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First Name: William

Last Name: McFarland

Birthplace: Marston, New Madrid, MO, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating: Quartermaster Petty Officer 3rd Class

Home of Record: CA

Date of Birth: 03 November 1921

Date of Death: 20 February 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 19 February 1942

Rank or Rate: Petty Officer Third Class

Years Served: 1939-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


GEORGE CHARLES MCFARLAND or commonly known as WILLIAM MCFARLAND, was born on 3 Nov 1921 in Marston, New Madrid, MO to Fred McFarland and Clara (Floyd) McFarland-Stanley. Fred McFarland and Clara Floyd married on 01 Dec 1916 in Kennett, Dunklin, MO. William and Paul McFarland (presumed brothers) were abandoned by their parents and placed in the care of the Juvenile Court of the City and County of San Francisco in 1923 when William was but 2 years old. On 27 Mar 1924, Paul and Billie McFarland, wards of the Juvenile Court, were ordered committed to the care of The Children's Agency of San Francisco by Judge Frank J. Murasky.

In the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the City of and County of San Francisco the following order was issued on 2 July 1925 and signed by Judge Frank J. Murasky. It reads in part: “In the Matter of Paul & Billie McFarland an Abandoned Child. Order Judicially Depriving Parents of the Custody and Control of a Child who should be declared Free from the Custody and Control of Parents. It is hereby further ordered . . . that said Paul and Billie McFarland are now declared free from the custody and control of said parents. Done in Open Court this 2nd day of July, 1925.” Paul’s destiny is unknown. William was placed in foster care by the Children’s Agency of San Francisco who monitored his welfare. He was also assigned a legal guardian who was Robert R. Miller. Robert had the authority to sign all legal documents on behalf of William McFarland.

Robert Russell Miller was a minister in his early years. From 1921 to 1925 he was chief probation officer of Orange county, CA., and from 1925 to 1929 he headed the Los Angeles county welfare department’s outdoor relief division. From July 1931 to January 1944, he was chief probation officer for San Francisco county. Prior to his retirement in 1945, he was instrumental in the adoption of the Youth Authority Act for California. He died in 1947.

William was “boarded” with several known families; Mrs Noami Logan in Berkeley; Mrs Ruby (Clevenger) White (ID#3647903) in San Francisco “boarded” William for a number of years. She was an English teacher in the San Francisco public schools and had a ranch with her husband Earl in Marshall, Sonoma, CA about 25 miles from Sebastopol. When he began high school in 1935, William “boarded” with the Herbert J. Heasell family near Sebastopol in Sonoma county, CA and attended Sebastopol’s Analy high school for four years. He graduated with the class of 1939. While he “boarded” with the Heasell family, William was a frequent visitor at the White ranch.

On 15 Nov 1936, tragedy struck William and the Heasell family. According to the Santa Rosa Republican newspaper (Santa Rosa, CA – 17 Nov 1936, p.5) McFarland accidentally shot his best friend, Herbert J. Heasell age 15, while they were quail hunting. His small caliber gun accidentally discharged while they were walking single file along a cow path. Heasell was taken to the hospital in Santa Rosa where he later died. William, who formerly lived in San Francisco (with Ruby White), was “boarding” with the Heasell family while he attended Analy High School in Sebastopol, CA. The accident investigation by the District Attorney declared Heasell’s death to be accidental, and McFarland faced no charges.

At the beginning of his senior year at Analy high school, William applied for enlistment in the US Navy on 23 Sept 1938 in the Naval Recruiting Station (NRS) in Santa Rosa, CA. He provided birth information such as; date and place of birth; his father was alive and born in Illinois; his mother was alive and born in Kentucky; Parents still married. He was fingerprinted and provided the names of 3 references. He answered a questionnaire about his physical history. He had a tonsillectomy in 1925. He took the General Classification test and scored 82/100%. His age at the time of application was 16yr 11mo. William was provisionally accepted for enlistment on 14 Oct 1938.

To be fully accepted for enlistment, William needed a copy of his birth certificate. It was requested in Aug 1938 from Missouri; he had to pass a physical and dental exam, and his guardian had to provide his consent. Shortly after his high school graduation, William’s birth certificate was received at the NRS Santa Rosa on 3 Aug 1939. The final phase of his enlistment began on 09 Aug 1939. His guardian signed the consent form on 10 Aug 1939 agreeing that William would serve a non-minority enlistment of six years starting at the rank of Apprentice Seaman (AS) and the beginning pay rate of $21.00 per month. His next of kin was Robert R. Miller, and his navy service number (NSN) was 375-98-85. On 14 Nov 1939, William made the trip to the NRS, San Francisco where he passed his final exams for enlistment and was sworn into naval service with 17 other young men. The group was the largest to be enlisted locally in the history of the district station up to that time (Santa Rosa Republican, 15 Nov 1939, Wed., pgs 1-2).

That evening, the 18 navy recruits boarded the train for the 500 mile trip to the Naval Training Station (NTS), San Diego, CA. They arrived on 15 Nov and began about 8 weeks of recruit training. While at NTS he took an aptitude test the results of which recommended him for duty as a radio striker. William also signed up for the Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance. The beneficiary was Mrs. Ruby C. White.

Upon completion of his training at NTS San Diego, AS McFarland was granted a short leave period during which he could visit home and friends. Upon the expiration of his leave, AS McFarland returned to NTS San Diego where he would either be assigned to a navy service class “A” school or to a ship of the US Fleet. William received orders to report for duty to the battleship, USS Arizona (BB-39).

AS McFarland reported to Arizona for duty on 24 Jan 1940. Not long after reporting on board, AS McFarland advanced in rate to Seaman Second Class (S2c) on 14 Mar 1940. Toward the end of the year of 1940, S2c McFarland advanced in rate again this time to Seaman First Class (S1c) on 16 Nov 1940. During 1941, S1c McFarland studied to be a Quartermaster.

Navy Quartermasters are experts in navigation. At sea, they stand watch on the bridge as assistants to the navigator, officer of the deck and commanding officer. Any function that pertains to navigation; ceremonies at sea; navigational rules-of-the-road to prevent collisions at sea; maintaining all the ship’s clocks; and weather observations. These are just a few of the professional requirements to become a Quartermaster.

A diligent student of his new profession, S1c McFarland advanced in rate to Quartermaster Third Class (QM3c) on 01 Jun 1941.

His tour on board Arizona ended when he received orders to detach from her and report to the Naval Station on Guam for duty on 20 Nov 1941. Later that day, he reported on board the transport ship, USS Chaumont (AP-5) as a passenger for his ride from Pearl Harbor to Guam. Chaumont steamed out of Honolulu on 29 Nov 1941 bound for Manila via Guam. Not long after clearing the harbor, Chaumont joined what has become known as the Pensacola convoy. It would be a long an epic voyage. On 20 Dec 1941, the Navy Department sent a telegram to his guardian stating that his ward, QM3 McFarland, was missing in action. Word had not yet reached Washington that McFarland had transferred from Arizona to Chaumont before the 07 Dec attack.

The flagship of the convoy was the troop transport, USS Republic (AP-33). The convoy, generally known as the Pensacola Convoy for its escort ship, the heavy cruiser, USS Pensacola (CA-24) (also seen by the US Army as the "Republic Convoy"), included the gunboat, USS Niagara (PG-52), US Navy transports USS Republic (AP-33), USS Chaumont (AP-5), the US Army transport (USAT) Willard A Holbrook and USAT Meigs; as well as, US Merchant ships S.S. Admiral Halstead and S.S. Coast Farmer, and the Dutch merchant ship MS Bloemfontein.

On board ships in the convoy were 2600 US Army Air Forces personnel. On the Bloemfontein were eighteen crated Curtiss P-40 pursuit planes of the 35th Pursuit Group (PG) while forty-eight pursuit pilots of the 35th PG were embarked on the Republic and thirty-nine newly graduated but as yet unassigned pilots were on board the Holbrook. The presence of these planes and pilots would impact the destiny of the seaplane tender, USS Langley (AV-3), and the USS Edsall (DD-219). After war broke out, and Japanese forces attacked the Philippines, the convoy was diverted first to Suva, Fiji Islands. The fall of Guam to enemy forces on 10 Dec 1941 also cancelled Petty Officer McFarland’s orders, but his next duty station was unknown.

The destination of the convoy was changed several times because of the rapid advance of Japanese forces southward toward the Dutch East Indies. Finally, the decision was made to route the convoy to Australia. McFarland received orders to report for assignment to the Commander, Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Nine (CDS-29) on board the destroyer tender, USS Black Hawk (AD-9).

The convoy got underway on the Dec 16th bound for Brisbane, Australia. Pensacola entered the harbor at Brisbane on 22 Dec 1941 and moored at Newstead Wharf. On the afternoon of 28 Dec, Pensacola, along with transports Chaumont and USAT Willard A. Holbrook got underway.

On 2 Jan 1942, the Dutch ship MS Bloemfontein rejoined the convoy. The following morning (03 Jan 42) the convoy made passage through the Torres Strait above Cape York in far North Queensland, Australia. There they were joined by the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) and several destroyers. Houston relieved Pensacola as the convoy heavy escort, and with her destroyers and convoy ships proceeded to Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia. Pensacola returned to Brisbane.

USS Peary (DD-226) had anchored at Port Darwin at 0840, 03 Jan 1942 after a 2100 mile plus harrowing transit from Manila, Philippines to Darwin, Australia. Within a week of arriving at Darwin, twenty-eight enlisted men and officers on board Peary became ill with a virulent form of Malaria or Dengue Fever, contracted when the ship anchored off remote Maitara Island near Ternate in the Halmakeras. It was necessary to stop there to make repairs after having been mistakenly identified as a Japanese ship by Australian aircraft who then attacked. Eventually eight men would die from the diseases. A week later, Chaumont dropped anchor at Darwin on 10 Jan 1942 where she disembarked passengers and cargo including QM3 McFarland. He reported to the CDS-29 on board Black Hawk for assignment. Later that day, McFarland was assigned to duty on board the destroyer, USS Peary.

Peary received tender availability services from Black Hawk to affect temporary repairs and make her seaworthy. Those repairs were completed on 22 Jan 1942. Peary assumed submarine escort duties on numerous occasions and McFarland was responsible for assisting in all her navigation. She was an anti-submarine escort for USS Langley (AV-3) from Darwin to Fremantle, Australia between 08-13 Feb 1942 and she steamed with USS Houston escorting a Darwin-Koepang convoy from 14 to 18 Feb 1942. She also searched for a submarine contact which reduced her fuel supply such that she had to return to Port Darwin to refuel.

Returning to Port Darwin, Peary anchored in the harbor about 0100, 19 Feb 1942. About 1045, Port Darwin came under attack by a combined Japanese carrier and land base force of over 200 fighters and bombers. Peary was hit by five bombs while still at anchor. The fifth bomb, an incendiary, exploded in the after engine room opening the ship to the sea. Peary sank, stern first with her anti-aircraft guns still firing as she sank.

Eighty-eight officers and men including the commanding officer were killed in her sinking; 57 survived, 20 of whom were wounded. QM3 McFarland was believed to have gone down with his ship. He was reported as missing in action on 19 Feb 1942. On 14 April 1942, Mr. Miller, William’s guardian, received a telegram from the Navy Department. It read in part; The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your ward, William McFarland, Quartermaster Third Class, US Navy is missing following action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country. This telegram was also sent to The Children’s Agency of San Francisco and Mrs Ruby C White of San Francisco. This telegram elicited letters from all the recipients requesting more information about William. The Navy responded to all of them.

The following year, Mr Miller received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, dated 17 March 1943. It read; "After a full review of all available information, I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that your ward, William McFarland, Quartermaster Third Class, U.S.N., is deceased, having been reported 'missing in action' on the 19th day of February 1942, being a member of the crew and serving aboard the U.S.S. PEARY when that vessel was sunk in the port of Darwin, Australia. In accordance with Section 5 of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, your ward’s death is presumed to have occurred on the 20th of February 1943, which is the day following the day of expiration of an absence of twelve months. I extend to you my sincere sympathy in your great loss and hope you may find comfort in the knowledge that your ward gave his life for his Country, upholding the highest traditions of the Navy. The Navy shares in your sense of bereavement and will feel the loss of his service."

Several others also received this letter with minor wording differences. The letter to Miss Mary E. Mallory of The Children’s Agency of San Francisco substituted the word McFarland instead of ward. The letter to Mrs Ruby C. White substituted the word relative in place of ward. She did sign a letter to the Bureau of Naval Personnel dated 11 Jun 1942 as Ruby C. White (first-of-kin). According to this compiler’s attorney, first-of-kin can and is used interchangeably with next-of-kin meaning a family member. Once again, this letter elicited responses from all the recipients asking for details surrounding William presumed death. The Navy responded to each query with the details as they knew them at the time.

On 26 Nov 1944, it was announced that Sebastopol would procure a permanent bronze roll listing all the servicemen and women from Sebastopol who were lost during WWII. It would contain Williams’ name and it would be placed in the City Hall.

QM3 McFarland was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal w/Fleet Clasp (bronze star in lieu of clasp), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/Fleet Clasp and two bronze stars (one bronze star in lieu of clasp), US Army Presidential Unit Citation w/Ribbon, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation with ribbon, Philippine Defense Medal with a bronze service star, Combat Action Ribbon and the WWII Victory Medal. Petty Officer McFarland was a 4.0 sailor. His conduct as noted in his service record was always 4.0 meaning that had he passed the three year point I have little doubt he would have been awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal.

The following entry in his service record is authority to award McFarland the US Army Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and the Philippine Defense Medal. An undated entry by the Records Activity, Bureau of Naval Personnel in McFarland’s service record states: “While serving aboard the USS Peary (DD 226), participated in the following operations for which an engagement star is authorized on the ASIATIC-PACIFIC AREA SERVICE RIBBON: 08 Dec 41 to 19 Feb 42 – PHILIPPINE ISLANDS OPERATION (including other concurrent Asiatic Fleet operations)” See additional information below.


QM3 McFarland’s guardian, Robert Russell Miller, also received a personal commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads:

In grateful memory of William MCFARLAND, who died in the service of his country at Darwin, Australia, ATTACHED U.S.S. PEARY, 20 February 1943 (presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

//s// Franklin D. Roosevelt,

President of the United States of America


On 24 Apr 1944, Miss Catherine Moriarty of The Children’s Agency of San Francisco penned a letter to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington. She stated that William McFarland’s guardian, Robert R. Miller, had forwarded his Purple Heart and citation to them. McFarland had a gold star on the Agency’s service flag, and they were going to frame his citation and put it in a place of honor. They requested McFarland’s actual date of death. There was no response recorded in McFarland’s service record.

William’s name is recorded in the California dead on page 58 in the U.S., Navy Casualties Books, 1776-1941 [database on-line]. It reads: McFarland, William, Quartermaster 3c, USN. Guardian, Mr Robert Russell Miller, 150 Otis St., San Francisco.


Citation of Units of Both Military and Naval Forces of the United States and Philippine Governments.


As authorized by Executive Order No. 9075 (sec. II, Bull. 11, W.D., 1942), a citation in the name of the President of the United States, as public evidence of deserved honor and distinction, is awarded to all units of both military and naval forces of the United States and Philippine Governments engaged in the defense of the Philippines since December 7, 1941. (Later, it was called the Army Presidential Unit Citation).

By order of the Secretary of War:


Chief of Staff.


Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation

Establishing Authority

The Philippine Presidential Unit Citation was established by Headquarters, Philippine National Defense Forces, General Order Number 532 of September 14, 1946, as amended.

Acceptance by the United States

For service during World War II, acceptance is sanctioned by Public Law 80-314, which authorized the acceptance and wear of foreign decoration, medals, and awards in connection with services in World War II between the inclusive dates of December 7, 1941 and July 24, 1948.

Effective Dates

The Philippine Presidential Unit Citation has been in effect since September 14, 1946.


The Philippine Presidential Unit Citation is awarded for extraordinarily meritorious service. The Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation has been awarded to United States military personnel who participated in the following:

• World War II

Service in the defense of the Philippines from December 7, 1941 to May 10, 1942.

Service in the liberation of the Philippines from October 17, 1944 to July 4, 1945.

All U.S. military units and naval vessels that earned any of the Philippine engagement stars are entitled to the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.


ertain submarines which maintained physical contact with guerrilla forces during the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands. Online:



Primary Sources:

1) Cox, Jeffery R., Rising Sun, Falling Skies, Osprey Publishing, UK, 2015.

2) Kehn, Donald M. Jr., In the Highest Degree Tragic, The Sacrifice of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in the East Indies During World War II, Potomac Books, 2017.

3) Multiple Newspaper articles from Santa Rosa Republican Newspaper and The Press Democrat Newpaper in Santa Rosa, CA.

4) Deck logs USS Peary retrieved 15 November 2021.

5) Northern Territory Library Roll of Honour: Browse location. www.ntlexhibit.nt.gov.au. Retrieved 20 November 2021. URL may no longer work.

6) Wikipedia page, USS Peary (DD-226), Retrieved 12 November 2021.

7) Wilde, E. Andrew, Jr. (Ed). U.S.S. Peary (DD-226) in World War II, Manila to Darwin, 12/10/41-2/19/42: Needham, Mass.: The Editor, 2007. http://destroyerhistory.org/assets/pdf/wilde/226peary_wilde.pdf

8) Kehn, Donald M. Jr., A Blue Sea of Blood: deciphering the mysterious fate of the USS Edsall, Zenith Press, 2008.

9) Fold3 by Ancestry Navy Muster reports and Change reports

10) Ancestry.com Navy WWII muster and Change reports

11) Service Record of QM3 William McFarland obtained from the National Archives, St. Louis, MO., 19 Nov 2022.


Bio sketch #393 compiled 01 Aug 2022 and revised 29 Nov 2022 by Gerry Lawton (G47/GML470)

Military Hall of Honor ID#150899

Find A Grave Memorial Page # 243500201

Honoree ID: 150899   Created by: MHOH




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