Lt. Bill Williams was the son of Agnes E Jones and Lewis E. Williams, born circa 1916, likely in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He attended the Citadel, graduating in 1937. His Senior yearbook photo showed he concentrated his studies in Artillery and Business Administration. In the 1940 census, he is listed as an officer in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1941, he was back at the Citadel, this time as an instructor. At some point, probably in 1942, he would be assigned to the 99th Coast Artillery as the return address on the envelope shows. In 1943 (the time he was writing), the unit would have been in Trinidad (then part of the British West Indies), before being reassigned stateside in December of that same year. Unfortunately, that is all that on-going research has been able to discern of Lt. Williams. It is unknown if he ever got serious about “Margot” or any girl or if he made the Army his career as would seem was his original intent. His mother, lived her entire life in Orangeburg, raising her family and receiving letters from her son, Bill, during the war and one would assume after if he were not at home, as she was his “best girl.” She died in 1957 and is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery.
The Coastal Artillery was a branch of the Army (in the United States military) and after 1907 was actually a separate branch from Artillery. Their primary concern was operating fixed gun batteries or anti-ship batteries in coastal fortifications. In such a capacity, they would not deploy to the European or Pacific theaters. After World War II, with the advances in both aircraft and guided missiles, fixed batteries were deemed too vulnerable. Coastal artillery units were either disbanded altogether or became the current Air Defense Artillery units.
March 23, 1943.
Dearest Mom: —
Have been receiving your frequent letters and clippings and appreciate them more than I can say. Glad you received my cablegram O.K. Y’know, Gen. Summerall’s birthday is one day after yours, so I sent him one too at the same time. A few days later, I got a personal letter of gratitude from the old boy. He seemed to be deeply grateful. Guess little courtesies like that don’t do a bit of harm.
A short time ago, I received a phone call from the transient officers’ quarters of the nearby army air field. A southern drawl informed that Louis Williams had asked him to call me when he passed thru here. The caller was a flight surgeon who used to room with Louie before Dot & Jean went to Texas. Of course, I got in my jeep and went right over. While I was talking to the doc, a Major Alexander walked up and was introduced to me. “Williams,” he said, “Not Louie’s brother!” I said yes, and he said, “Well, come on over to the quarters and see Col. Ferguson.” And there he was. Tommy and I had a very long and enjoyable chat about Louie, the war, the States, and everything else you can mention. He asked me whether I wanted to send anything back by him, but I told him “only greetings.” Tommy was piloting a big bomber and there were scads of other planes in the same mission to “somewhere” and back. Really was nice to see somebody from home.
Mom, after a long period of being stymied by fate in a regiment which was already preformed when I entered it, your baby boy has finally taken command of a battery of over 130 men. I have four junior officers under me all of whom were just commissioned from officers’ candidate school a month or so ago. Of course, they’re green but willing and accommodating. They’re from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kentucky respectively. This battery was considered to be on the down grade when I took over, and I’m supposed to be a “reform man” and perk it up. So far we’re doing just that. It looks much better already if I do say so myself. I’m getting a lot of satisfaction and feeling of pride in achievement out of sitting in the skipper’s seat. I’ll certainly never regret choosing the army as a career. It’s my meat.
Any news of Bill Atkinson lately? Please give my regards to his family for me. How is your health? Please see Dr. Culler often, will you? Love to Lynda, Nellie Lena Effie Sallie Mr. Orrin, and the Salleys. Of course, I still like it here very much, but I’d like very much to come home for a thirty-day furlough and see especially my Mom and incidentally all my other friends. It’s been almost a year now, and that’s a long time these days. I have so much to be thankful for and so little to complain about that I shouldn’t complain about not seeing my mother. We’ll make up for lost time when I return. You and I are going to Washington and a lot of other places. Are you willing? O.K., then keep the chin up and take care of your health at any cost – conserve energy for our trip.
Did you read Life’s account of Eddie Rickenbacker’s 21 days adrift in the Pacific. Read it. You’ll notice that his navigator on the ill-fated flight was a Citadel graduate named De Angelis, a short dark skinned son of Italian parents. I know him well. Guess I should, ‘cause he slept thru most of my lectures for a whole year when I was instructor.
Margot De Gannes and I are still seeing each other as often as my many duties permit. Sometimes we go out to one of the nearby islands and spend the day with some of my Citadel friends stationed there. As I told you, Connor goes with Toni, her sister. We sometimes double-date. Don’t worry; it’s nothing serious; merely platonic. She’s a swell little girl who is just as Southern in nature as if she’d been born and raised in South Carolina. Takes a dislike to any American who is from north of the Mason and Dixon. Keeps asking what you’re like, do I look like you, and will I take her to see you when she visits South Carolina after the war. She swears she’s coming, says S.C. is the only state she cares to see. You’d like her plenty.
Guess I’ll wind up this rambling letter and get back to my work. I’m now Duty Officer at Regimental Headquarters and took time off from my command Post duties to write my best girl. Take care of yourself
I love you,
P.S. New Address:
Btry. C, rest the same.