WWII soldier living in Weatherford William J. Kelly

WWII Soldier in Weatherford, Texas

Bill Kelly is a one-of-a-kind WWII Soldier and 101 years old.

As a child, I read many books detailing the lives of people who lived through World War II. Night by Elie Wiesel and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl are two that still stick in my mind to this day. To learn about the horrors of our past is the only way to prevent these abominations from repeating themselves in our future.

So when Beth Bovio reached out to me over social media to have me photograph her father, a living WWII veteran, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity! The history buff in me went crazy! Being able to meet a man that contributed to the Allies’ victory made me feel honored.

William J Kelly WWII Soldier serving in England
Bill riding a bike through one of the barracks.

My family and I had the distinct honor of meeting William J. Kelly. We met at Soldier Springs Park in Weatherford, TX where he has a dedicated brick with his name on it. The first thing about Bill that struck me was his mobility. If I had bumped into him at the grocery store, I would have guessed this man was in his 70’s. I kid you not. Bill is spry, sharp as a tack and has stories for years. I would love to sit down, drink a coffee (or three!) with him and let him ramble about his earlier years. The history and experiences his brain holds fascinates me to no end.

Bill happens to be a practiced writer and was able to write out his story a few years ago. I’ll include a few excerpts from it in the paragraphs below. Being able to read all 27 pages of his thoughts and history was emotional and exhilarating for me.

Born in 1920, his story began in Pennsylvania. Bill worked as an electric welder manufacturing bombs when the draft enacted. He could either let the draft take him and his military branch be chosen for him, or he could enlist himself and have his choice of branch. He chose the second option and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corp. The US Air Force was not yet founded in 1944, or his love for aviation and building planes would have steered him there.

Bill pictured in front of his crew’s aircraft in 1945.

“I had a flight in the Ford Tri motor passenger plane, which was the first commercial passenger plane.”

Bill traveled around the country to complete his education with the Army. He started with Basic Training, then moved on to specializing in flight, then an opportunity presented itself to obtain his commission in only six months if he learned navigation. He took it and was finally assigned to his flight crew in 1945.

“I was proud to be part of the 95th Bombardment Group, the first group to bomb Berlin.”

Bill was excited to see a plane similar to the B-17G that he flew pictured on the Air Force Memorial at Soldier Springs Park in Weatherford, TX.

The final flight crew was stationed at Eye Airbase in East Anglia, England. This is where Bill ran all eighteen combat missions. He gives a vivid account of every one of those missions, and even one where he caught a bullet in his helmet while in the air. There was one bombing mission to Nuremburg where on the return trip the superchargers failed. Without the superchargers, the plane had to fly at a lower altitude at about 10,000 feet making the plane and crew susceptible to flak, or German anti-aircraft fire. Bill as a skilled navigator was able to redirect his plane to avoid known areas of German attack and guided his crew to safety. His crew was fortunate throughout the war to never suffer a casualty.

“I watched, from Eye Base, the Germans launching their V2 Rockets. I could not see the actual rocket, but could see the contrail they made as it flew to its target. I was in London and had to visit a bomb shelter when either one of those rockets or a Putt-Putt was going to hit somewhere in the city.”

Additionally, Bill was able to have a little down time while in Europe. He visited Scotland with a handful of buddies. They posed in kilts for photos and tried to purchase plaid fabric for their wives, but rationing wouldn’t allow for it. The crew visited Greenland for a short while on the return trip home after the war. Additionally, Bill got to travel all over the United States while training for the Army Corps.

Bill also bumped into the current Queen of England while she was still a princess in Westminster Abbey! He and a buddy were down in the catacombs and then they went to exit the Abbey, noticed the place was deserted. Come to find out, a royal baptism was about to be underway. Instead of being rushed out, they stayed in place and were able to observe a royal baptism from feet away. It’s an honor not many British have been privy to, let alone two Americans!

“The two princesses were looking at us out of the corner of their eyes and we noticed a slight giggle as they looked at each other. Normal teenagers!”

I loved reading about Bill’s adventures all over Europe and during the war. Not only did he have an interesting life in the service, his life following the war was even fascinating. Due to a serious eye infection, Bill was unable to reenlist and ended up leaving the military after he came home in 1945. He was quite the entrepreneur starting several businesses and selling them later on. His last job involved selling hearing aids. He started on this venture when he was already “in retirement”. Starting his own company called Accent on Hearing, he finally sold in 2005 and really retired.

Bill salutes the six Weatherford Service Members recently killed in action. Behind him is their Soldier Springs Park Memorial.

Above all, I enjoyed the last paragraphs of Bill’s memoir. To be completely honest, I bawled my eyes out when I read the conclusion. He captured what I imagine to be the thoughts of every service member that has ever put their life on the line for their country. American or not. Since I cannot paraphrase them and give them justice, I’ll let you read it for yourself:

“I also learned in my military service that war is hell, and no person or country should be engaged in it. I know it will exist until the men eligible to be soldiers rise up and say ‘no more’. When you think of it, there are only a few people out of the billions of people in the world who cause these many wars. Why should we be slaves to their greed? Of course, if our country is attacked, that is another thing, which calls for self defense. Then we should go after the leaders of the attacking country and dispose of all of them. I do not believe that we should let the bad people set the rules for the rest of us. 

“In this United States of America, we citizens have the right of a free vote. The percentage of people who vote is small, and those who do vote do not know whom they are voting for with the exception of the major candidates. I would like to suggest that anyone reading this veteran’s story would first of all vote in every election, especially the Primary, where each party selects their best candidate for the job. I would also suggest that you research the candidates thoroughly so you actually know for whom you are voting. Voting is a privilege, so be sure to take advantage of it. Voting is your peaceful power over tyranny.

“I want to thank all the people who made this interview possible. Thank you for reading stories of my war experiences. I pray you’ll never be writing your own war stories.”

Thank you to William Kelly and all who served and currently serve in our United States military. Prayers to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and kept our country free. God Bless the USA.

I want to give a big shoutout to Nate’s Vinyl Signz for donating products from this session to Bill and his family! If you need a canvas print, vinyl work or any creative print product, Nate is the person to contact.

Until next time, may your day be happy and your coffee be strong!

Read Bill’s full story here: William J. Kelly’s Reflection

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