Wilbur Asbury Dillmore, Jr. was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, on June 14, 1922. Known as Junior Dillmore and also as June, he lived in Bridgeport, West Virginia, four miles east of Clarksburg in central West Virginia, and attended Bridgeport schools. He graduated from Bridgeport Union High School in 1941.
Junior Dillmore was honored in his 1941 high school yearbook in a number of ways: co-captain of the 1941 basketball team, awarded a medal for the Section A All-Tournament basketball team, honorable mention for the All State high school basketball team, sports editor of the Shawnee Powwow (high school newspaper), elected Ki-Cu-Wa King (Mr. Bridgeport Union High School 1941), played on the 1940 Little Ten Conference football champions, and played the part of "Michael Morgan" in the 1941 senior play, "The Tangled Yarn." He was known as a popular, caring young man who was deeply concerned that his mother would be home alone while he was away, as his father traveled for weeks at a time in the furniture business.
Junior Dillmore enlisted in the U.S. Navy along with his younger brother, Frank, in December 1941 at Clarksburg, entering the Navy in early January 1942. The two brothers requested that they be kept together, however they were separated. Frank was ordered for more training at Little Creek, Virginia. Junior was assigned to the USS SAN PEDRO but became ill and was reassigned upon his recovery to the ill-fated S.S. CHALLENGER.
CHALLENGER, a 7,953 gross ton freighter, was built in 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company at Alameda, California, for the U.S. Shipping Board's Emergency Fleet Corporation. Upon completion in early October 1918 she was turned over to the Navy, which placed her in commission as USS CHALLENGER. Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, the ship made her maiden voyage to Chile, where she picked up a cargo of nitrates for transportation to Pensacola, Florida. During January and February 1919 she took cargo to France. In early May 1919, after returning to the U.S., CHALLENGER was decommissioned and returned to the Shipping Board. Later operated by the American-South African Line.
On the CHALLENGER were nine officers, thirty two crewmen, eleven Armed Guards, and twelve passengers.
The CHALLENGER, built in 1918, was enroute to Capetown, South Africa, when she experienced engine problems. She was limping unescorted toward Trinidad for repairs when on May 17, 1942, the German submarine U-155 sank the CHALLENGER with two torpedo hits at approximately 3:48 AM (0948 GMT).
Casualties from the attack on the CHALLENGER were two Armed Guards, one passenger, and five crewmen. One of the Armed Guard casualties was Junior Dillmore, seaman second class, who was awarded the Purple Heart. He died less than a month before his 20th birthday.
U-155, under the command of Korvettenkapitän Adolf Cornelius Piening, had some hours earlier that morning sank the British motor tanker San Victorio, killing 51.
Junior Dillmore had three brothers, two older and one younger, and three sisters: Edwin (1917), Roy (1918), Dorothy (1919), Lila (1920), Dona (1921) and Frank (1923). Only Dorothy and Lila still survive at this date (2007).
Pictured on Main Street, Bridgeport, WV, 1941 (left); US Navy Armed Guard photograph (center); notation on back of photograph (right)
Parents, Wilbur A., Sr., and Millie Dillmore (left); Frank Dillmore, brother of Junior Dillmore, US Navy photograph (right)
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