By Jennifer Martin - email
Bill Walls enlisted in the Navy in October 1941. He was 24 years-old.
"I felt an obligation to join and help all I could," Walls said.
He finished boot camp December 6, 1941, and told his sweetheart he was coming home. He had no way of knowing the next day, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Yorktown and set off for Hawaii. When he arrived, smoke was still pouring for the remains of the U.S. fleet.
The Yorktown docked, unloaded and resupplied. They went back out to sea, covering troop movements. In May 1942, the aircraft carrier joined the U.S.S. Lexington for what would be the Battle of The Coral Sea.
"The regular duty is bad enough, but when you get into combat, it's really bad," Walls said.
"We were attacked and we had to fight back. And of course, the Yorktown got damaged," Walls added.
The Yorktown was hit with an armor piercing aerial bomb. It went back to Hawaii for repairs, then went back out, headed for the Midway Islands. It was there, they were attacked by Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes, sinking the carrier.
"They made us abandon ship because it was going down, so we hit the water and we had to swim for awhile," Walls said.
"When you hit that water, you got a long way to go. You don't want to stay in that water too long. They'll pick you up in a boat, but you got overcrowded and you had to get out. They'd push you all around and they had too many people standing up in that boat. And I got out and I swam quite aways," Walls recalled.
Walls was rescued by a destroyer, and eventually made it back to Pearl Harbor for reassignment. At that point, he transferred to the Navy V-5 Program for pilots.
"I went through aviation training to learn to fly. And became a naval pilot," Walls said. "Luckily we did not have to get into combat."
He married his sweetheart and became a flight instructor at a training base in Pensacola, where he served until the Japanese surrendered in September 1945.
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