|William James Billner
The following was written by my grandfather, William James Billner. Thank you for including this information. William James Billner III, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
This is a brief resume of the events experienced by William J. Billner during his WWII military service:
On 15 Feb 1943 I was sent to Dallas, TX for a physical exam to determine my physical fitness for military service. I was found physically fit and was returned home for 7 days to complete my personal affairs. On 22 Feb 1943 I was transported by bus from Sherman, TX to Camp Walters, Mineral Wells, TX. This is where I was to take my Basic Military Training.
The first day I received an issue of military clothing which was much too large. I was then issued bedding and assigned to a certain barrack where I would sleep during my basic training. The second day I was sent to the barber shop to get a so called G.I. (this means government issue) hair cut. I proceeded to instruct the barber how to cut my hair. The barber said OK soldier, but you will be back to get the rest of your hair cut off. Sure enough he was correct. I did return to the barber to get it cut as instructed. On the third day I received all of my immunizations. On the fourth day I started receiving instructions in my basic training which consisted of marching, drilling, physical fitness, forced marches and firing and maintenance of various types of small arms; rifle, pistol, machine gun and bazooka.
After successfully completing 13 weeks of training I decided that I needed a change so I volunteered for airborne training. I was sent to Fort Benning, GA for the airborne training which was a little more specialized training, consisting of various schools. I attended the demolition school where I learned to use high explosives. After completing five parachute jumps and other requirements of the school I graduated and received my wings.
Upon graduation I was immediately sent overseas by ship, taking 21 days and landing in North Africa. I received more training and then was sent to Naples, Italy as a replacement and was assigned to the demolition platoon of the 509 parachute brigade which was engaged in battle against the German army near Mount Venefno in Italy. After this battle and capture of a Roman Coliseum making the Germans retreat, we returned to Naples, Italy to reorganize and make preparations for an invasion of Anzio which was a strong point of the German army.
At 4:23 AM on 13 Feb 1944 we landed and established a beach head and drove 3 miles inland causing the German army to retreat, die or become a prisoner of war. After 89 days of fighting we were relieved and returned to Naples, Italy to again reorganize and make preparations for an airborne invasion of Southern France.
On 15 August 1944 we were taken to the air field at Rome, Italy where we received a briefing which consisted of an explanation of our mission which was to make a parachute jump 9 miles inland and forcibly take the city of Limoux, France and capture all German soldiers and equipment. We were loaded aboard the airplane. In a few minutes we were airborne. After flying for approximately 3 hours we jumped from the plane at 4:32 AM. Our mission was successfully completed.
We continued to fight until the 13th day of September 1944. This was my unlucky day. I was sent on a recon mission along with five other soldiers and five French soldiers. Our mission was to come in contact with the Germans and determine their location and strength in number. As we proceeded up a valley in the Alps Mountains north of Niece, France we were pinned down by German machine gun fire. After a fierce small arms fire fight we ran out of ammunition to which resulted in being captured by the Germans. I was immediately relieved of my adequate American clothing which was replaced by inadequate German clothing and wooden moccasins – this was to prevent us from escaping. We were forced to walk many miles and then locked in an unmarked boxcar with no sanitary facilities. We rode the train for approximately 7 days being strafed daily by the American fighter planes who did not know we were there.
We finally arrived at the train station in Mooseberg [Moosburg], Germany where we were taken to a P.O.W. camp – Stalag 7-A. This was a very undesirable place as the living quarters were very inadequate and the food consisted of nothing but a liquid which the Germans called soup. It consisted of 5 potatoes in 5 gallons of water. This was a very poor diet which caused all POW’s to have malnutrition. I lost approximately 45 pounds of weight during my stay in the POW camp.
Each day we were loaded on a boxcar and taken into Munich, Germany railroad yards to work rebuilding the railroad track that the American bombers destroyed. On 4 January 1945 I was wading the snow in wooden moccasins working on the RR track in Munich when a sortie of American bombers came over and bombed the RR yard. I received a fractured foot and leg and was taken to a so called German aid station where a cast was applied from my waist down to my toes. I was also given a pair of crutches and instructed that I would have to continue to work.
I worked until the 29th day of April 1945 at which time Stalag 7-A POW camp was liberated by the American 3rd army commanded by General Patton. We remained in the POW camp until 8 May 1945 at which time we were flown to France, put aboard a hospital ship and returned to the U.S.
After a period of hospitalization and treatment at Brooke Army Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, TX, I was honorably discharged from military service. I have one statement to make concerning my military experiences: I am proud to be an American and I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve my country for a good cause.