As the battle wore on indecisively, Peter Williams continued working the Monitor 's helm in response to Worden's calm orders. At one point, as they maneuvered around the Virginia 's stern, over Worden's shoulder Williams could see the enemy ship through the forward window slit. He realized he was looking right into the muzzle of the Confederate's stern gun only 20 yards away. Suddenly, there was a great flash and a thunderous crash as an enemy shell slammed into the pilothouse. Williams was thrown from the helm to his hands and knees. Miraculously, the young quartermaster was not seriously injured, but his captain was less fortunate. Worden had taken much of the blast and staggered back with his hands to his face, blood pouring from all the pores of his forehead. Blinded, he was taken to his cabin.
Trembling violently, his ears ringing from the concussion, Williams climbed to his feet and steadied the Monitor . Until the executive officer could get to the pilot house, Williams was in sole command of the ironclad, maneuvering her as he had under Worden's command.
After several hours, it was evident that neither ironclad was going to prevail, and with exhausted crews, the ships retired from battle. For his courage under fire and for taking control of the ship in the midst of battle, Quartermaster Peter Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Launched on 22 October 1942, the Fletcher (DD-445)-class destroyer USS Trathen (DD-530) was commissioned on 28 May 1943. In late summer 1943, she assisted with the capture and reoccupation of enemy-held Baker Island. On 2 February 1944, the Trathen provided fire support off Kwajalein Island. Several days later, she and several other warships provided gunnery support to three battalions of Marines assaulting Gugegwe Island.
She joined the Seventh Fleet on 3 May and sailed for New Guinea, where she provided naval fire support to forces landing on Wadke Island. Several months later, as part of Task Group 32.5, the Trathen screened U.S. aircraft carriers launching attacks against enemy positions on Palau. During October 1944, the destroyer downed a Japanese fighter and captured its pilot.