Williams received a congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy two years later. Bored and restless at first, he "almost flunked out," but he was always extremely proud of his Annapolis experience, of having associated with so many "high-powered" and "first-rate" people, and of having been taken "very damn seriously." Upon being commissioned in 1944, he served as an executive officer on landing craft for fifteen months in the Pacific, suffering serious back injuries that would always plague him. Sent at the end of the war to Corpus Christi to train as a naval flyer, he engaged in civil rights activities with the local NAACP, a few Quakers, and some Communists (for whom he had "enormous respect"). The FBI harassed him, his landlord evicted him, and the local police worked him over.