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0416-W2M-07/2008
William V. Hines
PFC
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 05/18/1944 - 03/14/1946
BAR man, "C" Company, 276 Inf Reg, 70th Inf Div
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He was born on a forty-acre farm in Ruby, Louisiana, a community near Alexandria, as one of four children of Truly Hines and Ebbie Greer Vashti Hines. Working alongside his father, William helped raise peanuts, cotton for cash, and for the dining table, a large garden with potatoes, English peas, field peas, beans, and potatoes. He recalls picking cotton as hard, hot work. "It was tough, but looking back, I don't know that I would exchange that life," he says. "I've learned to appreciate things a whole lot more than what a lot of kids do today." To supplement the family income, William pitched hay for one neighbor "from daylight to sundown," earning fifty cents. A day's work of pulling corn on another neighbor's farm earned him seventy-five cents. He also worked at the A&P grocery store and delivered messages for Western Union. During the Depression, he recalls many kinfolks coming to visit on extended stays of "a week or two at time," he recalls. "We didn't have any money, but we had something to eat, and they were there to get some of it," he says. One luxury of the Hines family was a battery-powered radio. Neighbors visited on Saturday nights to enjoy popcorn balls and candy made from peanuts while listening to the Grand Ole Opry. On other Saturday nights the Hines family hosted "Swing Josie" parties, when they cleared furniture from bedrooms for dancing. William, who began his education in a three-room schoolhouse, graduated from Bolton High School in 1943. He married Pauline McNeely on January 30, 1944. (They would have four children, eight grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.) He was working for Railway Express when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, shortly after his eighteenth birthday on February 27, 1944. After seventeen weeks of basic training at Camp Fannin near Tyler, Texas, he was sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri where he was assigned to C Company, 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division, as an assistant to the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) operator. William sailed on the USS West Point (AP-23), arriving after a ten-day voyage in Marseille, France on December 15, 1944. The Battle of the Bulge began the next day. The regiment relieved troops at Bischwaller, but was soon pulled back to hills near Wingen-sur-Moder, France. There German forces hit his sector in Operation Nordwind on the night of January 3-4, 1945. His "baptism of fire" was in attacking Wingen to re-capture the town. On January 5, eleven in his company were killed in an ambush. Eleven more were wounded the next day. In an operation to capture an objective called Hill 403, German artillery fire shattered treetops, raining down steel and wood. "A big ole hunk of shrapnel hit my helmet right in front and knocked me flat on my back," he says. In a firefight soon afterward, he helped capture twenty-three Germans in a small village. He was also battling bitterly cold. William recalls laying one overcoat in the bottom of a foxhole and, huddling with a buddy, covering up with another. Often, the men ate snow for their thirst. He recalls helping a medic pack a wounded man, Donald Newman, down a hill to a medical station. "It took me, I think, two hours to get back up that hill because every time a shell came in I'd jump in the first hole," he recalls. Of 166 men in his company in the campaign for Wingen and Hill 403, William believes only twenty-eight men were able to "load up the truck and walk across the hill. The rest had been wounded, killed or what have you," he remembers. Only thirteen in his entire company, he believes "started and finished the war together." After Hill 403, the company drove the Germans back and engaged in house-to-house fighting in Forbach, France. Moving through the town and into Forbach Forest, William led a night mission through enemy lines into another town, where they captured many Germans, an action for which he earned a Bronze Star. "Of course, I did things that were just as dangerous that nobody ever knew anything about," he says. His company fought so hard it earned the reputation in the battalion as "The Bloody C." His unit crossed the Rhine and held a small town near Alzenau, where for several days his unit survived on deer they shot and potatoes Germans had hidden under coal bins. After the war, William returned to America aboard a cargo ship, and was discharged in March of 1946 at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, as a private first class. Earlier, he had turned down sergeant's stripes. In all, he had served eighty-six days in combat. A week after arriving home he returned to Railway Express in Alexandria, then spent fourteen years in sales for Holsum Bread Company. He then became director of a nursing home in Bossier City, Pilgrim Manor South, run by his church, Wesleyan Church. Later, he and a partner ran the homes the church leased back to them. William served many years in mission work, fulfilling a promise he made during the war. "Back in the foxhole there in Germany I had a feeling I wasn't going to make it home," he recalls. "I asked the Lord, `If You let me get home, I'll serve You.' I've tried my best to keep my part of the bargain," he says.