The Rotary Club of Beaufort honored a deceased World War II hero on Saturday, February 10th, when the Club hosted a special ceremony for the unveiling of a new head stone for Navy Cook William Pinckney at the Beaufort National Cemetery.
For his heroism during the Battle of Santa Cruz on September 26, 1942, Pinckney was awarded the Navy Cross, our nation’s second highest award for combat valor, but for unknown reasons, this award was not included on his head stone when he died and was buried in 1975.
Beaufort Rotarian Dr. Larry Rowland, the distinguished Professor of History Emeritus from the University of South Carolina Beaufort discovered the oversight while researching Beaufort residents who had served during World War II. What made the oversight even more compelling was the realization Pinckney was one of only four African American sailors to receive the Navy Cross during World War II.
When brought to the attention of Beaufort National Cemetery Superintendent Sonny R. Peppers, Mr. Peppers immediately ordered a replacement head stone. The Rotary Club of Beaufort did not want Pinckney’s heroic actions to go unrecognized, so the Club invited Pinckney’s grand nephews and niece and others to attend a ceremony where Dr. Rowland recounted the heroism displayed by Pinckney 75 years before.
Almost 100 people attended the event, to include the Mayor of Beaufort, Billy Keyserling, and the Commanders of Beaufort’s three military installations – the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station, and the Naval Hospital.
In addition to Dr. Rowland’s remarks, the ceremony included an opening prayer from Lieutenant (Chaplain) Ron Wade, a Navy Color Guard and a Navy bugler. Members of the Montford Marines and Patriot Riders were also in attendance.