While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Art Leatherwood

HAWKINS, WILLIAM DEAN (1914–1943). William Dean (Hawk) Hawkins, Medal of Honor recipient, was born at Fort Scott, Kansas, to Mrs. C. Jane Hawkins, on April 19, 1914. He attended Lamar and Alta Vista schools in El Paso, skipped the fifth grade, and graduated from El Paso High School at sixteen. He attended Texas School of Mines on a scholarship. Though he claimed to be opposed to war, he enlisted in the marine corps shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was commissioned after the campaign for the Solomon Islands. On November 20 and 21, 1943, First Lieutenant Hawkins was commanding officer of a scout-sniper platoon attached to the assault regiment in action against the Japanese-held island of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. The first to disembark from the jeep lighter, he unhesitatingly moved forward under heavy enemy fire and neutralized the Betio Pier and the enemy troops assaulting the main beach positions. During that day and night he repeatedly risked his life to direct and lead attacks on pillboxes and enemy installations. At dawn on the twenty-first he resumed the dangerous task of clearing the beachhead of enemy resistance. He personally initiated an assault on a position fortified by five machine guns. Crawling forward under heavy enemy fire he fired point-blank into loopholes and completed the destruction with hand grenades. Though seriously wounded in the chest, he refused to withdraw and continued to carry the fight to the enemy until mortally wounded by a burst of enemy shell fire. His exceptionally daring action inspired his comrades during the most crucial phase of the battle for Tarawa. After the island was secured, the airstrip was named Hawkins Field in his honor. A destroyer, the USS William Dean Hawkins, was also named in his honor.

Robert Sherrod, Tarawa: The Story of a Battle (Fredericksburg, Texas: Admiral Nimitz Foundation, 1973). Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Art Leatherwood, "HAWKINS, WILLIAM DEAN," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhalr.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...