41 years after being interred at the Beaufort National Cemetery, CK1 William Pinckney’s headstone finally reflects all of the honors that he earned while serving in the Navy during World War II.
Pinckney was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for bravery shown while saving the life of a crew member on board the U.S.S. Enterprise on Oct. 26, 1942, during the Battle of Santa Cruz.
The Navy Cross is the second highest honor given to those who serve in the U.S. Navy.
What is more, Pinckney was one of four African Americans to receive a Navy Cross for acts of bravery during World War II.
According to a U.S. Navy website, Pinckney was always a very modest man.
When asked about saving his crew member, he responded, “Well, I did help a little here and there.”
During the battle in which Pinckney earned the Navy Cross, the Japanese bombed the ship he was on twice.
One of the explosions killed four of the six men at his battle station, Pinckney and fellow crew member Jim Bagwell were only knocked out.
Seeing that his crew member was badly hurt, Pinckney carried him up the ladder to safety before returning to the smoke and fire filled battle station to confirm that his other four crew members were dead before ascending the ladder to seek treatment for his own wounds.
He sustained shrapnel and 3rd degree burns in the battle.
In the early 2000s, a naval ship was named the U.S.S. Pinckney in honor of William Pinckney.
He died in 1976 from spinal cancer, but for some reason his headstone never listed his Navy Cross as one of his honors.
In Fall 2017, Beaufort historian Larry Rowland noticed that the award was not engraved on the tombstone and reached out to the cemetery superintendent Sonny Peppers to get it corrected.
The Rotary Club of Beaufort will be holding a small ceremony unveiling his new headstone on Feb. 10.
“He was awarded this honor during a very racially charged time, which makes him receiving this award even more important,” Jim Weiskopf, public image chair of the Rotary Club of Beaufort said.
Pinckney has no surviving relatives, so Larry Rowland and the Rotary Club of Beaufort wanted to make sure that he received the honors that he deserved.
Delayna Earley: 843-706-8151
If you want to attend the unveiling of William Pinckney’s new tombstone, the ceremony will be held on February 10, 2018, at 11 a.m. near the tombstone in Section 33 of the Beaufort National Cemetery.