Lieutenant (jg) Joseph Williams Vance, JR, USNR, was born on December 4, 1918 at Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from Tech High School, and attended two years of college at Southwestern College (Rhodes) and one year at the University of Florida. He worked at First National Bank and then enlisted in the Navy on 26 July 1940, as an apprentice seaman and served on active duty aboard the USS ARKANSAS in August and September. On 21 November of the same year he was appointed a midshipman in the Naval Reserve and attended the U. S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, Prairie State, New York, N. Y. He was Commissioned Ensign on 28 February 1941, and while on active duty was promoted to Lieutenant (jg) on 15 June 1942, and assigned as the Torpedo Officer on the USS Parrott. He fired 12 torpedoes using open sight firing and sunk 2 of the enemies’ ships and damaged several others. He fought in the battle of the Coral Sea, Marshall and Gilbert Islands, and was a very popular officer with the men on every ship he served on.
Shortly before the battle of the Solomon’s, Joe–now a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, received a signal honor in the form of an appointment as Liaison Officer aboard the Australian Cruiser, Canberra, the ship to which he was attached at the time of his death. The only American officer aboard the vessel, he won the friendship and respect of officers and men alike; in fact, letters received by the Vance family from Australian officers who were stationed on the Canberra describe him as being the most popular officer aboard the ship. As one officer remarked, “The boys all liked him; he could take a lot of friendly chaff.” When action was started against the Solomon’s early in August, the Canberra led the attack. As Liaison Officer, Lieutenant (jg) Vance remained at his post with the Captain throughout the fierce fighting. At 1:45 Sunday morning, August 9th, 1942 a high-explosive bomb scored a direct hit and he died as a result of injuries from enemy action and went down with HMAS Canberra, in the battle of the Solomon Islands.
A splendid tribute to the memory of Joe Vance, who gave his life while serving aboard the Australian cruiser, Canberra, is paid by the Navy Department, which has notified Lieutenant (jg) Vance’s parents that a new destroyer escort vessel is to be named the U. S. S. Vance. (DE 387). The ship, which launched on July 16, 1943 at Houston, Texas, was christened by Lieutenant Vance’s mother, Mrs. Joseph W. Vance and Joe’s sister.