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By Heidi Terry-Litchfield - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

William Hamilton is no hero.

If you ask him, he'll gladly tell you that.

In 1942, Hamilton was in the first contingency of soldiers under age 21 from Grundy County.

The original draftees were 21 to 35 years old. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, however, a new Selective Service Act was passed, changing the draft range to 18 to 38.

"I had no complaint serving my country," Hamilton said. "The thing is, we couldn't drink or vote, but we could die for our country."

When he was drafted into the Army in 1942, he was living in Mazon with his parents.

Initially he was sent to Texas, where he spent a year before going on to New York and then off to Belfast, Northern Ireland, landing in Oxford, England, before heading into

Despite having served during World War II and fighting at Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge, among other battles, William Hamilton contends that he is not a hero. "I had to rise to the occasion; you didn't want to be called a coward," he said. (Herald Photo by Heidi Terry-Litchfield)


It was Hamilton's first time overseas, but he had traveled a lot with his parents, who felt travel was good for children and had taken him to over 20 states, as well as Canada and Mexico.

At 87, Hamilton said he doesn't think a lot about the friends lost or the time spent fighting for his country.

"As you get older, you accept the fact that death comes to all of us," he said.

Memorial Day, he said, is a day of reflection though, and at his age, he knows his time could come one of these days.

He said as he sits listening to people talk on television about the heroes that died in the war, he disagrees with the thought.

"People talk about heroes because they died in war," he said. "They died because they were in the wrong place at the right time. That doesn't make them a hero. We were all just doing our job."

Hamilton said if someone thinks he is a hero, they have to think that all the soldiers were, and that isn't true.

He said they didn't have television in his home, but he had heard Franklin Roosevelt campaigning, stating that never again would an American soldier die on foreign land.

"World War I was suppose to be the war to end all wars, but then we had World War II, Korea, and I lost a nephew in Vietnam," he said. "What have we gained? We still have young people dying."

He said we have the military to annihilate countries and he'd rather see that then us sending American boys and girls to war.

Even with his feelings about war, he said he doesn't regret going to war.

"It's an experience I'm glad I didn't miss," he said. "I surely wouldn't want to face it again, though."

Hamilton served under General George S. Patton for a time when he was with the 20th Corps under General Walton Walker. He admitted that, at times, he was scared.

"There were people out there to kill you," he said. "Patton told us we weren't there to die for our country, but instead to make the enemy die for theirs."

He said the Army taught him tolerance, as he was fightinh with a diverse group of people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds and beliefs.

"You learn to live with people, a lot that you wouldn't associate with if you weren't serving with them," he said.

Hamilton has four battle stars, one each for Normandy, Central Europe, Battle of the Bulge, and the Rhine offensive.

When he went to France, he said, he knew what he was facing - it was a mobile war where they moved miles a day.

"You'd wake up to sunshine and then cannons going off," he said. "You'd wonder if you'd see the sunrise tomorrow."

As a 20-year-old, he didn't want to die ... after all, he had girls on his mind.

"I had to rise to the occasion; you didn't want to be called a coward," he said.

His biggest phobia was to be taken prisoner, something he associated with being a coward.

"I'd rather die than be taken prisoner; your a coward if you give up and get taken prisoner," he said. "I'd fight them until I lost first."

In 1945, his Corps met up with the Russians at the Elba River.

"The Russians were just like us.They wanted American candy and cigarettes and we wanted vodka, so we traded," he said.

Hamilton said it was an experience you remember, but he just had a job like millions of others.

When Hamilton came home, his parents had moved to Morris, where he settled down. Today, he resides at Saratoga Tower.

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