombo and Karachi with a cargo
of ammunition and general cargo. The Heintzelman was due to arrive in Colombo on
14 July, but she never arrived, and for months her disappearance was a mystery.
Then, on 29 September, a plank marked with the ship’s name, along with several boxes
of ammunition and boxes of glass vials with an unidentified powder, washed up on the
beach of Minni Minni village on Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos Islands. Villagers had
also noticed two unoccupied ship’s boats the previous day, but these were never
After the war, German records showed that the ship had been torpedoed on July 9,
1943 by U-511. The submarine submerged after shooting its torpedoes, but the crew
heard underwater explosions. When U-511 surfaced there was no sign of the ship or
any survivors, only debris floating on the surface of the ocean. All of the seventy five
people aboard the Samuel Heintzelman (42 crew, 27 Armed Guard and six passengers)
Cadet-Midshipman William H. Green was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Pacific War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the
Presidential Testimonial Letter.
William H. “Billy” Green was the only son and oldest child of William H. “Willie” and Lucy Protzman Green. According to the 1930 U.S. Census Willie Green was a printer who worked for a nursery. Billy’s younger sister, Margaret Lucile, known as “Peggy”, was four years younger. According to information on his “family tree”, Billy attended the Missouri School of Mines at Rolla, MO before he was accepted into the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps.
Billy was remembered by neighbors and friends as a standout student who studied Trigonometry in a special advanced class his senior year in high school. He was described as a handsome and well-mannered young man who was welcome in every circle in the community located about eighty miles north of St. Louis. Friends recall that he
was a fine singer, and often performed in Louisiana with his girlfriend Honey, who was
an accomplished pianist. Billy was appointed to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on
December 17, 1942, and entered the Pass Christian Basic School in January. Because
of his short stature Billy needed, and received, a waiver of the minimum height
requirement for his appointment in the Merchant Marine Reserve.
One of the Chaplains at Pass Christian wrote to William Green’s parents several times before his death. In one letter he spoke highly of William’s personality and his faith:
“As you know, by this time your son has left the Cadet Basic School to continue his studies at sea. During the time that he was here it was my privilege to be associated with him and all of our contacts were very pleasant. During the last few days he was here I talked with him and his spirits were high and his belief in God was as great as ever.”
Photo of Billy Green Age 11
Photo of Proud Mother says “Good Bye” to Son
Photo of Billy & his girlfriend “Honey”
Photo of Last Day at Home
Photo of Family with Billy at Train Station before joining his ship.