COL(R) Bill Weber was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925, but grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Birmingham, Alabama. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was a sixteen-year-old member of the Alabama Home Guard, armed with a shotgun at the gate of the local steel mill. He enlisted in the Army in March, 1943, joining the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which was designed to rapidly produce junior officers for the military. He attended basic training at Camp McClellan, and advanced training at Fort Bragg. He volunteered for airborne training, and also received glider and demolitions training. He was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division, joining that unit in the Philippines in July, 1945. When the Japanese surrendered, the 11th Airborne Division led the way into Japan, and were met on the runway by Japanese Soldiers in formation showing their backs as a sign of deference and respect. During the early period of the occupation, there were concerns about the possibility of the Soviets invading Hokkaido, Japan, and Japanese units remained armed, under American control, as a preventative measure. After returning from occupation duty, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, accompanying remains being returned to families, which was a difficult, but necessary, duty. In April, 1949, he rejoined the 11th Airborne Division and was assigned to L Company, 187th Infantry (Rakkasans). In February, 1950, he participated in Operation Swarmer, designed to test the viability of airborne operations. Due to the impressive performance of the Rakkasans during that operation, they were selected for deployment to the Korean War as an Airborne Regimental Combat Team (ARCT). On October 20, 1950, he participated in the combat jump at Sukchon and Sunchon in North Korea. During the Battle of Wonju in early 1951, he was severely wounded, but the cold temperature prevented him from dying due to loss of blood. During over fourteen hours of combat, he lost an arm and a leg. Once he was evacuated, he was again wounded when the Chinese shelled the aid station. After recovering from his wounds, he was retained on active duty, the first double amputee since the Civil War to be allowed to continue serving. He concluded his career at the Pentagon.
In this interview, Bill Weber talks about his childhood, his training, and his service in Japan and Korea. He provides insightful observations about Japanese culture and the way the citizens reacted to the American occupation, noting their unity. He discusses returning remains to grieving families after the war, helping to provide closure. He also describes Operation Swarmer and his subsequent deployment to Korea, explaining the operations at Sukchon and Sunchon and the Battle of Wonju, and provides a detailed account of losing his limbs. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.