Jeff Davis Woodson

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Jeff Davis Woodson
Born (1908-06-10)June 10, 1908
Autman, Texas
Died June 4, 1942(1942-06-04) (aged 33)
near Midway Island
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1926–1942
Rank Lieutenant, junior grade
Unit USS Hornet (CV-8)
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Midway
Awards Navy Cross (posthumous)

Jeff Davis Woodson was born in Autman, Texas, on 10 June 1908.

Navy career[edit]

Woodson enlisted in the United States Navy on 23 June 1926 at Little Rock, Arkansas. Earning his first rating as a fireman third class in four months, he served in USS Aroostook (CM-3) and advanced to the rating of fireman second class on 1 January 1929. That summer, he transferred to an aviation squadron, VJ-1B, and began training as an aviation machinist's mate. In April 1929, he took a reduction in rank to enter the aviation field and became an aviation machinist's mate third class. However, after training at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, and pilot training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he was advanced to the rating of aviation pilot first class.

During the 1930s he served in various patrol and scouting squadrons and even served a tour of duty in USS Lexington (CV-2). By the late spring of 1937, Woodson had advanced to the rating of chief aviation machinist's mate. During 1940 and 1941, he served successively in VU-1, the destroyer USS Benham (DD-397), and at the naval air stations located at Norfolk, Virginia, and Pensacola. On 2 September 1941, he joined Torpedo Squadron 8 attached to USS Hornet (CV-8). For the next few months, he and his ship conducted training out of Norfolk. That routine continued after the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December.

The Doolittle Raid[edit]

On 4 March 1942, his ship put to sea and headed for San Diego, California, where she arrived on the 20th. With his TBD stored below decks with the rest of the carrier's own aircraft complement, Chief Woodson departed the U.S. West Coast in Hornet on 2 April with her deck loaded with 16 U.S. Army B-25 bombers—the celebrated Halsey-Doolittle Tokyo raiders. Five days out to sea, Chief Woodson was temporarily promoted to the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. Six days after that, Hornet launched her extra flock for their raid against Tokyo and headed for Oahu. A week later, he rode Hornet into Pearl Harbor.

Battle of Midway[edit]

On 30 April, his carrier departed Pearl Harbor in an effort to join USS Yorktown (CV-5) and Lexington in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The naval air battle which stopped Japan's southward advance, however, ended before Hornet could arrive. She turned around and reentered Pearl Harbor on 26 May. Unknown to Lt. (jg.) Woodson and his colleagues, an even greater struggle loomed on the immediate horizon. Two days later, Hornet returned to sea in company with Enterprise as the first contingent of the American force sent to stop Japan's attempt to capture Midway Island. Soon joined by battered, but quickly repaired Yorktown, the force lay in wait for an immense Japanese invasion fleet built around four of the six aircraft carriers that had struck Pearl Harbor the previous December.

Sighting of the Japanese carriers[edit]

After days of anxious waiting, patrol planes from Midway Island finally sighted the Japanese carriers early on the morning of 4 June. After more tense waiting, the decision was finally made to launch strikes against the enemy despite the rather hazy information regarding his position. Aircraft rose from all three carriers and many, including Lt. (jg.) Woodson's Torpedo Squadron 8, missed the rendezvous with their fighter cover. Pressing on in spite of the lack of escorts, Torpedo Squadron 8 made first contact with the enemy.

Attacking the Japanese carriers[edit]

Disregarding overwhelming odds, inadequate defenses, and lack of fighter support, Woodson and his comrades gallantly pressed home their attacks. All Japanese fighters swooped in on the almost-defenseless torpedo bombers and literally massacred them. Lt. (jg.) Woodson was killed in a valiant effort to sink one of the perpetrators of the Pearl Harbor attack.

His sacrifice, though, was not in vain. Since all their fighter cover was down near the surface shooting up Woodson and his colleagues, the enemy carriers were sitting ducks when the American dive-bombers and fighters finally made contact. Three enemy carriers, Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu, rapidly sustained mortal injury and Hiryu received only brief respite due to her location far ahead of the other three. In due time, she, too, took fatal hits; and, with all four of their carriers gone, the Japanese were forced to retire and give up any idea of an assault on Midway Island.

Awarded the Navy Cross[edit]

For his "extraordinary heroism and distinguished service beyond the call of duty . . ." and in recognition of the fact that his sacrifice ". . . was a determining factor in the defeat of the enemy forces . . .," Lt. (jg.) Woodson was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.


USS Woodson (DE-359) was laid down on 7 March 1944 at Orange, Texas, by the Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd.; launched on 29 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Joyce M. Woodson, joined by Ross Allen Woodson ( brother ) and younger brother Captain William Edward Woodson Jr. Army Air Corp., accompanied by his wife Mrs.Helen Payne Woodson ;and commissioned on 24 August 1944, Lt. Comdr. J. L. Foley in command.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.