Post 34 honors William E. Sanders
CADIZ – The number of remaining World War II veterans is dwindling, and sometimes getting a member of the military to open up about the battles fought is hard to do.
William E. Sanders, who was discharged from the Army in March 1946, was raised in Steubenville and came back to his parent’s home there after the war.
“There was no parade or celebration coming home. I arrived by taxi in the middle of the night and life went on,” he said.
Last month, the veteran was honored by Cadiz American Legion Post 34, where he is a member and serves on the honor guard. A plaque was presented for his dedication and service to the community following his early years in the military.
He is still a member of the Masonic Lodge in Steubenville, Scottish Rite, and is involved with the Cadiz Lions Club, where he served as secretary for over 20 years. He’s also a member of the the VFW of Hopedale, the Jefferson County Veterans Association and the Cadiz Food Cupboard; a volunteer for the Harrison County Salvation Army; and a member of the Cadiz Presbyterian Church, serving as elder and trustee.
Getting back to his military service, Sanders was drafted in October 1943, and sent to
Camp Chaffee, Ark. He and a friend, Mike Gallo were placed in a new division called the 16th Armored Division.
“They told us we would be leaving the fort as a division. Then in May 1944, we were all called to the mess hall. Half were told they were going home on a seven-day leave and the remainder learned they would be deployed to the European Theater. Overall, we were split up three times. So much for promises,” he said.
In February 1944, the division spent nine days in Czechslovakia, where there were thousands upon thousands of prisoners.
“The D-Day invasion of Normandy happened while we were crossing the Atlantic Ocean on June 6, 1944. A landing craft let us off at Omaha Beach and we waded ashore, We were assigned to the 5th Infantry Division while in Normandy and fought until July 23. A terrific bombardment took place when Gen. George Patton was turned loose there. I got to see him,” Sanders explained.
He noted that there was a mass movement by foot and the soldiers took any opportunity to ride instead of walk that came along, including horse drawn wagons.
“We would dig a foxhole at night and take off again on foot during the day,” he said.
Ironically, Sanders was going through some of the same towns as his dad, William B. Sanders, did in World War I, crossing five rivers in their quest .
“I was in the hospital with a concussion from an artillery shell during combat. When I came to, I was wrapped around a tree. I got up, made it back to my outfit but ended up in a Paris hospital for Christmas. I was there for several months getting treatment,” he said.
One of his furloughs also was to Paris, were he he fell in love with the city. He got to see Fontainebleu, host to the general staff of the Allied Forces in Central Europe,
He was sent to the LeHarve Camp, where the military was sent on emergency leave and for re-enlistment furlough.
“Everybody was getting shipped out until I was one of the few left to tear down the cigarette camps, as they were called. I was discharged in March 1946,
During my time in service, I traveled through Steubenville on the troop trains many times. It was my hometown, I graduated from Big Red, played football at Harding Middle School and had a Herald-Star paper route in 1941-42. My route was Seventh Street below Bond Bread to the Buick Garage and I had 100 papers to deliver,” he smiled in recollection.
“Newspaper routes were scarce because all young people wanted to earn money. My route was passed down in the family for years. I also worked at a confectionery on Belleview that was owned by the Dunley family. I would use some of my money at the New York Pizza on Third and Water Street, where I got pizza, the best in town,” Sanders said.
He belongs to the Circus Fans of America group, having an admiration of the circus since he lived on Belleview and the big tent event came to town.
“I would watch them unload and walk the horses and elephants up several streets to be watered at a fire hydrant,” he said, telling that he would like to visit the Baraboo, Wis., Circus World some day.
This is on the bucket list where he completed one important one wish. He got to ride in a NASCAR vehicle with Richard Petty.
“It was in Orlando and I could have driven a car, but you had to take instruction most of the day before it was allowed. We traveled 140 miles an hour. It was a ride of a lifetime,” Sanders explained with a big grim.
Working 35 years in the construction business, he belongs to the Laborers Union 809 and also is a member of the Harrison Council of Churches.
Regarding his years in the military, Sanders said, “I would never want to do it again or give up the chance to have been there”
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)