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Sharing stories from WWII

July 14, 2011

William “Bill” Whitsell and George Born, two WWII veterans, now residents of Plymouth’s Miller’s Merry Manor, enjoy visiting and telling “war stories.” Bill holds his medal display including the Asiatic Bronze Star, American Navy Medal, Amphibious Emblem,Philippine Bronze Star,  World War II Medal Bronze Star and the Occupation of Japan.

PLYMOUTH — Sharon Cudney, assistant activity director at Miller’s Merry Manor, Plymouth, fears that the World War II experiences of her patients will be lost forever.
Two residents share their stories: George Born and William “Bill” Whitsell.
George Born, 86, was born in Plymouth. He quit school in his junior year and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad for six months before being drafted in the Army.
George took his basic training at Camp Wheeler, Ga., and was immediately shipped out to Germany with the First Infantry Division of the 26th Infantry Regiment.
He was there until the end of the war.
“There was a lot of house to house combat,” he said.
He told of how he was shot from the roof of a building.
“I had a hole in my helmet that went in the front and out the back. My buddy didn’t even tell me about it.”
He was wounded in his arm by flying shrapnel, but refused a Purple Heart.
“Just send me back to my unit,” he said.
After the war George re-enlisted and served with the 81st Constables.
“That is similar to our State Police.”
In 1951, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent back to the states. Following treatment in Denver, Colo., he was called back to active duty and sent back to Germany.
His next duty was in Okinawa where he was assigned to the 75th Regiment Combat Team.
George spent four years in Okinawa. Part of the time he was an American Technical Advisor.
He found love in Okinawa at the Quartermaster Laun-dry where he went to pick up some more clothes. Her name was Sumiko.
“I told my buddy that I was going to marry that girl,” George said. And he did.
He and his wife were married for 48 years. She died in 2006. They had two children, a daughter, Emily and a son, Ken. Emily is the editor of a REMC magazine and Ken is the first vice-president of Finance for the Bank of America.
“I think the time I spent in the military was the best time of my life,” George said.
The very worst duty he ever had was notifying the next of kin of a death of their loved one.
George retired in 1966.
He will be moving to a residential unit at Miller’s soon. He enjoys TV sports, is a die-hard Cub fan and loves to do Lego’s and play cards.
William “Bill” Whitsell was 97 years old June 18. He was born in 1914, in Donaldson and graduated from West High School with the class of 1932.
A natural athlete, he played baseball and basketball. “I’d have done more,” he said, “but that was all they had.”
He grew up on a farm during the depression and stayed there most of his life.
In 1936, he married Annabell I. Ginder. He first worked at the Bear-Cat store in Plymouth, owned by his brother, Delmas. Later, after working for the Marshall County Highway Department, he joined the State Highway Department.
When just after World War II started, Bill was the first man in Marshall County called up who had a wife and children. Their children are Janet Rough and Patty Kyser.
Opting for a dry bed and three meals a day, Bill traveled to Indianapolis and enlisted in the United States Navy. He was assigned to the USS LST 933 stationed in San Francisco, Calif.
The primary purpose of the Landing Ship Tank is to land fully equipped and manned vehicles on shores held by the enemy in the face of strong opposition by enemy land sea and air forces. To this purpose, the USS LST 933 and her crew were dedicated.
In a letter from James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy, Bill was told that he had served in the greatest Navy in the world.
“It crushed two enemy fleets at once, receiving their surrenders only four months apart.
“It brought our land-based airpower within bombing range of the enemy and set our ground armies on the beachheads of final victory.
“It performed the multitude of tasks necessary to support these military operations.”
The secretary went on to say that no other Navy at any time has done so much.
He praised Bill for his part in those achievements and said “you deserve to be proud as long as you live.”
Before the war, Bill was a volunteer firefighter with the Plymouth Fire Department.
After his honorable discharge in 1943, he served with them again until 1952. He also worked in the Bear-Cat store.
Bill played a lot of golf and took care of his wife who suffered two devastating falls, breaking one hip and then the other.
Married 69 years, Annabell died in 2005.
Both men are proud of their service to their country.

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