Few of the sixteen million Americans that joined allies across
the globe remain to tell the tale of World War II. William
Dellinger, a 96-year-old veteran and native of Charlotte, North
Carolina, was among those who served and sacrificed for their
country and loved ones.
Now, Nearly 72 years after completing his
service to the nation, in a tiny suburb of Charlotte, Dellinger sat
down to reminisce on the War, the things he’s seen, and the life
he’s led since.
Born on July 31, 1920, Dellinger learned at
an early age how to carve his own toys, whittling them into a
likeness of things he was fond of, including airplanes.
interest grew to include the way they flew, and the type of
machinery it took to build them; there was no question in
Dellinger’s mind as to what career path he would inevitably follow.
It was several years after graduating high school and a stint at
an automobile dealership, when he finally came around to pursuing
his passion for planes.
He registered for the Army Air Forces
on August 21, 1942.
November 2, 2016 - On the left... World War II veteran William
Dellinger (96) ... holds his dress uniform that he wore over 72
years ago. On the right... proudly displayed in William Dellinger's
home in Charlotte North Carolina ... are the logs of every mission
Dellinger pursued during WWII ... all written by him. A Greatest
Generation story in first person! (Image created by USA Patriotism!
from U.S. Army photos by Spc. Tynisha Daniel)
“I said to myself, I’m going to go ahead and join because I want
to work on air craft,” he said, smiling.
Six weeks later,
Dellinger was shipped to basic combat training in St. Petersburg,
“My first duty station was at Marianna, Florida
(Graham Airbase).” As Dellinger told it, things didn’t get off to a
great start, thanks to a particular officer in charge.
never forget his name. Provost Marshall Capt. Clemmons,” he said,
recounting the day like it was yesterday. “He put us in formation,
then told us “all of you Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia men
dismiss yourself and make another formation…you’ll be on guard
“Oh man, I just about fell to the ground when he said
that,” laughed Dellinger.
Though funny to him now, guard
duty was far from the technical school for mechanical aircraft he
had set his sights on.
Refusing to let his dreams perish,
Dellinger worked harder, volunteering for everything that came his
way; so much so that his leadership took notice, gave his packet a
second glance and granted him his wish.
Whisked away to
Amarillo Air Force Base, he received training at the mechanical
school for aircraft. He learned the rules of aerodynamics, the
mechanical care of aircraft, and how to assemble the machinery
needed to make an airplane take flight.
instructors) knew we were headed overseas … and needed to know
everything,” he said.
Once deployed, the troops would be
completely on their own.
In the months that followed,
Dellinger would travel across the country, perfecting his trade at
aircraft manufacturing plants like Boeing in Seattle, Washington:
all for the benefit of the military and the Nation.
completed his training and in January 1945, he deployed to Guam to
join the fight in the Pacific Region with the Third Marine Division
and the Army. Their mission was to provide offensive counter-air
strikes to the enemy through ground attacks. Fighting both in the
air and on the ground, Dellinger remained combat ready.
Between managing the aircraft during typhoons in the middle of the
night to fighting the enemy through tropical forests, Dellinger
“In the wee hours of the morning and sometimes in the middle of
the night, the storms would come. I would get out of my tent and
walk a mile away from the jungle to secure the planes,” said
Dellinger. U.S. aircraft were outside of the forests were the
"In the jungle you didn’t know if you’d get
hit by a bayonet or a bullet leaving your tent,” he said.
part of coping with his experiences on the island, Dellinger kept a
log of all of the flights during his time in Guam as a physical and
mental reminder. In all, he served as a mechanic for more than 25
successful air combat missions.
World War II veteran William Dellinger (96) points to the B29
aircraft that he primarily used in the war. The photo of this proud
memory hangs on a wall of his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dellinger's medals and ribbons achieved during his service are next
to the photo. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tynisha Daniel)
“Boy was I ready to come home,” said Dellinger. “Word
travelled slower in the 40s, they (the Japanese) were still
fighting when we were leaving and it (the war) was over.”
Returning stateside, Dellinger and the other service
members were flown to California. “When we came back from
overseas we got to California, cleaned up, received a good
meal, jumped on a troop train, and for five days and five
nights travelled across the country to Fort Bragg, North
Carolina for discharge,” said Dellinger.
Bragg, Dellinger and the others lined up and received
discharge physicals, one by one. “The line was so long.
There was so many of us that they had to give us or shots
outside under the pine trees,” he said.
Due the lack
of room on base, once the Soldiers’ physicals were
completed, they were allowed to go home for three days.
“They took us downtown and I was put on a bus to go home. I
came back three days later and was discharged,” said
After being discharged, Dellinger went
back to North Carolina to unite with his lovely wife and
“They asked me to stay in, but I wanted to
get back home to Marion. I couldn’t have been happier to see
her and my 1 1/2 year old daughter. You’d better believe she
sure did take care of me,” he said.
After a few years
of working odd jobs, he started working for the North
Carolina Department of Transportation in 1955. “I finally
got to put all that knowledge I learned in the military to
work,” said Dellinger.
But the war for Dellinger has
lingered on. He says he still wakes sometimes in the middle
of the night, thinking about his time on the island. He
never told Marion.
“I never wanted worry her, so we
never talked about it.” said Dellinger. Instead he learned
to wake himself up, realize where he was and tell himself it
was just a dream, he said he would then “thank God it’s over
and move forward.”
Marion died in 2004, after more
than 60 years of marriage. “She was the love of my life,”
At 96 years old the veteran can still
be seen out and about, driving and working in his yard, and
to this day, he still can fit into his old dress uniform. He
keeps busy with hobbies such as creating solar panels,
traveling to visit friends and family members, and even
chopping the occasional firewood. “It keeps me young,” he
“I wouldn’t have been able to live my life
the way I have without the military. I’m thankful,” said
By U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha Daniel
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