Blair enlisted in the United States Navy at Richmond, Virginia, on November 23, 1929. After instruction at the Naval Training Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, Blair served on four ships during his first two-year enlistment—the destroyer tenders USS Dobbin (AD-3) and USS Whitney (AD-4), and the destroyers USS Preston (DD-327) and USS Leary (DD-158), before being transferred to the new destroyer USS McDougal (DD-358) on December 23, 1936. Transferring to the transport USS Chaumont (AP-5) on November 4, 1939, Blair was discharged at the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, on December 8 of the same year.
Blair reenlisted on January 3, 1940, at Boston, Massachusetts, and, following service at the New York City receiving station, joined USS William B. Preston (AVP-20) on June 14, 1940, when that small seaplane tender was recommissioned. He remained with that warship through her transfer to the Asiatic Fleet that December and was still serving in her when war engulfed the Far East in December 1941. William B. Preston tended the PBY Catalina flying boats of Patrol Wing (PatWing) 10 in Philippine waters when the fighting began and continued this duty in the Netherlands East Indies before retiring to Port Darwin, Australia, in mid-February 1942.
Awarded Silver Star
Planes from four of the six Japanese carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor struck Darwin on February 19, 1942. Early in the raid, William B. Preston got underway and headed for the open sea. As the attack had developed rapidly, Chief Machinist’s Mate Blair, a member of the after repair party, went below in company with Metalsmith 2d Class LeRay Wilson, to close hatches and watertight doors. Just after they finished that task, a bomb struck the ship in the compartment in which they were standing, killing both instantly. Their efficient performance of duty, however, limited the flooding suffered by the warship to two compartments. Each man received a Silver Star posthumously.
The destroyer escort USS Blair (DE-147) was named in his honor. The ship was laid down on January 19, 1943, at Orange, Texas, by the Consolidated Steel Corporation; launched on April 6, 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Vestie Foster, the mother of three sons in the United States Navy; and commissioned at Orange, Lt. Alden J. Laborde, USNR, in command.
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- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
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