William Finnie Cates

William Finnie Cates, USNR (April 30, 1916 – November 12 1942) was employed by Memphis Light Gas and Water. When the United States was attacked by Japan, Cates enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve January 21, 1942. While serving as Seaman Second Class in Heavy Cruiser USS SAN FRANCISCO CA-38, Cates was killed in action November 12, 1942 when a Japanese torpedo plane, which he kept under fire while refusing to leave his station, crashed aboard the ship. For this heroism, he received The Navy Cross posthumously. He was born in Drummonds Tennessee and has relatives still living there.

USS Cates was launched 10 October 1943, by Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Inc. Tampa, Florida; sponsored by Mrs. P. Dyer; commissioned 15 December 1943, Lieutenant G. A. Prouse, USNR, in command; and reported to the Atlantic Fleet.

18 thoughts on “William Finnie Cates

  1. The sister ship of the USS Cates has been exquisitely restored and is afloat in Albany, NY. The USS Slater is open for tours.

    My father-in-law served aboard the Cates.

  2. Hi – I am researching the story of William Finnic Cates for a refurbishment of his plaque at MLGW.
    The only photo we have of Cates is on the plaque, but we don’t have a separate copy for reproducing.
    I see that this photo of him in the blog is very blurry.
    It’s great to know that some of his relatives are still in Memphis.
    Is there a way to get in touch with any of you who are listed above in the comments?
    We would really appreciate it – thank you.
    I would be glad to exchange email addresses.

    1. Hi, I was wondering if you could send me a picture of the original plaque and photo of William Finnie Cates. And was it refurbished or was a picture ever found of him. I’d love to see it.

    1. Maurice,
      I’m just now seeing your reply to my post.
      Do you happen to have any photos of William Finnie Cates that you could share with me for the MLGW exhibit about him?
      And yes, I’d love to know the history of how the plaque was made if you would share it.

  3. My mother went to elementary school with Finnie Cates. She was born in Atoka…not sure where she went to elementary school. My grandfather was Joseph Finnie Densford. The Densford family lived in Drummonds.

    1. It’s interesting that your grandfather and William Finnie Cates both had the same middle name “Finnie.” Do you know if they were related and where they both got the name Finnie?

      1. Joseph Finnie Densford and William Finnie Cates were not related.
        My mother, Sarah Frances Densford, would have told me that information when she spoke of Finnie Cates.
        She did say Finnie had red hair and freckles…she also had red hair.
        I do not know where my grandfather got the name “Finnie”.
        In researching our family tree, Densford ancestry is English, perhaps Welsh.

    1. If I am not mistaken the photo on the plaque is of the USS San Francisco. That is the ship my cousin was killed on. It could possibly be a photo of the USS Cates.

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