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World War II Veteran

Bill Hill

Bill was an active member of D.W. Cassard American Legion Post 208.  The following is a short description of his service, family and life events that he has shared.

Bill Hill was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 16, 1926.  He attended Oakdale Elementary and Ottawa Hills High School, graduating in June 1944.  Bill’s parents lived on the Westside of Grand Rapids and then moved to the Southeast side in 1929.  His mother was from Arkansas and his father was from Luther, Michigan.  Bill met his wife, Betty in Grand Haven, Michigan in 1944.  They were married in October 1947, nine months after he was discharged from the Service.  Betty passed away in March 2007.  They had three children, two boys and a girl.

Bill states that some of his ancestors had a military background.  His Great-Great-Great Grandfather, James B. Fulton, was a Captain under General George Washington and was at the battle of Yorktown when British General Cornwallis surrendered, thus ending the Revolutionary War.  Washington let a lower ranked soldier accept the Surrender.

Bll had a Maternal Great-Grandfather, DeKalb Fulton, who was a rebel soldier killed in the Civil War.  Another Great-Great Grandfather, Alvah Hill, from Ionia, MI, was injured at James Island near Charleston, South Carolina.  He was helping to pull a canon into place when a rope broke and he fell backwards onto a rock or stump severely injuring his back.  While at a hospital in Providence, RI, he became sick with dysentery.  He was given a medical discharge in January 1863.  His health deteriorated and he died in 1899 in Luther, Michigan.  Alvah had a daughter, who married a young man, Alonzo Woodruff, who was a Sergeant in the Civil War.  He received the Medal of Honor for bravery for freeing a Union soldier held captive by two Rebel soldiers.  He was severely injured, but was able to take one of the rebels captive.  He died in 1917 and was buried in Luther with his Medal.

It could very well be that Bill was the only member of the Post who saw a living Civil War Veteran.  It happened when he was 9 years old in Luther, MI.  It was on Decoration Day and a parade was marching on the State Road to the cemetery to lay wreaths and flowers on Veteran’s graves.  Right up in front of the prarade, was 93 year old, Civil War Vet Henry Cutler.  He was wearing a dark blue suite and a dark blue hat with a wide brim.  Henry lived to be 99 years old.  He was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Luther, MI.

Bill states that as a junior in high school, he went down to the Armory on Michigan Street and signed up for the Army Aircorp.  After graduation in June, Bill received orders to report to Fort Sheridan that following November.  He was there one week before beginning many days and miles of travel all over the States and Europe, to different airbases and camps.  Most of his travel was by train, bus or ship.  Twice, he flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago and once to Kansas City.  Once, he took a car ferry across Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Muskegon.  Some of the places his travels took him were:

Biloxi, MS                               LeHarve, France                     New York, NY

Panama City, FL                      Munich, Germany                   New Orleans, LA

Spokane, WA                          Switzerland                            Minneapolis, MN

Topeka, KS                             Paris                                      Manchester, England

Greensboro, NC                       London                                   Milwaukee, WI

Jersey City, NJ                         Chicago, IL

 

It always bothered Bill that he had it easy working as a 405 clerk-typist, when two of his boyhood buddies were killed in the War.  He visited their graves several times a week at Restlawn Cemetery.  He still remembered the deep sorrow of their mothers when he talked to them about the loss of their sons.

In the summer of 1945, there were thousands of GI’s that didn’t have any assignments but were being considered to be used for the invasion of Japan.  Bill said that it crossed his mind that he might be one of them.  Well, the A-Bomb ended that thought.

Bill was home on furlough when it was announced that Japan surrendered.  Gas rationing suddenly ended and Bill bought gas and headed downtown with his girlfriend.  There were thousands celebrating in Campau Square.

He used his GI Bill to attend art school for 3 years.  After art school, he worked 41 years in the art department of Oliver Products designing labels, various art work, and typesetting.  He bought a camera in Germany and developed a keen interest in taking photographs.  It became his lifetime passion.  Bill belonged to 2 camera clubs, winning many top honors for his photos.  Although photography was a hobby, he did make money from publications and winning contests.  He currently has a collage of photos he took at the Vietnam Wall Memorial that came to Kentwood in 2012, displayed at Post 208.

Bill continued meeting monthly with some high school classmates of the class of ’44.  He enjoyed singing Karaoke at Post 208.  He enjoyed the camaraderie of the Post and its entertainment and activities.  His son would often bring him to the Club even as his health began to fail.

Bill Hill passed away on September 10, 2016.  He will be missed, especially at Karaoke with his deep, beautiful voice and lovely choice of songs.

Thank you Bill Hill for your Service to your Country.

Proud to be an American

 

Interview with Bill Hill 2013

By Ruth Burkall,

Ladies Auxiliary Historian