William Edwin Hank was born at Norfolk, Virginia on 25 September 1902 and was a member of the Naval Academy Class of ’25.

Before World War II, he served at various shore stations and in New York, Hull (DD 350) and Saratoga.

Commissioned lieutenant commander in 1940, he took command of Laffey (DD 459), the original flagship of Destroyer Squadron 12, on 1 April 1942.

William Edwin Hank

LCdr. William E. Hank as a midshipman, USNA.

Arriving in the war zone in August, his ship rescued survivors when Wasp (CV 7) was torpedoed and sunk in September and thereafter operated with surface action task forces, with which he twice received the Navy Cross; first for action at the Battle of Cape Esperance, 12 October 1942; second, posthumously, for action at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12–13 November 1942, when Laffey was sunk.


The Navy Cross is presented to William Edwin Hank (0-059695), Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459) during action against enemy Japanese naval forces off Savo Island during the Battle of Cape Esperance on the night of 11–12 October 1942. Boldly engaging a Japanese force of two destroyers and a cruiser, Lieutenant Commander Hank, despite his extremely hazardous position in a leading group and the terrific fire of the enemy, fought his ship with devastating effect upon the opposing vessels. Directing the fire of his guns with cool and daring accuracy, he enabled the LAFFEY to sink one hostile destroyer, to damage another, and to assist in the sinking of a cruiser. By his indomitable fighting spirit, expert seamanship, and gallant devotion to duty, he contributed largely to the success of the battle and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Source: Navy Cross Awards.