By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - William Williford was a ROTC student at Mississippi State when World War II broke out. He graduated in 1942.
"Went straight into the service."
He was assigned to the 26th Infantry Division. After training, he moved to the Army Rangers, as part of the 5th Ranger Battalion. They were deployed to north Africa.
"I was in the first wave and we got hit and sunk. And the second wave came in and they picked me up. We got a little bit closer to the beach and it got hit and sunk. And the third wave comes in and this great big guy comes in and reaches out and grabs me in one arm and another ranger in another arm and I look up at him and it was big John Tripson who I played ball with at Mississippi State.
And believe it or not, we didn't fight the Germans in north Africa, we fought the free French. They were such cowardly people, that the Germans, when they would put them in these pillboxes, along the beach, they would chain them to their weapons."
They couldn't run. After about two weeks of fighting, he was shot.
"I got hit in the left side and it cut all the sensory nerves in my left leg. I was not immobilized immediately. But I stayed in the hospital awhile. While I was at Walter Reed, that's when I decided I wanted to transfer to the Air Force.
I went through B17 training at an AFB in Columbus, Ohio, and they kept me there as an instructor pilot. They called me in one day and they told me they'd started the 20th Air Force in the Pacific. 'Would you like to go with them? Or would you rather stay here?' And I said I'd rather stay here and the next day I had orders to report to Lincoln, Nebraska."
He had to switch from the B17's to B29's.
"When I first got in to a B29, the first nine flights that I made in a B29, we came in on emergency landings. They were the most grossly underpowered aircraft that has ever been made. But when we got our new planes to go overseas in, they upped the horse power a thousand horses on each engine. And they were alright."
He was assigned to the 315th Bomb Wing.
"I was stationed at Northwest Air Base on Guam. It's where I flew all my missions to Japan from. Our average mission to Japan was 15 and a half hours. Over water all the way."
Those missions to Japan were bomb runs.
"We bombed all the oil refineries that they had in Japan. We got hit one time, so bad that we had to land at Iwo. And we couldn't even taxi down the runway. They had to get bulldozers and push it into the ocean."
After the war ended, Williford returned home. He was called back to the service for Korea in 1950. He went on to live in Drew, Mississippi, where he was mayor for 28 years.
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