Conflict Period:
World War I 1
Coast Guard 1
Seaman 1
ca. 1898 1
New York 1
17 Sep 1918 1
off the coast of France 1

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Personal Details

William Heermance Prime 1
Hometown: Yonkers, Westchester County, New York 2
Hometown: USCGC Seneca 1
ca. 1898 2
New York 2
Male 2
New York 1
Male 1
17 Sep 1918 2
off the coast of France 2

World War I 1

Coast Guard 1
Seaman 1
Service End Date:
1918 1
Casualty Cause:
Hostile, Died 1
Casualty Date:
17 Sep 1918 1
Casualty Place:
North Atlantic Ocean 1
Casualty Reason:
Drowned, Suffocated 1
Ship served on:
USCGC Seneca 2

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William H. Prime dies off the coast of France

The Yonkers Statesman
Monday afternoon, September 23, 1918
front page



Was One of Ten Americans Drowned While Trying, in Heavy Sea, to Save a Torpedoed Ship.

Ralph Earl Prime, jr., of 75 Locust Hill avenue, received on Saturday evening a telegram from the Navy Department, announcing that his son, William H. Prime, was one of 10 American sailors who lost their lives on Sept. 16, while attempting in a heavy sea to save the British steamer Wellington, which had been put in a sinking condition by an enemy torpedo off the coast of France.

Mr. Prime said he had no further information, in addition to the reports in the newspapers than the mere fact that his son had lost his life.

William entered the Coast Guard service two weeks after the declaration of war by this country, while he was a student at Williams College, from which he had expected to graduate in 1920.

After several months of preliminary training he was sent abroad, and for 13 months has been in foreign waters. Owing to pressing work incident to the war, he was not able to get a furlough, and had not seen his parents from the time he enlisted. He is a graduate of the Horace Mann School for Boys in New York, and attended the Yonkers High School. He was the chief gunner on the Seneca, and was in the 21st year of his age.

Mr. and Mrs. Prime have two other sons, Gardner and Ralph Earle Prime, 3rd, who are students in the Horace Mann School and Williams College, respectively.

Mrs. Prime was formerly Miss Jessie Heermance, a daughter of the late Colonel William L. Heermance of Yonkers, who rendered distinguished service for the Union in the Civil War.

A True Scout

William Heermance Prime has given his life as a sacrifice to God and his country. He was among the first of the Yonkers boys to identify himself with Scouting, and was a member of the original patrol of Troop 4, Boy Scouts of America. He earned at an early date his advancement to First Class Scout, and is believed to have been the first Life and Star Scout in the city.

After completing his preparation for college at the Horace Mann School, he entered in September, 1916, the freshman class at Williams College, where he continued his active interest in Scouting. Soon after passing his mid-year examination, the break in diplomatic relations with Germany and the consequent declaration of war, impelled him to leave college and to offer his service to the country as a volunteer, although he was then only 19 years of age. He enlisted on April 23, 1917, in the United States Coast Guard (a branch of the regular navy), and was assigned as a member of a specially-formed class for training at the Coast Guard Academy at New London Conn., where he spent four months and was then detailed for active serviceon the U. S. S. Mohawk off the Atlantic coast.

On Aug. 18, 1917, he volunteered for foreign service on the U. S. S. Seneca, and sailed on the same day for European waters. He was in continuous active service on the coast of Europe and in the Mediterranean until the final encounter with the enemy, in which after rescuing the crew of a torpedoed British ship, he, with other volunteers, lost his life in attempting to salvage and bring into port during a heavy storm the disabled ship. His example of devotion to duty and fearless bravery will be an inspiration to all other sailors and to his brother Scouts all over the world.

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