Saturday, May 25, 2013
Day 7: The Man Who Has Done It All
Bill Ryan was born and raised as a Catholic in Boston, Massachusetts on December 3, 1924. His father was often away, serving in the Navy, and his mother died of cancer when he was 12 years old. It makes sense that when WWII began, Bill tried to fake his age and join the army at 16. They found out he did not meet the 18 year age requirement and referred him to the Merchant Marines. He joined on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Merchant Marines from 1941-1943. During those two years, Bill made three convoys to the North Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel. He made 3 separate convoys to Russia throughout his 17 months with the Merchant Marines. His role on the ship was in the engine room, located 31 feet below sea level, and as a second loader for the deck guns. Coming back to America, he was a 17 year old with an already incredible story. But he did not stop there.
In March, 1943, Bill decided to join the army. He became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Because of the horrendous losses suffered by the 1st Infantry Division in Italy he was attached for duty with this division. He landed with this division on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Wounded he returned to England and once recovered reverted back to the Airborne in time to parachute into Holland on September 17, 1944 for "Operation Market Garden." He later was assigned back to the 1st Infantry Division, where he served all total for 12 years.
During his service in the army, Bill quickly gained rank. He went from being a squad member to platoon leader at about 20 years of age. He was younger than most of the other members, but the leadership responsibilities were given to him. Bill fought through the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 with the 1st infantry. In addition, his unit liberated the last concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. In addition to WWII, Bill served in the Korean War, and then served in Dominican Republic for six months in 1965. In 1966, Bill became a Sergeant Major. When the Vietnam War began, Bill served two tours before coming back to America in 1970.
Bill has an incredible accumulation of medals and ribbons that he received in his 30 years of service. Among these are two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He retired in 1973 in Melbourne, Florida, where he still resides today, volunteering as a director of the Liberty Bell Museum. He is now a honorary member of the French Foreign Legion and many other similar organizations. He now makes frequent trips to Europe as an 88 year old man that's still ready to go to war. He has a lot of energy and quite the sense of humor. It has been an honor to get to know Bill, he is a great man, and a true American hero.
Anna Zachary, senior
Eddie Sterling, sophomore