William “Bill” Wilson — Born to serve

Published 4:35 am Sunday, January 20, 2008

William “Bill” Wilson was born in New Market, Tenn., and joined the Army in February of 1947 – at 15 years old.

“I lied about my age. I had a phony birth certificate. I was kicked out in November of 1947 because my mom sent them my real birth certificate. She never admitted to it, but I always figured she was the one who did it,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he always wanted to be in the military, and has supported the military since he could remember.

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“I enjoyed being in the military. If I could, I would be in Iraq right now,” Wilson said.

He rejoined in July of 1948 after he turned 17 years old, the legal age to join the military. He spent 44 months in Germany during the occupation before returning to the states in 1952. Later that year, he was sent to Korea.

“I served about a year in Korea with the Third Infantry Division… My commanding officer was First Sergeant Manuel J. Silva, who was over the Fifteenth Infantry Regiment during World War II… Audie Murphy was a member of his company during World War II,” he said.

Wilson said he was friends with Silva, and once even loaned him his field jacket to wear to the inauguration for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“He wore my field jacket when he brought the Third Division colors back for Eisenhower’s inauguration… Each unit has flags that represent that individual unit. When a new president takes office, all units bring their colors back (to Washington, D.C.) for the inauguration, and Sergeant Silva took ours,” Wilson said.

When asked about the battles he faced while in Korea, Wilson said the experience was different from some wars.

“Korea was a different thing entirely. Instead of battles, you had what they called campaigns. You would go in and take a place up in the hills, and get settled there. Then a couple of days later, your commanding officers would come in and tell you to let them (the enemy) have it again,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the thing he remembers most about his time of service is the feeling of camaraderie and fellowship there was among the troops.

“During the war, it was amazing to me how the troops supported each other. You didn’t have to worry about the enemy being behind you, because the troops always had your back… I don’t know if that’s how it is or not these days,” Wilson said.

Wilson said although he spent about a year in Korea, he could have left earlier than he did.

“We were on a point system. You got four points for each month you spent in combat. It took 36 points to leave. I could’ve left in April, but I wanted to transfer to Japan, and for that, I needed more points. I did not leave Korea until June of 1953,” he said.

Wilson said after he left Korea, he was sent to Japan, where he spent a year during the occupation of Japan. He returned to the States in 1954, before being sent back to Germany for two years in 1955. In 1956, he returned to the States again and spent two years recruiting for the Army. He then was sent back to Europe in 1958.

After Wilson returned to the States for the last time, he taught computer classes for the Nike Ajax and Hercules missile systems until he retired in August of 1967 at 36 years of age. He had served the Army for 20 years.

Wilson received several medals for his time in service, including the Korean Service Medal and three bronze stars, which are awarded to denote participation in military campaigns.

Wilson said he has been in private business since retiring from the military, and has dabbled in several various projects. He fully retired in 1992. He moved to Hide-A-Way Lake in 2003, and has lived there since. He currently serves as the Commander for VFW Post #3804.