NORVAL (DICK) WILLIAMS
I was a soldier– I am a soldier– I will always be a soldier
PFC Norval Williams 33 674 409
318th Infantry Regiment
80th Infantry Division
Salute to Freedom
The following is a review of the 80th Infantry Division History which I, as a soldier, gallantly served in helping to make part of this history during World War II.
An Infantryman Remembers
Tonight my home is a hole in the frozen ground.
It was the same last night and the night before.
If I am fortunate, I’ll be in another one tomorrow night.
My dinner is cold from a camouflaged box.
My dirty, ragged blanket is almost covered with mud and snow,
While my uniform clashes with the whiteness that surrounds me.
If I had a sheet, I’d wrap in it and be hidden from the enemy.
I am an outpost without friends ahead.
Stretched behind me is the needed support for my fight.
The battle continues on an epic scale, but for me
The epicenter is here, a forsaken, only temporary hole.
We fight in small groups, relying on instinct and prayer,
Unaware of what decisions are being made for us in the rear.
Wars are not won in large scale battles.
But rather in small skirmishes by lonesome dedicated troops
Who sometimes have no clear orders from those in charge higher up.
Hungry, cold, tired and dirty, Duty is our leadership.
Some troops farther back have shelter, hot food, a decent bed,
And comfort in knowing that they won’t be shelled tonight.
I am fortunate that I lived to tell the story of many of those
Who perished too young to leave their mark.
They are the heroes, the too soon forgotten ones.
To whom their country owes a debt of immeasurable gratitude.
History of the 80th Infantry Division
“ Blue Ridge Division”
World War I
The 80th Division (Institutional Training), as it is known today, was constituted August 5, 1917, in the National Army as Headquarters, 80th Infantry Division and was activated later that month at Camp Lee (now Fort Lee), Virginia. Made up primarily of draftees from Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the new division was nicknamed the “Blue Ridge Division.” The unit shoulder patch reflects this tradition with three Mountain peaks representing the three states.
The 80th reached full strength of 23,000 soldiers and sailed for France, landing June 8, 1918. By mid-August the Division completed training with the British Third Army and joined forces on the front lines, where it took part in the Somme and the Meuse-Argonne offensives of WWI.
During the night on November 5, 1918, the 80th was replaced on the front lines by the units of the First Division and held in reserve until the cessation of hostilities on November 11th. The 80th returned to the States in May 1919 and was inactivated at Camp Lee on June 26th. It was reconstituted into the organized reserve on June 24, 1921 and organized September 1, 1922, at Richmond, VA. Because of funding and personal shortages, Army Reserve divisions were never more than cadre units during the inter-war period.
The 80th Infantry Division in World War II
On July 15, 1942, just 20 days short of its 25th birthday, the 80th
Division was again ordered to active service. Soldiers reported to Camp Forest, TN, and later trained at Camp Phillips, KS, and the
California-Arizona maneuver area. On July 4, 1944, the 80th boarded the Queen Mary and a few days later landed at Greenock, Firth of Clyde, Scotland. It proceeded South to Northwich, England, for more training. The Division crossed the English Channel to France and began landing on Utah Beach shortly after noon on August 2, 1944.
The 80th got its baptism of fire on August 8, when it took over the LeMans bridgehead in the XX Corps area.
During the next nine months, the 80th served in General George Patton’s Third Army, fighting its way across Northern France, Belgium, and into Germany. By war’s end, some 80th units had gotten as far as Austria and Czechoslovakia. Along the way, the Division saved the City of Luxembourg from German troops commanded by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt during the Battle of the Bulge (the Ardennes Offensive), by making a 150-mile motorized march in just 36 hours to form a defensive line around the city.
With the 4th Armored and 26th Infantry Divisions, the 80th Division’s 2nd Battalion, 318 Infantry and the 1st Battalion, 319th Infantry, helped relieve American forces surrounded at Bastogne.
The Division crossed the Our and Sauer rivers into Germany the first week of February 1945, breaking through the “West Wall.” The advance moved with such speed that in one six-day period the Division covered 125 miles. By early April, it crossed the Rhine and took the industrial city of Kassel. Proceeding eastward, it also captured Gotha, Erfurt, and Weimar-Buchenwald (location of the
infamous concentration camp).
By V-E Day, May 7 & 8 1945—the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany—the 80th had amassed 277 days of combat and had captured more than 200,000 enemy soldiers.
The Division returned to the States in January 1946 and was placed on inactive status. Six months later, it was redesignated as the Reserve airborne division. The Division was reorganized as a Reserve infantry division on May 10, 1952, and then as a Reserve
Training division on March 1, 1959. On October 1, 1994, the 80th
was re-designated as an institutional training division.
The Middle East in 1990-1991
Two 80th Division units were called to active duty in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The 424th Transportation Company of Galax, VA, was activated November 17, 1990. After training and equipping at Fort Eustis, VA. It deployed to Saudi Arabia January 5, 1991.
For its service in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the 424th was awarded a Meritorious Commendation. It was cited for operating under adverse conditions in a combat zone, logging over 850,000 accident-free road miles in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. By the end of the war, elements of the 424th had advanced as far as the Euphrates River in support of coalition assault units. The 424th returned to the States on June 29-30, 1991, and to home station July 3rd.
Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 318th Regiment, 4th Brigade, at Fort Story, VA, were activated January 23, 1991, and reported to Fort Eustis to train recalled reservists. Because of the short duration of the ground war in Iraq and Kuwait, additional Individual Ready Reserve troops were not called up and the 3rd Battalion was released from active duty and returned to home station March 17th.
Students’ Concern Prompts WW II Summary
It is my understanding that the school students today are not being taught about WW II in history classes; therefore, I have undertaken to write a brief summary of some of the features of World War II.
Adolf Hitler, a very unimpressive man, entered the German army as a private in World War I and attained only the rank of corporal four years later. However, after the war, with his persuasive oratory and a grandiose scheme for world domination, he became leader of the Nazi party and mesmerized Germany. He assumed the title of Fuehrer or Leader and the German people went along with him. Part of his Plan for German world conquest was what he called “the Final Solution.” The object of this “Solution” was to wipe out the Jewish race. It was brutal and his victims ran into the millions. This part of Hitler’s plan is known as the “Holocaust.” Hitler started World War II in September, 1939, with the conquest of Austria and then proceeded with the conquest of Poland and other European countries. The invasion of Austria is known as the Anschluss. When Hitler and the Nazi forces embarked on the conquest of Moscow, Stalin kept throwing reinforcements in Hitler’s path, making the capture of the Russian capitol impossible. An bitter Russian winter in 1941also contributed to the Nazi army becoming bogged down and never achieving its objective.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the United States was attacked without warning by Japan. Early on that fateful date, they attacked Pearl Harbor, sinking many of our ships with heavy personnel casualties. At 1:00 p.m. the Japanese ambassador delivered a message to Washington declaring that Japan was at war with the United States. Two days later Germany declared war on us. We were now in World War II.
In the United States, starting on December 8th, 1941—the day following the Japanese attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—volunteers flooded the recruiting stations, not waiting for their draft numbers to be called. All branches of the service knew that expansion required a large influx of new officers and invited troops in the enlisted ranks to apply for officer candidate school. (At that time, the Air Force was under the command of the Army and did not become a separate branch until 1947.) The Army Chief of Staff was General George C. Marshall, who took office on September 1, 1939, and stayed in that position until fall 1945.
Intensive training and material manufacturing was at its peak. On June 6, 1944, a large contingent of troops invaded the Normandy Coast of France, with heavy casualties particularly on Omaha Beach.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander in Europe, was pleased with Army progress and predicted that the war in Europe would end by Christmas. That proved to be wishful thinking. Despite stiff resistance on the part of American troops particularly, Nazi Germany assembled three field armies and made a surprise attack on Belgium and Luxembourg on December 16, 1944. Hitler chose the Ardennes Forest and that date because he knew that the weather would be bad, denying the Army Air Force good flying weather.
The Nazi army succeeded in making a quick penetration because we were inadequately prepared for what was named by the U.S. as “The Battle of the Bulge.” Germany amassed 500,000 troops and the American Army hastily picked troops from American Third and Ninth Armies, mainly to reinforce the American First Army, which was under heavy attack. The buildup continued in a fierce battle in bitter cold weather, with the American troops unprepared for the minus 20 degrees temperatures. At the peak of the buildup, there were over l,000,000 men engaged in bitter fighting—the greatest single land battle in American history.
The German army penetrated half of Belgium but never succeeded in reaching Antwerp, the principal Belgium port where military supplies necessary to sustain the conflict could be unloaded. We drove the German army back to Germany by January 25, 1945. The war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, with the surrender of Germany and the suicide of Hitler and many men of the Nazi higher command.
In the Pacific, heavy fighting continued with the Japanese as General Douglas MacArthur’s forces fought their way back to the Philippines. While the war in Europe is over, many troops were sent back to the U.S. to be redeployed to the Pacific Theater, mainly for the invasion of Japan. Morale was low. After fighting fierce battles in the European Theater, the troops felt that they had done their part.
In a surprise event, the U.S., under the wraps of great secrecy, had succeeded in building an atomic bomb. In the spring of 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki. The casualties were heavy, of course, but the Emperor of Japan did not surrender. The second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, again with heavy casualties. This time the message was clear, and Japan surrendered unconditionally in August 1945.
This is the only time in history that an atomic bomb had been used in warfare. There is no point to a discussion of justification. We can only hope that will never be repeated.
Memoirs of a World War II Infantryman
My Induction into the U. S Army and Infantry Training
December 7, 1941, the United States declared war against Japan and Germany. I was 16 years of age attending high school and anxious to join up, as everyone was at that time. I realized the importance of a high school education and stayed in school to graduate with my class in 1943. As I was 18 on February 6 of that year and of draft status, I had to get a 6-month deferment to complete my senior year. Immediately following graduation, I was inducted into the Army on June 11, 1943 in Greensburg, PA and left for camp June 25, two weeks after graduating. I had two weeks of freedom to enjoy between high school and Uncle Sam wanting me.
I traveled by train from Pittsburgh, PA to my induction center at the Indiantown Gap Military reservation in Pennsylvania where we were issued our G.I. clothing. Everyone received a free styled haircut as the barber decided that a crew cut looked better on all of us. He only had a pair of clippers. We sure learned a lot in the couple of days that we were there such as close order drill, a lot of marching, how to make your bed and scrub the barracks floor. The nice mess SGT told us that we could take all the food that we wanted but make sure ate all that we took.
From Indiantown Gap, PA, we were loaded onto a troop train not knowing to where we were going but watching the names of the towns as we traveled along. We knew we were going West across the U.S. and we finally ended up in Southern California, a town called Riverside.
We got off the train, loaded into trucks and journeyed to our final destination named Camp Hahn, an anti-aircraft camp located across the highway from March Field, an airbase for B-24 bombers on submarine patrol looking for enemy subs. The cities along the coast were bristling with anti-aircraft guns, expecting an attack from Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943 we were still on the
Defensive. I completed my basic training, including maneuvers on the Mojave Desert.
My Mother’s Diary in Verse
One June night the 25th
We started out we knew not where.
We all were happy, young and free,
The year was 1943 .
We took a train at ten o’clock,
The night was dark and very hot.
We got aboard and found a seat
We even had a lunch to eat.
We rode all night till early Morn,
Then left the train all tired and worn.
We got on trucks all painted brown
That took us far away from town.
We finally found we were at Ft. Meade,
A place they take you when they need
More men to train as soldiers brave,
Our country to protect and save.
We got a shower and more to eat,
And then we found it was no treat.
Our make of clothes they did not suit,
We took them off from head to boot.
Then we were measured by some man,
And dressed to suit our Uncle Sam.
We started on the I. Q. test,
We didn’t have much time to rest.
We fussed and fumed and tried to think
Of answers, so we wouldn’t sink.
Four days of that then we were parted,
But we got shots before we started.
We tramped and drilled and tramped and drilled
Until we felt like we were grilled.
Then on the board we saw our name,
And knew things wouldn’t be the same.
So on a train we went once more,
And rode till we were stiff and sore.
No word or call, ( It was no joke.)
To any member of our folk.
Chicago stop? Not even then,
We kept on riding, where and when?
The next day found us on the train,
Who said that wouldn’t be a strain.
We had good eats and service too,
And talked and joked with all we knew.
Our beds were fair but cramped you see,
For over six foot guys like me.
On towards the west we went,
They told us not where we be sent.
Four nights and four days to be exact,
Then we were told to take our pack.
We found we had gone West alright,
We saw the sunshine and the bright.
Blue skies of California State,
So true to all that we had read of late.
The beautiful City of Riverside,
Near where the Stars with skirts abide.
About sixty miles from Hollywood,
A glamorous city it is understood.
By: Mary Ellen Williams
With the defeat of the Japanese Navy in the Pacific, plus the success of the North African campaign along with the progress in Italy, the Allies were no longer on the defensive but now on the offensive. The Army no longer needed as many anti-aircraft battalions and our Battalion, among many, was sent to Camp Carson for six weeks of infantry training where we received the news of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. On completion of our six weeks of infantry training, we all got a furlough home before being sent overseas. My orders were to report to Camp Kilmore, NJ, in preparation for departure August 11, 1944 by convoy to the European Theater of Operation, arriving eleven days later on August 22, 1944. Before disembarking in Greenock, Firth of Clyde, Scotland, a British officer came aboard our ship to welcome us but expressed his thoughts that we were too late. He said that the war against Germany was about over. Boy, was he ever wrong!
Traveling from Scotland to a camp outside Bath, England, staying overnight and continuing the following day to Southampton, we finally boarded an English ship for our crossing of the English Channel. We disembarked the following morning into landing crafts and came ashore past the sunken wreckage of D-Day. A road had been cut up along the cliffs by bulldozers where we proceeded to hike along, carrying our rifles, backpacks, and duffel bags to the top of the hill. We had it much easier than the soldiers who landed on D-Day and had to fight the enemy to reach the top of those cliffs. Upon arriving at the top, I was shocked to witness the vast number of the row-upon-row of white crosses which made up the huge cemetery of those men who gave the supreme sacrifice on D-Day. Further on, between the hedge rows of Normandy, it looked like Detroit’s assembly line as the G.I. truck and Jeep parts were being stored and assembled in the fields in order to move more equipment by ship instead of completely built vehicles. Again, we were loaded into trucks, which the quartermaster units named Red-Ball Express, used to transport troops and supplies since the railroads had not been repaired for use as yet.
The Normandy Cemetery
We traveled across France in order to catch up with the advancing front lines. After the attacks and counter attacks at Saint Lo, France, the enemy was really on the run, retreating, but finally our supply lines could not keep up with the demand for ammunition, food, and replacement troops so they had to stop the advance at the Mosel River and that is where I finally caught up with the front lines.
We were to be assigned as replacements to General George Patton’s Third Army, 80th Infantry Division.
The 318th Regiment that I was to be assigned to was cut off up ahead on Pont-à-Mousson and were awaiting the 319th Regiment coming up from our right flank around Nancy, France to break through and relieve the 318th.
Meanwhile we were told to take what clothing we were wearing plus our gas masks, backpacks, and entrenching shovels and all the other clothes in our duffel bag, including an extra pair of combat boots, second shirt and pants, towel, washcloth, underwear, handkerchiefs and all the other issues including the stinking impregnated clothes that were to be worn in case of a gas attack , and throw them all on a bonfire in the center of the field. We were told that we would not be needing these any longer.
Then we were ordered to dig in on the edge of town as a counter attack had taken place early that morning. That evening, we joined up with our assigned Companies and squads after they had been relieved up on Pont-à-Mousson. They were a beleaguered bunch of soldiers compared to us who were clean shaven and freshly clothed replacements but they were glad to have us help fill their ranks. Even from that day on, I can never remember having a full twelve man squad.
Our company commander greeted us and told us after his men had been seeing so many of their own casualties killed and wounded that we were going on a patrol that night as he had received word that a lot of the enemy had been killed in battle on a flank and figured that patrolling the scene would help raise his men’s moral. So off we went in the dark of night to view the enemy dead. Here I am walking along hoping not to trip over or even see any corpses but it was heart lifting for what some of these old-time warriors had been through, experiencing their own buddies getting hit with snipers and enemy artillery all the time. I, too, could see the logic of this as time went on.
I was now positioned in our squad in front of the assistant squad leader and 7th position back from the front but at times you can move up too quickly as others become wounded or killed and new replacements join the ranks.
I clearly remember my first encounter with the enemy as we moved through a field of high grass and were fired upon. We hit the ground and returned the fire. Then I suddenly realized that my backpack was sticking up higher than the tall grass and I would become an easy target, so I quickly took my knife and cut loose the shoulder straps and rolled that pack off my back never to see it again. It contained all my personal items, including my writing paper, envelopes, pen and even a camera. I quickly realized that I was not on a picnic as we had to keep moving forward in a ditch alongside a road leading into town since we were under enemy mortar fire. As we scrambled forward along the ditch, keeping our heads down in order to prevent getting hit with shrapnel from the incoming mortar shells, I suddenly received a call from Mother Nature. It was diarrhea calling and not at the right time or right place to be dropping your britches and squatting in an upright position to relieve the situation when your life is in danger.
At that moment, across the fields to our right, appeared a couple of our Sherman tanks, firing a couple of 75 millimeter rounds hitting the barn on the edge of town after which 44 Germans surrendered. It was now evening and getting dark quickly and we had to march these 44 prisoners back to the town from where we had started our drive earlier that same day. When we arrived at this town and asked who could take custody of these prisoners, we were told that the military police were not up this far yet and we would have to take them further back to the next town. We were very tired, worn out and hungry after a long day. Whitey, our B.A.R. man, said to line them up against the wall because we were not going any further with these krauts as this is the end of the line. A couple of anti-aircraft artillery men spoke up and said that they would take charge of the prisoners and turn them over to the MP’s over in the next town. We then occupied a vacant house for the night, posted a guard detail and we all got some much needed sleep.
The following day, we had to catch up to our Company “I” again in order to continue our advance against the enemy, either to take a strategic hill or the next town or village. I always liked liberating the towns better than taking a hill as there was only another hill to take beyond that and there were no spoils of war such as in the towns, that is tamed rabbits, chickens, eggs, and especially the preserved fruits, not to mention the wines, cognac, calvados, etc. We figured that what little of their food we ate was but a small price for the French people to be liberated from the Nazi occupation all those years. Besides, we enjoyed some of this food better than our field rations or to add to our “C” rations which consisted of three varieties, baked beans, hash or stew along with the crackers in the other cans. Speaking of “C” or “K” rations, we always enjoyed the ten-in-one rations that the armored units would share with us when we rode atop the tanks spearheading through the enemy lines until nightfall when they would place the tanks in a circle like the Conestoga wagons during the days of the wild west. Then, we would dig in, making an outer circle to protect the tanks against enemy bazookas.
After breaking through the French Maginot line our regiment was relieved by one of our other regiments while we were pulled back into reserve position for the purpose of being schooled and trained for demolition work, such as the use of TNT pole charges, primer cord, and composition C-2 in preparation of attacking the German Siegfried Line bunkers, our next objective. But after fighting many engagements and sustaining many losses on night patrols, we did not have many men left who had been trained in demolition use. Those of us who still survived made good use of the training and succeeded in defeating the enemy once again by knocking out those pillboxes that the Germans had figured impregnable. We broke through their line of defense at only one spot, then fanned out behind
them, cut off their communications, surrounded them, forced them to surrender.
I soon realized that the most tiring and exhausting part of being in the infantry was not so much while you were actually fighting in battle, but that every night you dug in with a buddy and decided on standing guard duty while you and your comrade could get a couple of hours of needed sleep. They would pull one man out of each foxhole to go on a night patrol so regardless if you went on patrol or not you had to stay awake the rest of the night to stand guard alone in your foxhole.
I will say our Company’s kitchen crew worked hard in order to get at least one hot meal up to us each day whenever they could in large thermos containers in the rear of a Jeep. I remember one rainy night after dark, my squad leader told us one man at a time from each foxhole to go back a few yards to where the kitchen Jeep had parked to get some hot chow. This was a night so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face nor could we see the food that was being put into our mess kit so you had to ask what each thing was that was being ladled into our mess kit; namely, creamed corn, mashed potatoes with gravy, and rice pudding along with a downpour of rain to add to the sloppy mixture. This was referred to as a hot meal.
One day I received a letter from a high school friend. He was stationed in England as a gunner on a B-17 bomber and had completed his required missions and was to go home soon. He asked how I was doing, so I wrote back to tell him that we in the infantry don’t have it as nice as the air force guys to be sleeping between white sheets, eating class A chow and enjoying weekend passes. Also, we had no number of missions or battles in order to qualify going home. There were only three ways for us to go home and that would have been a million dollar wound, the war to end, or go home in a body bag.
In December 1944, our 80th Division was relieved from front line duty and pulled back on division rest in a town somewhere in France. We enjoyed a shower (first in four months) issued clean clothes, even a shave and a haircut. But our supposedly week or two rest was cut short after two days as we received orders to move out and were loaded into a convoy of trucks not knowing where we were going. But the thing that seemed strange to me was that we traveled all night with bright headlights instead of the usual black-out lights as normally used. The convoy of trucks lit up the sky. I later realized that the weather was so bad that our own air force could not fly; therefore, the enemy planes had to be grounded also due to bad weather conditions.
The following day we traveled North into Luxembourg. Along the route, the other side of the road was jammed with peasants carting all their belongings in the opposite direction evacuating their towns. Yes, the Germans were reoccupying Belgium and Luxembourg in what was later referred to as the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler tried desperately to break through our lines and drive a wedge 80 miles wide clear to the port of Antwerp, Belgium using many of his Panzer Army and S.S. troops. The Battle of the Bulge turned out to
be the largest single land battle of WWII with 19,000 American troops killed and 62,000 wounded, captured or missing in action.
Our outfit was positioned on a hill overlooking the town of Ettelbruck, Luxembourg where we ate our Christmas dinner. It was brought up to our positions by our company’s kitchen crew, only this time the weather was clearing and our air force was able to fly again and what an air show they put on for us as the P-47 Thunderbolts flew over and bombed Ettlebruck just ahead of our dug-in positions as a softening up before we were to move in to take the town. One plane would fly over high to draw enemy anti-aircraft fire while suddenly another plane would come in low over our heads and drop its bombs while the enemy fire was being concentrated on the first plane in the other direction. At that time, while watching their tactics, I quickly realized that I had better keep my head down in my fox hole when the bomb fragments began cutting through the trees above our heads.
The bombing runs, including incendiary bombs, that the planes dropped on the town caused the enemy to retreat, pulling completely out of town that night. The next morning, after our artillery laid down a barrage, we proceeded to move in and take the town. To our surprise, we incurred no resistance so we moved through and dug in on the hill on the other side of town expecting a possible counter attack that night. One of our men mentioned that there was a distillery back in town, and by the next day the combat MP’s would have it guarded and it would be off limits. We formed a patrol and went back into town that night to acquire some liquid heat to help keep us warm on a cold winter night. Believe me, a swig of Brandy sure warmed you up as you had to be careful how much you drank as we would be intoxicated and not be able to shoot and hit the side of a barn.
The attack went on for several days in intense cold, and the 317th liberated the villages of Bourscheid, Heiderschei, and Heidersheiderung as the 4th Armored Division and our 318th Infantry Regiment rescued the besieged paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division who had been sent to Bastogne to protect the crucial crossroads. The Germans withdrew across the river north of Kehman. As the engineers cleared the snow, they uncovered many soldiers previously listed as missing in action.
We continued driving the enemy back until the German Seventh Army, out of fuel, was driven back to the Sauer River it had crossed ten days before, but it wasn’t all that easy going with the sub-zero temperatures. I remember one night when we occupied some fox holes on the high ground located in an orchard with a customary two men to a fox hole and a mutual agreement of one hour of guard duty each because of it being so cold while your buddy caught some much needed sleep and vice versa. There happened to be a wooden shed at the edge of the orchard with a wood stove in it and the men were taking turns throughout the night to get warmed up. When I was asked if I wanted to get warmed up, I chose not to go as it was starting to break dawn and we would be moving out shortly. Instead, I climbed out of the fox hole, leaned my rifle against the small fruit tree alongside the edge of our fox hole and began to shake the dirt from my blanket when, all of a sudden, an “88” shell hit the wooden shed and blew it to bits. As I dove into my fox hole, the next shell hit that tree on the edge of our fox hole knocking my rifle which landed on my back. When my ears quit ringing from the explosion of that round, I heard the engine start up of a German Tiger tank and saw it pull out of the valley ahead of our positions. It must have been sitting there all night watching the movement of our men to and from the shed until daybreak and the tank moved out after those two rounds were fired, probably afraid that our forward artillery observer would be ordering our artillery fire upon the tank.
I’m sorry to say we lost our 2nd Lieutenant, Platoon SGT plus four other men all who were in that shed to keep warm. Thank God I wasn’t among them and decided not to take my turn to get some warmth. These losses would occur and result in changing your position in your squad after someone was either killed or wounded and replacements came in where you moved up until you became 2nd scout; then if you still survived that position, you became 1st scout, which meant that you were the first person out front. For instance, if you came through a wooded area and had to cross a clearing, it was your place to lead out first across the field keeping distance between each man, everyone spread out so that one mortar or artillery shell wouldn’t take out all of us. I survived 2nd and 1st scout positions and replaced my assistant squad leader who was killed when a shell landed in his fox hole blowing half his face off.
An assistant squad leader’s rating was a buck SGT and squad leader was a staff SGT I later became staff SGT when our squad leader was wounded. These stripes were referred to as “blood stripes.” My company commander called me in to his command post to tell me that he could not give out the ratings I should have been entitled to. The T.O. was overfilled with so many Tech Sgts and Tech Corporals coming in as replacements from the Air Force at this time. My company commander gave me a choice either to be acting squad
leader or to let him place one of these air force Tech Sgts. as squad
leader. Of course, I chose to be acting squad leader since there was no place to spend the pay that goes with the staff sgt’s position, and besides that a replacement from the Air Force wouldn’t be too knowledgeable in infantry tactics. He would expect me to dig a fox hole in the middle of the road for example.
We reached the Sauer River and had to cross over early that following morning on February 6, 1945, my birthday, Hell of a way to spend a birthday. Our artillery began to lay down a smoke screen with shells landing on the far side of the river in order to block the view of the enemy as we made our crossing in rubber rafts brought up by the combat engineers during the night. Each rubber raft held approximately six or eight men, three or four on each side of the raft
while holding your rifle upright between your legs, freeing your hands using a canoe paddle. Three rafts had already made it across when it was our turn to shove off. Some of these men had never gone boating before and as we crossed the river with its swift current and each man paddling as hard as he could to reach the other side as quickly as possible. I tried to tell the men on the port side of the boat to ease off a little on their paddling for fear that the swift current would spin us around and come completely out from the cover of the smoke screen and be sitting ducks. The wind was picking up and starting to disburse the smoke screen and the enemy began firing from the far hillside.
You could see the bullets hitting the water alongside our boat. In fact, one bullet hit my paddle. Well, we did make it to the far shore and we quickly jumped out of the boat into the icy cold water and waded to shore. The sight of my rifle was caught onto the backpack of the man sitting in front of me and as I loosened the forward sight of my rifle from his backpack, while standing knee deep in the water, I asked him, “Aren’t you getting out?” Then I looked at his face and could see the blood coming out of his mouth. I realized that he had taken one of those bullets as we crossed the river. Here was a soldier who had just joined us as a replacement only the day before. Now that the wind was picking up and the smoke screen was no longer effective. It was decided that we should spread out along the river bank and charge up the hillside while firing as we go, all 23 of us. As we routed the prisoners out of their fox holes, we just sent them back down to the river bank unarmed holding their hands behind their head. They would have to wait until more of our soldiers could come across the river to take the prisoners back after we had taken the high ground and accomplished our bridgehead, which we held for eight days until the engineers built a pontoon bridge across the river at some point where we could get supplies. We had no blankets or sleeping bags and with the sub zero temperatures at night you would shiver until you fell asleep for a few minutes and then awaken with your muscles quivering, nearing hypothermia.
Usually, before moving out before a major attack, our chaplain would hold a service and as you would look around at many new faces in the group since the last service. You would begin to realize how many soldiers either were killed or wounded and it would make you wonder if your number would be up this time. This nervous thinking would cause me to start eating my rations to satisfy my nervous stomach or maybe I figured that if I did get killed, I would die with a full stomach.
One day when one of our men (a farm boy) felt sorry for a cow whose udder was so full he went over in the field and starting milking it onto the ground in order to relieve the cow. I filled my canteen cup with the milk, boiled it and shaved part of a chocolate D-ration bar into it in order to take away the boiled milk taste. We always preferred the K-rations over the C-rations during the cold weather because by burning the wax carton like a candle was enough to heat a canteen cup of coffee at the bottom of your fox hole without giving off any smoke. One day while eating a fruit bar in my rations, I broke a tooth in my upper right jaw on a seed in the fruit bar. A couple of days later my jaw was so swollen and my right eye was nearly closed and I asked my 1st SGT if it wasn’t a little late for me to learn how to shoot left-handed. He looked at me and said, “Okay Popeye jump into that ambulance with the wounded and go to the field hospital where there is a dentist.”
Not Quite a “Million-Dollar Wound”
The dentist did not offer a root canal or crown but just to have the tooth extracted and sent me on my way. Before leaving the hospital, I asked the medic if I could have a dry pair of socks. He obliged. I sat down and removed my combat boots. I asked him to give me an extra pair of dry socks as we always carried an extra pair in our helmet liner. When the medic returned with the two pair of socks, he looked at my feet and said, “You aren’t going anywhere as your feet have been frozen.” Checking the cardboard tag around my neck which read that I was sent back to the field hospital for dental work, he told me that I would have to report back to my company to get retagged for trench foot, otherwise my company commander would think I was a deserter. I reported back to my outfit to get retagged. Upon returning to the field hospital for the second time, I hopped out of the ambulance and the medic checking my tag asked me what I was doing on my feet. I responded that as an infantryman, we are always on our feet. He told me to keep off my feet and to get onto a litter.
Then we were loaded onto a train which took us back to somewhere in France to the 36th General Hospital Feb. 18th, 1945, and was placed in the trench foot ward with many other men who also had their feet frozen. How wonderful it was to sleep in a bed between white sheets and be inside a heated building out of the cold. I must have slept for two days and two nights straight, being so exhausted from the lack of sleep on the front lines.
The beds in the trench foot ward were made up by turning up the top sheet and blanket at the bottom of the bed allowing your feet to remain uncovered which helped to increase the circulation to the feet. And, if while sleeping you may accidentally draw your feet up beneath the covers, the nurse would come by and drag your feet back out. The frozen feet turned black by the skin cells dying and new skin cells had to grow back to replace the dead cells, along with therapy such as whirlpool baths and picking up marbles with your toes to increase circulation. Early one morning, as the doctor and the nurse were making their rounds going down the opposite side of the ward, examining each man’s feet, I overheard the doctor tell the nurse occasionally to send a particular soldier over to the United Kingdom. I whispered to the man in the bed next to me that I was hoping to get transferred to the United Kingdom. When he replied, he said that they were going to have their feet amputated because of gangrene. Hearing that, I changed my wishes in a hurry. I considered myself fortunate and thanked God that my tooth that I lost was the best tooth that I lost and that tooth saved my feet and my frozen feet, in turn, saved my life.
I remained in the 36th General Hospital for 69 days. They would take us on hikes to rush the healing process and our feet being so tender would swell up to the point that we could hardly get our shoes on. April 27, 1945, I was released from the hospital and was reclassified as limited assignment and placed into quartermaster outfits. First of all, I was assigned to guard duty in the watchtower of a prison compound holding S.S. troops. Then the war with Germany ended and I was placed in a mobile laundry outfit that handled the laundry for a hospital up in Munich, Germany for a while. Then I was transferred to Marseille, France. I was preparing to be shipped to the far east for the invasion of Japan but thanks to the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan the war with Japan ended and many American lives were saved.
Now that both wars were over, the Army devised a point system in order to bring us all back home. Those with the most points would be brought home first. You receive points by length of military service, invasions, campaigns etc. Naturally, we were all anxious to get home now that both wars were over. But the time seemed endless while waiting for hundreds of thousands of men to sail on just a few ships, especially when we read in the Stars and Stripes (our military newspaper) that Navy Day was being celebrated in New York City and the Navy was stating how many ships were to be placed in ”moth balls” or to be taken out of active service. You would think that the government could have at least sent all those ships over to bring us home before retiring them for good.
We were transferred from one outfit to another as they tried to put each person with an equal number of points together. I spent time in a quartermaster bakery unit and then in a railhead unit driving a tractor trailer truck. Finally, our turn came to go home aboard a converted Italian luxury liner named Monticello. We departed from Marseille, France on December 22, 1945 and spent Christmas on the high seas and arrived in New York City on January 1, 1946. I was sent to Camp Kilmer, N.J. and forwarded on to Indiantown Gap military reservation in PA, my separation center, where they tried to talk us all into signing up in the reserves, offering your choice of theater of operation. Of course, my answer was, “No thanks as I came into this man’s Army because of a war and now that the war is over, I did not find a home in the Army. In fact I left a much better home that I’m intending to go back to now. Besides your offer of a raise in rank forwhich they can bust you the next day and my choice of which theater of operation, since I am classified as a rifleman, I can just picture myself walking guard duty in, Normandy, France if I picked the European theater of operation or Iwo Jima if I picked the Asian theater of operation. You are not talking to a recruit, Sir.” If I had signed up for the reserves, I would have been called up again for the Korean War.
January 5, 1946, I was honorably discharged from the military service of the United States of America, receiving such medals as combat infantry badge, M1 rifle expert badge, good conduct medal, American theater service medal, European service medal with four bronze stars representing the campaigns of Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe, Army of Occupation medal, the Bronze Star medal, WWII Victory medal, overseas service medal, combat service commemorative medal, American Defense Service, United States Army commemorative medal, Belgium Medal, French commemorative medal, Cold War promoting peace and stability medal, Cold War Victory commemorative medal, Battle of the Bulge (Dec.1944-Jan.1945) medal, 60th Anniversary of WWII commemorative medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon worn on the right side of chest. The other nineteen are worn on the left chest
Also, the French Legion D’Honneur to honor U.S. veterans of WWII combatants who served on French territory between June 6, 1944 and May 8, 1945.
Life as a Veteran
As a veteran combat infantryman, having fought and endured, I am proud and honored to have served my nation to preserve its freedoms so that the next generation may continue to enjoy the freedoms as I have. Without the sacrifices of service men and women in World War II, we would be speaking German or Japanese today instead of English.
On March 29, 2009, I along with 28 other American veterans who fought in France in WWII, was awarded the French Legion of Honor, the highest military award given by the French government.
Norval Williams receives France’s highest honor
It took 65 years, after serving in World War II, to have been chosen to receive the distinction of France’s highest military award, the French Legion d’Honneur, rank of Chevalier, which was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. Other famous Americans who have also received it include the likes of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied Supreme commander and Gen. George S. Patton, commander of the 3rd Army. I served as a combat infantryman under both generals.
On Saturday, March 28, 2009 at the Edison State College Naples Campus, Florida, l was awarded the Legion of Honor Medal by Consul General of France, Philippe Vinogradoff and Brigadier General G. Lemoine, of the French Air Force, and received a cheek to cheek French protocol.
The award testifies to the President of the French Republic’s high esteem for my merits and accomplishments. In particular, it is a sign of France’s true and unforgettable gratitude and appreciation for my personal, precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of the country of France during WW II.
The Legion of Honor medal is in the center of the bottom row.
Medal front view
Description of the insignia
Since its inception, the medal consists of a five double-cornered star enameled in white, joined with branches of laurel and oak. At the centre of the star, there is a medallion representing on the front side the symbol of the Republic with the inscription “Republique Francaise” and on the other side a flag and a banner intertwining one another with the circular inscription “Honneur et Patrie 29 Floreal an K.’ The ribbon has always been in red moire silk.
I am presently a member of the American Legion Post 701, and a member of the “Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge”, also a charter member of S.W. FL Fort Myers Combat Infantrymen’s Association, Company “A”, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment formed during the year 2000 with only 12 members and has grown in membership to 400 by the year 2008. This Elite organization is open to those who have earned the combat infantry badge during any war.
Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
- Jesus Christ who died for your soul
- The American G. I. who died for your freedom
Many seem to forget both of them. Amen
The Normandy Cemetery
Feed Back From The Readers of My Memoirs of World War II
I began to read the memoirs last Sunday. I finished in one day, and then I re-read them this week. Marty is going to read them this weekend, once I print them out for him.
I learned a lot that I didn’t know about WWII. I loved the last two lines, I have thought of that a lot since I read it !
I also sent the updated email to my parents, my dad is a Veteran too, so he is interested. My parents had such a nice time at dinner – they comment on it every time I talk to them.
Marty & Michelle Williams
Had no problems downloading your memoirs. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but Tom finished it last night.
He said to tell you: “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very interesting. That time in the Battle of the Bulge when the shed was blown up, you must have had a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe in your pocket ’cause you were really lucky — someone was looking out for you. It makes history more real to know someone who actually went through all the things I watch on The History Channel. Thank you for your sacrifices, and thanks for sharing your story.”
I’m looking forward to reading it soon.
Ruth (and Tom) Murtha
As for your memoirs, I was delighted to receive them.
thank you for sending this special one of your memoirs. It was really interesting.
I am going to read them to Vince.
Bye for now, Luana Grace
good read- you have a talent for writing.
The CD you gave me was excellent!!!
I’d like to send a copy to the Veterans History Project, to be included in the archives at the Library of Congress, a project sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.
I’ve already sent a few bios to this organization. Their job is to preserve the memories of men and women who served this country in time of war.
At our next meeting I’ll bring the forms you’ll have to sign…releases etc.
If you’re interested, let me know.
This came through fine – enjoyed reading – Tom will be reading it too. He is still so busy.
Finally got around to reading all of your memoirs. Interesting, Dick. Something your family will cherish when you’re gone.
Dear Dick: I’m so glad you wrote this. It was an emotional experience for me.
I had no idea you were so much a part of my freedom. Thank you.
Thanks for your “War Memoirs” and your part in preserving our freedom, which we tend to take for granted! While my dad served in World War I, he lost his first wife and baby daughter in the flu epedemic. His surviving son became a Lieutenant and died in the Normandy invasion.
I am happy because my friend was able to open your file and now I am proud to read your personal memory of WWII which is very interesting.
Please can you tell me if it is possible for me to add your story to my website?
It will be an honor for me to do it.
Dick, just a wonderful piece of work. You did a terrific job in creating your own web-site with your military history . It took a lot of time to put it all in words…but with patience , you made it come true. A HAND SALUTE to you .
For the Combat Infantryman !
DANIEL R. SANKOFF MAJ /CIA
ADJUTANT / CO “A” SW/FLA
I am proud to know a true defender of our democracy and our freedom like you. I am honored to be counted among your friends.
Dr. George Wolff
Great website Dick — very interesting..
While I’m writing you, I don’t remember whether I thanked you for sending your memoirs. They were very poignant, reflective, and informative. I knew you must have suffered unmentionable horrors, however I didn’t know how to approach you as to the details of your time in Europe. Thank you for reliving that part of your life for the history of the family and for posterity, even though it must have been hard. With people in our country forgetting or even not being taught about the service of men like you, they are taking our freedom for granted. Grandmother’s letter also made me cry, and thank you for sharing it with us. She is my guardian angel and I see her every night before I fall asleep. Her picture is on the wall beside the bed.
I am proud to say you are my uncle.
How and Why I Survived
I often wonder, how did I survive six months of front-line combat duty during WW II? There can only be one answer: God. Yes, I ponder this question and know that God was with me, watching over me and protecting me from harm. Of all people, military personnel face more critical dangers than most.
If you’ve ever been in a similar life-threatening situation, the hunted instead of the hunter, you can guess what a deer must feel like during hunting season.
Believe me, many times before pushing out for an attack against the enemy, I would not only nervously eat my rations, but also find myself repeatedly thinking of the 23rd Psalm, to give me comfort and assurance with my Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd——————————————————That’s Relationship
I shall not want————————————————————–That’s Supply
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures————————————–That’s Rest
He leadeth me beside the still waters———————————————That’s Refreshment
He restoreth my soul———————————————————–That’s Healing
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness—————————————That’s Guidance
For his name sake————————————————————-That’s Purpose
Yea, though I walk through the valley of death————————————That’s Testing
I will fear no evil————————————————————-That’s Protection
Thou art with me————————————————————-That’s Faithfulness
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me——————————————–That’s Discipline
Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies———————That’s Hope
Thou annointest my head with oil———————————————–That’s Consecration
My cup runneth over———————————————————–That’s Abundance
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life———————That’s Blessing
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord——————————————That’s Security
God’s Shield of Protection
Find protection from your greatest fears. Psalm 91 is a comprehensive look, and the only place in the Bible where all of the protection promises are brought together in one collection.
Psalm 91:1 – He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
My interpretation of verse one, dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, is the Old Testament’s way of teaching faith and a personal relationship with God.
Psalm 91:2 – I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,, my God, in whom I trust!”
In military terms, God Himself becomes the defensive site for us. He personally becomes our protection from all invading enemies. God has to be our refuge before the promises in Psalm 91 will ever work.
Psalm 91:3 – For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.
Pestilence, after doing a word study means, “a virulent or fatal disease; an epidemic that hits masses of people”, with the intent to destroy a person’s body. But God tells us in verse three that He will deliver us. Soldiers will encounter enemies that attack one’s mind (thoughts), and some who attack with weapons (people). This is the verse that ensures deliverance from all varieties of harm such as, the trapper’s snare which could be interpreted on today’s battlefield as trip wires, landmines and booby traps.
Psalm 91:4 – He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge.
When we believe in God, in faith, the enemy then has to go through God to get to us. What a comforting thought!
Psalm 91:4 His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. Webster’s dictionary defines bulwark as an earthwork or defensive wall, fortified rampart; a breakwater; a part of the ship’s side above the deck.
God is our wall of protection and, in a collective sense, double protection.
Psalm 91:5 – You will not be afraid of the terror by night. Jesus tells us, Be not afraid, because through faith in His Word we are protected, and since fear is the opposite of faith, the Lord knows fear will keep us from operating in the faith that is necessary to receive.
Fear is never more prevalent than during wartime. So how do we keep from being afraid? Very simply! In Psalm 91, by those words God gives us instructions to quiet the fear that arises in our hearts: You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day; also addresses the anxiety that comes the night before battle. Arrows are like bullets in today’s modern wars and are intended as something that pierces or wounds spiritually, physically, mentally, or emotionally. Specific enemy assignments are directed toward your life to defeat you. But having a covenant with God, tells us not to be afraid of the arrows or bullets. He has promised that they will not hit their target. In basic training, it is called fire and movement. It’s always harder to hit a moving target.
Psalm 91:6 – You will not be afraid of the pestilence that stalks in darkness.
The third category of evil God names is pestilence. This is the only evil He names twice. He must have a specific reason for repeating this promise. The enemy may try sudden surprises to catch one unaware and knock you down but God is faithful. His word is true no matter what the circumstances look like at times. Even in this Old Testament Psalm God has declared, You will not be afraid of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, it will not approach you.
Psalm 91:5-6 – You will not be afraid of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
This fourth category of evil is destruction. Destruction includes the evil over which mankind has no control, such as tornadoes, floods, hail, hurricanes, and fire. Things that the world ignorantly call acts of God. But God is not the creator of such destruction. These are natural causes and not from Him. Every evil known to man will fall into one of these four categories that I have named in verses five and six: Terror, arrows, pestilence, and destruction. But God has offered us deliverance from them all.
Face it, the Lord is crazy about me and you. God is there for you.
Psalm 91:7-9 – A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.
In verse seven God is saying everyone will not receive the benefits of this promise in Psalm 91. Only those who believe and trust God and His promises will profit. By trusting in Him we will surely reap the harvest of His trust. How well I can testify to this when the figures show there were 2,514 killed and 10,795 wounded just in my 80th Division tour of duty during WWII. And yet I survived six months of frontline combat without being killed or wounded by the bullets and shells flying and exploding all around me. As God had promised me in verse five, I survived. When I first began studying this Psalm, I remember thinking, I don’t know if I have the faith to believe these promises. But faith is not a feeling. Faith is simply choosing to believe what He says in his Word.
Wars have been fought where one side had a righteous cause, and good won over evil. The justness of God is that evil will not triumph. Hitlers do not win.
Psalm 91:10 – No evil will befall you, nor will any plague or calamity come near your tent.
Here God not only promises to protect but also to protect those who belong to our household. Buddy protection has a very long tradition in military life.
Psalm 91:11-12 – For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.
When we look to God as the source of our protection and provision, the angels constantly render aid and take charge of our affairs like a soldier standing guard, alert, watchful, and ready to protect at the first sign of attack. God has charged angels to guard us in all our ways. He is committed to it.
Psalm 91:13 – You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down. We Christians have been given authority over the enemy. The authority in His name that has given us lion problems such as face-to-face encounters with the enemy on the battlefield. And God says we will tread on them and they will not tread on us. Next God names cobra problems. These are problems that sneak up on us like snakes in the grass. Like a military ambush or undercover attack that brings sudden death, or our failure to distinguish the enemy from a civilian. Thank the Lord, we have authority to tread over such things, so they should never overpower us.
Psalm 91:14 – Because He has loved me, therefore I will deliver Him; I will set Him securely on High, Because He has known my name.
Only an encounter with the Lord and time spent with Him will cause one to lay hold of the promises in Psalm 91. Do you love Him? Then these promises are for you as well as for me. Many times, I prayed to God asking Him to spare me, as I was only a young teenager and wanted to experience a longer fuller life. God answered my prayers. He delivered me safely home and sat me on high. We love the fact that God faithfully keeps His promises. But have we kept ours?
Psalm 91:15 – He will call upon me, and I will answer Him; I will be with Him in trouble; I will rescue Him , and honor Him.
God makes a third promise here in verse fifteen. He will answer those who truly love Him. If He hears my prayer, I know I will get a response, even though I might not immediately understand it. This one promise keeps me continually searching His word so that I may understand His word and His promises. When soldiers call upon God, He answers. When nations call upon God, history records it. I will be with Him in trouble. I will rescue Him. The fourth promise, to rescue from trouble those who love the Lord. Even atheists are known to call on the God they don’t acknowledge when they are extremely afraid. I will honor Him, the fifth promise, to honor those who love God. It is an honor to be presented with medals of honor by man. But how much more of a tribute and a thrill do we experience when we are honored by God? Fulfilling our part of the covenant allows God to honor us. He honors us by calling us His sons and daughters. He honors us by recognizing individuals, and by preparing a place for each one of us to be with Him through eternity.
Psalm 91:16 – With a long life I will satisfy Him and let Him behold my salvation.
If we will come to Him, God will give us a long life and satisfy us as we live it out. Even though my life was filled with combat, high risk situations, and impossible odds, I did not die in battle because God did not walk before me, nor behind me, He walked beside me as my protector. And let Him behold my salvation. The word salvation includes health, healing, rescue, deliverance, safety, protection, and provision. What more can we ask of God? It is interesting that the world must have gotten its distress 911 number from God’s answer to our distress call. Psalm 91:1.
It seems only a dream now to think back to the time when my mind was reeling with fear and doubts. Little did I know when I asked God, “Is there any way for me as a Christian to escape all that the enemy could muster against us?” That He would give me a dream that would not only change my life, but also change the lives of thousands of others who would hear and believe in His word and promises. Amen!
Why I Survived
The second question that I asked God was: What was His purpose for sparing my life? Not necessarily for what I might contribute to His Kingdom since I never contributed anything of great importance during my lifetime as far as I can recall. I see myself as an average humble person. But since God works in mysterious ways, He may have had plans for me to father two sons for His glorious purpose of carrying on His works. By rearing two sons, their Mother and I did our best to teach them the principles of good Christian beliefs during childhood for preparation into manhood. This must have helped extremely well since they did not end up in jail or as alcoholics, nor on drugs as many children do these days. I again thank God for these blessings.
My first born, Martin Thomas Williams with a PhD in Psychology is doing God’s work as a health professional, healing mentally ill patients. This practice takes especially dedicated individuals to understand their needs, to help mental patients overcome issues that are sometimes worse than physical problems.
Soldiers who were subjected to the traumas of combat used to be referred to as shell shocked, whereas today it is known as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Nearly four decades passed before the condition was accurately diagnosed and treated.
When I started having flash backs and nightmares, sometimes as often as twice a week, I consulted a psychologist at the Veterans Administration and was advised not to watch TV or read newspapers concerning current war happenings that might reflect on my own war experiences. This theory was useless. Recently, a VA service officer referred me to a vet center for help. I now meet with a group of fellow veterans from all branches of the services and different war periods to discuss combat stress and its lingering effects. Here I’ve begun to learn why these experiences are reoccurring later in life. When asked by the psychologist, a medic during the Vietnam War, “Have you been under anesthesia recently?” I replied, “Yes, when I underwent quadruple bypass surgery.” He then explained that the anesthetic can cause a trigger effect in the brain to arouse my PTSD condition.
My second born, Timothy Richard Williams, serves as pastor for the United Methodist Church, helps people spiritually, an equally important profession. Pursuing a spiritual life by staying connected to one’s inner spirit and the lives of those around you can enhance your quality of life, both mentally and physically. A personal concept of spirituality may change as you age and live life experiences, but it always forms a basis for your well being and helps you cope with stressors large and small and affirms your purpose in life. I thank God for His Divine purpose in my life, and know this is why I survived.
The following is a reply from a friend who flew 71 combat missions piloting a B-26 Martin Marauder medium bomber during WW II and wrote a book entitled The Widow Maker, By Charles O’Mahony.
Subject: your eulogy
Your eulogy is a beautiful, thoughtful piece of work. It is nice to see someone who has been through so much really appreciate their good fortune, and realize from whence it came.
I have always been a staunch admirer of the infantry soldier, who was in danger and in combat 24/7. They fought the toughest of all wars.
I’ll add my thanks to the many you have received, for your courage and service to our country.
You are also welcome to add your comments to the above list of readers regarding “My Memoirs of World War II”, by e-mailing them to:
Taps Performed by the United States Army Band Bugler at Arlington Cemetery
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