By Jennifer Martin - email
Bill Correll knew the military was inevitable once he turned 18, but with the Army's specialized training program, he thought he would have a chance to finish college before joining the fight in World War II. Despite promises made to the recruits, after weeks of intense training, Correll did not get sent back to Millsaps, but instead joined the 100th Infantry Division.
They set sail for Europe and got caught in a Category 4 hurricane.
"The waves were so high that when the ship was down in the trough, you could see like a mountain of water. When you were up on a crest then you could see all the other ships," Correll recalled.
When the bow dropped into the water, the men knew to run for a hatch to get below deck. Once, Correll was trapped on deck, unable to get to safety.
"When that bow come up, all that water hit me like a ton of bricks and swept me across the deck. I must have been about 3 feet off the deck and slammed me up against the gunnel. The water was like mountains and I knew that even though I was a lifeguard if I'd been out to sea they couldn't have found me. So I was scared to death in a split second. The water sucked me down and almost broke my knees it hurt terribly on those bars. But as soon as the bow went up I got to my feet and ran and unlatched the hatch and got in," Correll added.
He volunteered to help the crew, as most were struck with terrible seasickness. He got three meals a day and a freshwater shower.
It was the dead of winter when we arrived in Marseilles.
"We had to march 12 miles out of Marseilles about two weeks or more. And lo and behold it started raining in torrents. It just became a big quagmire you know. We pitched pup tents. Those tents didn't keep the water and the mud out. It was very cold. During the night, we'd be sent to Marseilles by truck to unload ships, supplies. It was very cold and damp," Correll said.
"We transported about 300 miles up to the Vosges Mountains and that's where we got out of the train and we were sent up to relieve the 45th Infantry Division," Correll added.
"We're standing outside and it's very cold and down the mountain a little ways our company commander and some of the sergeants built a fire. And I knew the Germans were bound to see the smoke. So a few minutes later, I had very good hearing, I heard mortar shells coming. So I dove in the dugout and the other two guys finally followed me. But just as they got in, a whole barrage of mortar shells and one of our fellows was killed," Correll added.
"I had a suicide job. I was a scout. We had a 12 man squad. Nowadays I think they have less men in the squad. But you're out there in front of the rest of the guys to draw fire. You have to be an accurate rifleman, be able to see through camoflauge and be fast and so called intelligent. But it's a dangerous job," Correll said.
But it wouldn't be gunfire that would put Correll in the hospital for months to come. Mother nature would do that.
Story idea or news tip? Email us at News@WLBT.COM or call 601-960-4426.
715 South Jefferson Street
Jackson, MS 39201