ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Harry Williams says once he made up his mind to join the Army, there was no changing it.
“I was 17 and a half,” Williams laughs. “I had lied what my true age was and my mother didn’t want to sign.”
What you could call a little white lie lead to a truly distinguished service during World War II. Williams was a forward observer on open-air tanks in the 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion.
“We traveled with the infantry. In other words, what I’m saying to you is they took a target, we were right behind firing ahead of them to give them protection,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Always on the frontlines and with little protection himself, Williams sharing a letter from one of his fellow soldiers crediting him for serving with honor and without complaint. His service took him to the Battle of the Bulge and across the Czech border rescuing concentration camp victims. He says he also saw some truly harrowing sights at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
“When we finally got in… excuse me… there were dead lying all over the beach. Everywhere you could see, men were at the water’s edge that was red with blood,” he recalls choking back tears.
There we other memories as well, ones that reminded him what he and his comrades fought for.
“We were passing by this house and a man brought out this family, he told us these people are Jews and we’ve been hiding them for two years. The little girl, it was her first time ever seeing the outside. You should have seen everyone, we were digging in our pockets for money and chocolate bars and we left them with some food,” Williams remembers.
“That little girl would be in her 80s now, I’ve always wondered how she’s doing,” he goes on to say.
For his bravery, Senator Neil Breslin nominating Williams this Memorial Day to be inducted into the NYS Veterans Hall of Fame. Breslin naming Williams’ accomplishments at a virtual ceremony Monday with a plan to present him with the formal honors in June. Williams says he’s humbled, but the real credit shouldn’t go to him.
“I’ll take the honor for my buddies. The ones that didn’t make it home. They’re the ones who deserve the honor. We get all the accolades. They gave the supreme — their life you know?” he says.