By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - William Parkerson was 22 years old when Uncle Sam came calling back in 1941.
"I was drafted and went to Camp Shelby, assigned to Fort Bragg in the Field Artillery. When the war broke out, I upscaled to being a corporal."
He went to Officer Candidate School, then served as an instructor for about eight months, before heading out to California.
"I was transferred out there on July 18th, 1943. And my outfit, the 6th Armored Division, started training for amphibious operations off the coast of California. We sailed out of New York, February 2nd as I recall. Across the Atlantic. The largest convoy ever to cross. And it took us 12 days and we landed in Dover."
They were doing more amphibious training in England, when they learned about the invasion of Normandy.
"We had our own separate teletype machines that they had called computers, which we had wired in. And we picked up this message about the allies landing on the coast of France. And that's when we knew the invasion started. We went down to South Hampton to look over the embarkation procedures for us to go to Normandy."
He landed with the 146th Signal Company, which was part of the 3rd Army.
"We landed at Utah Beach. We landed there about 4:00 in the morning on July 19th. The whole unit, whole division, came ashore at once. My unit got as far as the outskirts of Brest. I was a fulltime maintenance officer."
But they didn't take the city. Instead they moved on to San Laurent.
"On December 16th, we got the word that the Battle of the Bulge had started. Next thing you know, its the middle of the night. 'Get up, get out of your sack, we're packing up, we're headed to the...' They didn't call it the Bulge then, they called it the Ardennes Offensive.
So we ran telephone wire every foot of the way from us to the nearest place we could get in the vicinity of Bastogne. And the telephone wire communication was paramount. Radios were fine, because the Germans could get on the radio and could even get someone who spoke proper English and gave us false orders. If it hadn't been for wire communication, they would have known everything we were doing."
The soldiers pushed forward, making it all the way to eastern Germany before the Germans surrendered.
"We met the first Germans in a little town which was right near the Elbe River. The German civilians were really beginning to warm up because they knew the extent of what Hitler had done in Russia. Before you knew it, we were set up in the bivouac area, not using tents but occupying civilian houses."
Parkerson says he expected to go to Pacific after that, but had enough points to go home.
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