Parker, William

William Parker was born on May 17, 1924 in Philadelphia. He had siblings who remained in Philadelphia, but William and his brother Charles became foster children of Eleanor Lyons, wife of the Reverend Cheeseman Lyons. Eleanor became the foster mother for a number of black children from Philadelphia. Eleanor was born in Exton, and moved to West Chester in the 1930’s. In 1940 she moved to a house in Grove located behind the Grove Methodist Church Cemetery. The Church and Cemetery are still there today, but the house is long gone. Grove is a small community two miles north of West Chester. 
Army Logo Shadow
William attended the West Whiteland Consolidated School. He attended the United Holiness Church with his foster mother.

William enlisted in the Army Air Forces. After basic training and advance training, he was assigned to the 855th Engineer Battalion, Aviation. After training he was sent to San Francisco to embark on the troopship the SS Cape San Juan, a new ship built in Long Beach, California, for the U.S. Maritime Commission. The San Juan was completed in June, 1943 and converted to a troopship and assigned to the American Hawaiian Steamship Company. William embarked for the ship's second voyage – from San Francisco to Australia in October. The Naval Historical Center of the Department of the Navy, writes of this voyage: 

While near the Fiji Islands on 12 November 1943 (local time -- 11 November in the U.S.) she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-21. More than a hundred lives were lost among her crew and passengers as a result of this attack and the subsequent abandonment of the ship. Attempts were made to tow Cape San Juan to port, but she sank on the following day.

Mrs. Lyons received a telegram from the War Department that William was missing in action. On November 17th, she received another telegram stating that William was killed in action. while on board the Cape San Juan on November 11, 1943. He is memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial of the Missing in Action or Buried at Sea in Hawaii.


Research by Don Wambold, WCMSC