LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Honor Flight Bluegrass sends hundreds of local veterans to Washington, D.C. every year. Wednesday, the program will take its next round of veterans to the nation’s capitol to see the monuments and memorials built in their honor. That includes Navy veteran, Bill Bennett.
Bill enlisted during WWII. That may have been more than 70 years ago, but he can recall just about everything from the service like it was yesterday.
"I was in the amphibious force, and I didn't ask to get in that. We were a different bunch of cats,” Bill said. “I wouldn’t take anything for my experience. I decided I’d take the Navy. As long as that ship was afloat, I wouldn’t have to be out there drilling in the mud and sleeping in that ice. That was the luckiest thing I ever did was when I took the Navy. I’m here today because I took the Navy.”
As a Navy Petty Officer during WWII, Bill saw more than most.
"I was in a lot of combat. We'd take the Marines in,” Bill said. “Out of the five D-Day landings I made, four of them were Marines. The first one I made was Army. The Navy planes, the fighter planes, would come in and land. We had supplies for them.”
Bill spent a lot of his time on the Pacific waters.
"We were a decoy for 36 hours, and we didn't realize it till later on. We didn't appreciate it. We hadn't done anything to be a decoy,” Bill said.
At 92, the memories from all of those years ago are still crystal clear.
"I don't mind talking about it. I wake up at night thinking about some of the things, but I like to get it all out of my system. I've been so fortunate,” Bill said.
Bill knows so many others were not.
"We'd take them into those islands. Sometimes, just 10 percent survived,” Bill said.
His split his service between the seas and the hospital after a severe leg injury.
"I got the million dollar wound, and the million dollar wound was anything that takes over six months to heal, but wasn't life-threatening. Mine ended up taking 17 and a half months,” Bill said.
Bill said that injury likely saved his life, keeping him home instead of heading back to war.
"I had been in combat five times, and I had all of the combat I wanted,” Bill said.
His duties were done decades ago, but there’s one more mission left.
"I've wanted to go on this Honor Flight for years,” Bill said. "I can't wait, and I'm looking forward to it. I would love to find another WWII veteran, especially one that was in the amphibious force, and to talk about some things. I’d like to see some of the other Navy veterans. I understand now, there aren’t that many of us left. I think there’s about 1800 of us passing away every day.”
This trip is one he and so many others just like him more than deserve.
"There's 16 million of us. I wasn't a hero. All I did was what my crew did. I did nothing unusual. I wasn't a hero. I survived. I'm lucky to be here,” Bill said.
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