Local WWII Veteran Lays Wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington CemeteryNov 7th, 2013 | By admin | Category: Top Story
BY LEE “CAT” McLANE
While attending a reunion of his U.S. Army 754th Field Artillery Battalion last September, James Wilson, 89, of Beebe, was honored to be selected to place the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.
“I’ve attended nine reunions of my battalion,” stated James Wilson. “There were about 500 in the battalion but now there are only about 100 left.”
James and his wife, Dianna, made the trek to Washington, D.C. by car for this latest reunion. They have flown in the past but decided driving was a good way to go and have time to sight-see along the way.
James was 19 when he was drafted and joined the Army’s 754th Field Artillery Battalion and headed overseas on August 1, 1944. His battalion was a 155 mm Howitzer outfit. James and his battalion were on the ground in England for 10 weeks when they crossed the channel and landed on Utah Beach. “We were under almost constant fire as we moved through Europe,” James said. “We took part in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium as we arrived there on Dec. 15, 1944.”
James said that he was in a combat situation almost the whole time except for a couple of furloughs he took.
James was the point man -an observer - for his battalion which meant that he was at the forefront which was very dangerous. He would call in orders for the soldiers firing the howitzers and they would shoot 4-5 miles away. “We would fire and then see where it hit and make any adjustments necessary,” James explained.
During his two furloughs, James spent a month in London and two weeks on the French Riviera which impressed him very much. “The French Riviera was absolutely gorgeous,” James said. “I would love to go back there.”
James now enjoys talking about his time during World War II even though he didn’t for many years. “I wear this WWII baseball hat and it gets people to talking with you,” he said. “I love the conversations it starts up.”
James went into the Army at age 19 and got out at age 22 - which to him seems like a lifetime ago. “It was so long ago it seems like a dream,” James explained.
Talking about his faith and getting back home alive, James said, “I trust in the Lord and I’m thankful that he brought me home safe.”
Editor’s Note: We thank James for his service to country!