Who Was Holt?

The USS HOLT (DE-706) is named in honor of fighter pilot Lieutenant (junior grade) William M. Holt, U.S. Naval Reserve, who perished in a heroic attack on enemy bombers at Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942.

William Mack Holt was born 9 September 1917, at Great Falls, Montana where he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Class V-5, as Seaman second class on 4 October 1940 and placed on inactive duty. On the 15th, he reported for active duty for elimination flight training at the U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Seattle, Washington, and completed the training on 12 November.

He accepted appointment as Aviation Cadet on 26 December 1940.On the 30th, he reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida for active duty undergoing training. On 29 May 1941, Holt was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Miami, Florida for further active duty undergoing training. On 16 June he was designated Naval Aviator (Heavier-than-Air). 24 July he accepted appointment and executed oath of office as Ensign, A-V(N), U.S. Naval Reserve, to rank from 3 June 1941. Upon acceptance of oath of office as Ensign he was transferred to Fleet Air Detachment, Naval Air Station, San Diego, California for temporary active duty involving flying under training.

Holt reported for duty to Fighter Squadron Six on 16 December 1941, being a part of the air group stationed on board aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE (CV-6) which made the first United States carrier strike of the Pacific War, was flagship of the force that launched the Doolittle bombing raid against Toyko; and figured prominently in the great victory won by American forces in the Battle of Midway.

On 16 June 1942, Holt accepted appointment and executed oath of office as Lieutenant (junior grade), (temporary), A-V(N), U.S. Naval Reserve, to rank from 15 June 1942.

Holt later joined Fighter Squadron Five on board aircraft carrier SARATOGA (CV-3). He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary heroism and courage demonstrated on 7 August 1942. In a successful effort to protect the Marines on the beachhead of Guadalcanal, he led a two-plane section through vicious interception of enemy fighter planes to down several and turn back others of a flight of about 27 heavy bombers. He continued his relentless fight in complete disregard for his own safety until his own aircraft was shot down and he perished. He was declared officially dead on 8 August 1943.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded with the following citation: “For heroism and extraordinary achievement as Section Leader in the Solomon Islands on August 7, 1942. Leading a two-plane section of his squadron against a hostile force of twenty-seven twin-engined bombers, Lieutenant (junior grade) Holt, although viciously intercepted by Zero fighters, gallantly pressed home his attacks until his plane was shot down. His courageous fighting spirit and resolute devotion to duty contributed to the destruction of at least five enemy bombers and undoubtedly played a major role in disrupting the Japanese attack.”

Lieutenant Holt also was awarded the Purple Heart Medal posthumously. He is entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal and the ribbon for and a copy of the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the USS ENTERPRISE.

Thanks to James R. Willis for the additional information