Bill Rowe, born in 1927, proudly served his country in the US Army and saw front line action in three different conflicts. He was in WWII, the Korean war and the Vietnam war. He served from 1945 to 1965.
Life was never easy for Bill. His father, a coal miner died when Bill was five. His mother passed away when he was seven and he and his siblings were placed in an orphanage. He would stay there until he was sixteen, “exaggerate” his age at seventeen and be drafted into the Army.
He was assigned to the infantry and sent to recapture the Philippines from the Japanese embedded in the jungles. He remembers being on patrol, “It was them against us. I arrived the day we dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. After the Philippines were recaptured and the Japanese had surrendered Bill’s unit was part of the occupation force in Japan. He would apply for and be accepted into General MacArthur’s Honor Guard.
Bill would extend his service in the Army by reenlisting in the regular Army. “I didn’t have a home to go back to anyway.” Because of his service in the honor guard he was promoted personally by MacArthur from “buck” sergeant to Staff Sergeant.
After WWII bill returned to Ohio where he married Marylou, the girl he had fallen in love with in the seventh grade. He had a birthday shortly after and his new wife baked him a birthday cake. He sobbed as he had never received presents or a cake in his life at the orphanage.
Bill would be sent to the Korean Conflict in 1952 as a Master Sergeant where he was in charge of over two hundred infantrymen. His most vivid and harsh memory was from December 24th, 1952. That night his troops were attacked by over 1000 Chinese and North Koreans. His unit was fighting on a hill next to Heartbreak Ridge. The losses of American lives were extensive, but they survived the attack.
As Bill recalls, “I was a sergeant at the bottom of the hill. By the time we hit the top we had lost so many men, enlisted and officers, I was the ranking man, the company commander by default. He would receive a battlefield commission to lieutenant. Bill would serve fourteen months in Korea.
Back in 1949 Bill had applied for and joined the paratroopers. He would injure his leg on a jump that eventually limited his mobility. After Korea he worked his way up to Captain and because of his bad knee would transfer from the infantry to an armored unit. His service on the battlefield was not over, however.
In 1963, early in the US involvement in the Vietnam War, prior to ground troops being deployed, Bill was sent to the country to advise the South Vietnamese Army in their fight against the Viet Cong. He and his team of four other officers and five non-coms, were embedded with a 3000-man strong regiment. He was to advise them on what to do, how to do it, military tactics, and this was usually was while under fire from hostile forces. The regiment was stationed in in the jungle region of Moc Hoa, 90 miles from Saigon, close to the Cambodian border.
Bill describes the experience, "It was terrible. We lived like rats, ate dog and rat. I just asked them to not tell me what we were eating. The mosquitos and bugs were awful. Water during the monsoon season was often up to our knees. Our clothes would rot off."
He would stay in country for fourteen months until he had successfully trained his replacement. Bill returned home to the States finishing out his 20-year military career advising the West Virginia National Guard.
He and Marylou would have two children, William (Billy) and MaryLee. They also have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Marylou passed away in 2015 after a 55 year and 6-day marriage. Bill’s siblings and his two children have also passed away.
Please honor and salute this amazing man, his incredible journey, and dedicated service to our country!