William (Bill) was born in Warm Springs, California.
He had 4 siblings - 3 brothers and one sister.
Bill moved to Turlock, California when he was 3 and attended school
there, graduating from Turlock High School.
Upon enlistment in the army, he went through Basic
Training at Fort Ord, California and then attended Officer's Candidate School
for the Air Force in Aberdeen, New York. He married Margaret (Peggy) Oliver in
March of 1943. Peggy worked in the
retail business in California while he was in New York, and then joined him in
Dyersburg, Tennessee in July 1943. Bill
was selected to organize an ordinance group for the 450th bomb
group. He formed the 720th
Ordnance for the 450th Bomb Group, and took his men to Alamogordo,
New Mexico the end of July, 1943.
Traveling by train, the 720th left
Alamogordo in late November 1943 for Newport News, Virginia. On the 3rd of December, 1943 they
joined a large convoy of ships headed for Italy. Upon arrival in Italy, the commander sent the troops to a camp
west of Bari. The crews were unaware
that the harbor had just been bombed the day before their arrival and numerous
ships were destroyed and countless lives lost.
Members of the 450th did not find out
until many years later how lucky they were to miss the Bari bombing by one day.
In the history books, the terrible bombing in Bari became known as the Second
Pearl Harbor of WWII.
Bill was an Ordnance Officer, in charge of the
troops loading the bombs on B-24's, known as the "Liberator" plane. He took great pride in his assignment, and
was well liked and respected by his crews. He asked the local Italians to build
a house for the officers from the 450th and shared those quarters
with his friends for his time in Italy.
One of his most memorable times was a few days of R&R in Rome. Being
Catholic meant he had to go to see St. Peter's and he was lucky enough to
attend a special mass for the military stationed in Italy. He was also lucky
enough to have Pope Pius X11 shake his hand, and bless rosary beads he had purchased
to bring home to his mother and his wife.
Upon his return to the United States after the end
of the war, he returned to California and settled with Peggy in Stockton. He managed several retail sites in the area
for DuBois department stores. After 2 years
as a store manager, he was given the opportunity to open his own business in
Modesto, about 25 miles south of Stockton.
He opened "Peggy's Smart Shop" in downtown Modesto in 1948, and
eventually expanded his successful ladies wear business to 2 other dress shops
in Manteca and Oakdale, and owned 4 children's shops in Modesto as well. Bill
also dabbled in real estate a bit – building a senior apartment complex in
Modesto and buying property in Escalon, California; Hilmar, California; and
Lake Havasu, Arizona.
He and Peggy have one daughter, JoAnn. Bill has always been very active in civic
affairs in Modesto. He was President of
the United Way for many years, a member of the Downtown City of Modesto
Association, a member of the American Legion, Elks Club, Knights of Columbus,
Sportsman of Stanislaus, and Del Rio Country Club. Golf is his passion, and he has always tried to play 1-2 times a
week at least. He is also an avid hunter and fisherman. He enjoys all sports and is a big 49er fan
in the San Francisco bay area.
Peggy passed away suddenly in 2002, just short of
their 60th wedding anniversary.
Bill still resides in their home and has a 24 hour
caregiver. He kept up with many of his
crew from the 720th for many years, and several years ago spent a
few days with his daughter visiting Lamar and Birdie Good in Houston, Texas – a
trip he still talks about with a big smile.
He has always been extremely proud of his time in
the Air Force, and his service in the "Big" war.