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Assigned to the USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) on 14 June 1940, Wilson was on the seaplane tender in Malalog Bay in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked American ships there on the morning of 8 December 1941. He remained on the ship throughout the succeeding months while American ships fought to hold back the enemy advance toward Australia.
Japanese bombers caught up with the William B. Preston at Darwin, Australia, 19 February 1942. Despite the rapidity with which the attack developed and the very obvious danger of being trapped by an explosion, Wilson went immediately below decks and had just completed closing all doors and hatches when a bomb hitting within a few feet of him caused his death. Because of his courage and efficiency, the flooding of the ship was confined to two compartments. Metalsmith 2d Class Wilson was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery.
The USS LeRay Wilson (DE-414) was named in his honor. The ship was laid down 20 December 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Texas; launched 28 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Julia Wilson, mother of LeRay Wilson; and commissioned 10 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. M. V. Carson in command.