Introduction of William “Bill” Parker, US Army Legacy Veteran of the Year
“War is Hell on Earth,” Makes no difference who fights it. It’s hard on mothers, fathers, children, sweethearts and newlyweds….soon to be widows. “Those that gave the ultimate sacrifice are done with it. For the ones who lived through it, they live it the rest of their lives. That’s what happened to me. I will never be the same again.” “I am an American Choctaw WWII warrior of the 116th Infantry, 29th Division of the US Army.”
This veteran began his training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He marched, he crawled on his belly, he shot M-1 rifles, machine guns, mortars, bazookas, and bangalores. The troops got in shape for what would be a monumental achievement for the Allied Forces. From the onset, they sought to conduct an amphibious invasion that was, in terms of its mass, unprecedented. In 1 day's time, June 6, 1944, Allied leaders intended to land 150,000 men and massive amounts of equipment on the continent. To do this, it was necessary to employ over 800 vessels to transport the soldiers and supplies to the area of the assault.
The troops were put on a ship on June 5th and fed beans for breakfast the next day. Repelling down rope ladders to landing crafts into a raging sea, the men boarded for the invasion on the coast of France. The weather was overcast and they hit the beach at 6:30 am. As the landing craft approached Omaha Beach, under heavy enemy shelling, the men jumped off the boat into waist deep water. Our warrior was the leader of the wire cutting section and the first man off the boat, five men behind him. With bullets flying around them, they placed the Bangalore torpedo under the wire, each man setting their cylinders, with the last man setting it off. They blew the wire and looked back to see their landing craft had been shelled. No one had gotten off but them. All their support had gone down in the ocean – tank artillery – all sunk.
They were pinned at the water’s edge, shooting at the men on the beach and at the pill box until the Navy brought the ships in closer to shore and fired over their heads shooting out the pill boxes and knocking them out. Our warrior knows he was the first man on the bloody Omaha Beach because there were no dead men in front of him, they were all behind. 1000 men lost that morning, all of them 18 and 19 year old soldiers. By nightfall, they were inland and spent the night with fighting on both sides of them. They continued across France, hedgerow by hedgerow, town by town. After 43 days, since he landed, our veteran finally got clean clothes and a shave. They walked 600 miles across France through cold nights, sleet, snow and ice. They saw the wounded that sat down to rest under a tree, frozen to death. He met General Dwight D. Eisenhower on his journey and received his overshoes. He wore a six shooter on his hip like John Wayne did in the movies. He used it every time he went into a building or dug out. They went days without food or water and was wounded twice. He was proud of what they did, but not of the things they had to do. He came home to his sweetheart, Colleen, his wife of 73 years and lived the cowboy and carpenter life. He still rides today at 98.
We honor Mr. William Norman “Bill” Parker, our Army Legacy Veteran of the Year