Local WW2 veteran dies in Durham at age 97
Posted January 21, 2018 12:26 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2018 12:44 p.m. EST
Franklinton, N.C. — Willie H. Williams, a World War II veteran from Franklinton, passed away on Friday at the age of 97, according to a family friend and church member.
Mr. Williams, who just celebrated a birthday on Jan. 10, was drafted at the age of 21 and served in Europe in four major battles, earning 4 bronze stars, according to his online obituary.
In a 2014 interview with WRAL, Mr. Williams recounted June 7, 1944, the day he landed in Normandy and the day after D-Day. Allied forces had taken the beaches by then, but German artillery still had them pinned down.
Williams was the messenger for his unit, keeping his platoon in step with headquarters by walkie-talkie. The fighting was intense, and he said he often feared he wouldn't make it out alive.
"You get up in the morning and say, 'Made it one more day, one more day. Thank the Lord, one more day,'" he said.
Williams made it 54 days at Normandy and went on to serve in three more battles during the war. Normandy is the place he remembers most., however, and he is still haunted by the memories.
"You think about all that stuff. I tell you, you can go crazy if you think about it too much," he said. "It was all real. There were no ifs ands or buts about it. It was real."
A funeral service will be held Monday at Franklinton Baptist Church, Mr. Williams' place of worship. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to Franklinton Baptist Church.