MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Visitors to the USS Yorktown Friday witnessed a special honor for a World War II fighter pilot who actually flew missions for the ship.
Pilot Bill Watkinson had no idea what was planned for him when he arrived aboard the USS Yorktown. It was all a surprise for the 96-year old, who said, he only did what millions of others had done for their country.
"I don't know what the heck this is all about," Watkinson said.
But he quickly found out. The type of plane he flew performing patrols off the ship, will now have his name appear on it. That's an F6F Fighter Plane, flown by Navy pilots.
Watkinson flew night patrols for the Yorktown in 1945.
"Now, that's a pretty tough role when you think about it," Mike Sudzina, Chair of the USS Yorktown Naming Committee, said. "He did everything the other pilots did, but they had to do it at night when they flew their missions."
Watkinson was thrilled by the honor but says he was only doing what so many others did during that time, answer the call of duty.
"Everybody of my generation is well deserved I'm only one of millions and they all did their part when the country needed them," he said.
One night when he was returning to the ship, he was hit by enemy fire. He landed safely, but once he did, he realized two things. First, there was a hole in the wing of his plane so big his mechanic could stand inside of it, and one of the wheels from his landing gear was blown off.
Yorktown officials say it took special talent to be a Navy Night Fighter.
"One was exceptional eyesight, the other was a steel spine and the other is steel in a few other places on their body," he said.