November 28, 1914 (Stamford, CT) – December 7, 1941; 27 years old
Mother listed at Stanley Road, Glenbrook (Stamford)
Enlisted on July 17, 1940
Service number O-095975
USS Arizona (BB-39)
Born to William O’Neill (1889-1957) and Lillian Ross O’Neill (1892-1935). William was their only child.
Received the Purple Heart Medal.
In the article below, Ensign O’Neill is said to have graduated from Northwestern University. The webmaster requested a yearbook photo from the university. Through that request, it was discovered he graduated from the Naval Reserve program and not the university itself.
Thanks to Charla Wilson from Northwestern’s library for the clarification.
“Northwestern’s stated objective was to use its entire resources to aid in winning the war. To this end an accelerated program of study incorporating the quarter system was adopted which allowed students to graduate in three years by attending summer sessions. Students who had completed three years of high school with high standing were allowed to enter the university so that they could complete their college degree before reaching the minimum draft age of twenty.”
From The Stamford Advocate, December 12, 1941; contributed by Ellen Sullivan, Senior Reader Services Librarian, The Ferguson Library One Public Library Plaza, Stamford
Second Stamford Man War Victim, Third Is Wounded
Ensign William T. O’Neill Jr., 27, Reported Killed in Action by Navy Today
Ensign William T. O’Neill Jr., 27, son of Mr. and Mrs. William T. O’Neill of Stanley Road, Glenbrook, was killed in action during the Japanese attacks on the United States, according to notice received by his parents from the Navy Department at 3 a.m. today. The supreme sacrifice by the former Stamford High School and Fordham University student, and the wounding in action of Everett J. Hyland, son of Mrs. Anny Hyland of 408 Atlantic Street, a Seaman Second Class, boosted the casualty list among Stamford young men in service, to three. The first reported death of a Stamford youth was that of Sergeant Vincent M. Horan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Horan of 300 Hubbard Avenue. Ensign O’Neill was graduated from Stamford High School in 1933 and from Fordham University in 1937, later attending Northwestern University where he was prepared for service with the U.S. Navy. He won his commission and left Stamford last Christmas Day for duty in Pearl Harbor. That was the last his parents saw him, although they have received letters right along and only a few days ago received a message from him accompanied by portrait photographs, which showed him as a smiling, handsome officer of the U.S. Navy, resplendent in dress uniform. The young officer was the only child. Until his entry in to the service, he made his home with his parents on Stanley Road, just off Middlesex Road in the Glenbrook section of Darien. His mother is the proprietor of a beauty shop in Harrison, New York. An uncle of the youth is Policeman Thomas O’Neill of the Stamford Police Department; another uncle is George C. O’Neill of High Ridge Road.
From The Hartford Courant December 13, 1941
Stamford, Dec. 12 – (AP) – Mr. and Mrs. William T. O’Neill were notified today by the Navy Department that their son William Jr., 27, an ensign, was killed in the Japanese raid at Pearl Harbor. O’Neill was the second Stamford resident whose death in the Hawaiian attack was announced, that of Sergeant Vincent Horan, Army Air Corps, at Hickam Field having been reported earlier. A graduate of Stamford High School, O’Neill attended Fordham and Northwestern Universities. Upon graduation from Northwestern in 1940, he was commissioned an ensign in the Navy.
From the Stamford Advocate, November 13, 1943
The launching of the destroyer escort O’Neill, in which a Stamford mother is to have a part, is, of course important as an addition to the Navy of the United States. It has another importance, however, as a tribute to a Navy man who made the supreme sacrifice for his country. Ensign William Thomas O’Neill Jr., of Stanley Road, Glenbrook, met his death in the initial event which launched the United States into the present war. He was one of two Stamford men in the service who met their death at Pearl Harbor. The other was Sergeant Vincent Horan of the United States Army who was killed at the airfield called Hickam Field. Some time when the entire story of Pearl Harbor is told, we shall find out whether the Navy and Army authorities were unduly remiss in neglecting to take proper precautions against a possible Japanese attack. What we do know is that these two Stamford men were at their posts and lost their lives in the lines of their respective duties. The Army has given partial recognition to the loyalty and devotion of Horan by the award of the Purple Heart. The Navy is in a position to give more adequate recognition to such sacrifices on behalf of the United States. Since those two deaths at Pearl Harbor, where the first casualties among Americans occurred, many other Stamford men have met their death in the line of duty during this war. In a sense this recognition accorded to all the Stamford men who have suffered or who will suffer because of the war. We are proud of them all, and the sympathy of every resident of Stamford goes out to the bereaved families of this war’s casualties. We are sure that Mrs. Lillian Ross O’Neill, the mother of Ensign O’Neill, will realize that Stamford is proud of the honor that is being done to her son. We are sure also that when she goes to Kearny, New Jersey to sponsor the launching of the ship which will bear her son’s name out upon the high seas as a part of the country’s Navy, she, on her part, will realize that she is representing all the families where sons have met their death in this war.
From The Hartford Courant November 15, 1943
Newark, New Jersey, November 14 – (AP) – The destroyer escorts O’Neill and Bronstein were launched today in the yards of the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company at Port Newark. They were named for the late Ensign William Thomas O’Neill Jr., of Glenbrook (Stamford), Connecticut and the late Lieutenant Ben Richard Bronstein of Manchester, New Hampshire. Mrs. Lillian Ross O’Neill of Stanley Road, Glenbrook, Connecticut, christened the O’Neill for her son, who was declared officially dead as of December 7, 1941, when the battleship Arizona was torpedoed and bombed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona Memorial
Memorialized Courts of the Missing, Court 1, Honolulu Memorial, 2177 Puowaina Drive, Hawaii