Sweetwater residents greet Bill Arnold at airport upon his return from Honor Flight
It took some convincing to get Sweetwater resident Bill Arnold to agree to go on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in June, although it would seem that if any World War II veteran should be honored for his service, it’s Bill. He was inducted into the Army on March 25, 1941 and discharged five years later on March 25, 1946, having survived the first battles in the Pacific and three and a half years as a prisoner of war and slave laborer in the Philippines and Japan. Reflecting on those terrible years, he still thinks of himself as a lucky man. He survived.
Bill was born in Fishtail, MT, raised on a ranch during the great depression of the 1930s and couldn’t afford bus fare to go to high school, so he had to drop out in his freshman year. But he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps one summer and earned enough money to graduate from Absarokee High School in 1937. Because it was hard to find full time work, Bill and some of his friends decided to join the Army, thinking they might be able to stay together. But they all ended up going different directions.
Trained as a radio operator, Bill was assigned to armored unit and soon found himself as member of a tank crew destined for the Philippines. He arrived there 17 days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and American installations in the Philippines. The story of the desperate five-month defense of Bataan and Corregidor and the tragic events that followed is told in a book Bill wrote in 2002, titled “Some Survived.”
Bill returned to Montana after the war and was married in 1950. He lived and worked first in Absarokee and then Billings. He retired from the State Highway Department in 1982 and has enjoyed golf, fishing, and painting. After the death of his first wife Gertrude in 1987, Bill married again in 1989. He and his second wife Sadye lived in Billings and in later years enjoyed life at Sweetwater until her death in November,2012.
In his book, Bill wrote that the experience of being a prisoner taught him that “our freedom is worth fighting for.” He urges everyone to vote and says we must “never again suffer the bitter consequences of being unprepared.” Later generations can learn a lot, listening to Bill Arnold.
by Betty Jean Long
Life Enrichment Coordinator
To find out more about the heroes residing at Sweetwater, please contact Sweetwater Retirement Community today to see more of our fun and social living. We’ll happily answer all your questions and show you around our beautiful communities. Come see why we say, THIS IS LIVING!