December 6, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey
Bill was one of seven children born to a family which farmed a quarter section of irrigated land south of town. They grew sugar beets, corn, alfalfa and barley using mostly horses and mules. His dad bought a tractor in 1928 but it was used only for plowing. Bill didn't have many activities as a child, mostly farm chores. After graduating from Ft. Collins High School in 1939, Bill went to Colorado College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts to study civil engineering. He was in the student union when the attack on Pearl Harbor was announced and everyone got up and stood at attention.
Farmers generally stayed out of the military, their work at home being important, but in 1943 Bill went to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He trained in Texas and was then sent to Hawaii with the expectation of going "down under" to Guadalcanal. He trained as a "spotter pilot." These pilots were to fly small, slow-moving planes over enemy lines to direct fire from the air and later from ships, but he was never in combat as his division consisted of extra artillery and there was not room for them on board ship as the divisions left Hawaii.
Just as his growing up years consisted of "work, work, work," Bill's military experience was to "train, train, train." He went on many field exercises, fired lots of ammunition and kept up his flying skills. The flying part was a pleasure. He had a plane at his disposal and flew all around the Hawaiian islands. The army pilots liked to pick "dog-fights" with navy pilots, and he had a few scares stretching his limits during these training flights. Once he moved from being over water to land without realizing it and put his plane into a spin down to 500 feet altitude. Another time he flew into a cloud and became disoriented. Without training in blind flying, he didn't know if he was right side up or where he was going. Finally, through a break in the clouds he saw he was headed for the ground. He still has nightmares about these incidents.
Happier memories of Hawaii are of his wife being able to visit for two months. This, he describes, as being "in high cotton."
When Bill returned to Ft. Collins after the war, he finished college on the GI bill and soon had three sons. He worked for a contractor in Wyoming for twelve years and moved back to Ft. Collins in 1959 where he operated heavy equipment. Nowadays he enjoys scrap-iron construction and likes everything about Ft. Collins but the traffic.
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region