Joining the Navy

Celeste teens William Caldwell, C.B. Sams, Douglas Lanier, Albert Bishop, Malcolm Chaney joined the together Navy in 1943

Editor’s Note: Upon learning that the Herald-Banner and other CNHI newspapers were planning interviews and coverage with D-Day veterans, William Caldwell provided many stories, photographs and memorabilia. He also wrote the following letter and included a poem he wrote several years ago about his experiences serving in World War II. It is the Herald-Banner’s distinct honor to share it with our readers. We thank Mr. Caldwell and all those who served in World War II’s most vicious battle for protecting the freedoms we all continue to enjoy.

Dear Editor:

Since this will be my last D-Day story, I will attempt to tell how it really was. Not something that I had read! My poem is below. It tells a lot!

When I joined the Navy I was 17, my second time out of Hunt County, and I was pretty green. I would get plenty to eat and have adventures and fun! You must try to picture what times were like then. I was 18, when we made the first invasion at Sicily, then Salerno, and Anzio, Italy. I was still a teen at Normandy, France, just 19.

What was it like for those four invasions? It would be exciting, kind of like a Friday afternoon football game at Celeste. Only these events would take place early in the mornings. I would get to be the quarterback, with my signal flags, always with the captain up on the bridge. 

I wrote this poem from my biography written for my by my friend Sarah Roach Swindell in 2016. 

— William Caldwell

Just A Boy

I’m a fellow some call Bill,

Born in 1924 at Webb Hill.

My mother died when I was four,

My family, like others were poor.

When I was eight I started school at Honey Creek,

To get there by food was quite a feat!

The teacher there taught me my lessons,

This took place during The Great Depression.

In 1935, Dad moved me, my sister and brother to Celeste,

Turns out to be good - maybe the best!

My first teacher was Miss Edna, 

When I would daydream,

Miss Edna was ready!

Now Miss Edna was beyond reproach,

Later on she married a man I called “Mister Roach.”

Then the whole world began to change, 

Some foolish countries were having war games.

A lunatic wanted to rule the world,

To our surprise, we were attacked at a harbor called Pearl.

The next day the President declared war,

I was young and didn’t know what for?

Pretty soon my brother, Bruce, would disappear, 

I had to stay at home nearly a year.

In August I was working on a farm,

My dad said, “Son you can join.”

Getting to Dallas is pretty far,

Dad didn’t even own a car. 

My neighbor lady said, “Bill don’t worry your brain.

Tomorrow I’ll take you there by train.”

She was Mrs. Chaney! The best.

I’ve written a lot - you know the rest.

I try not to use the same word twice, 

But I did, because she was so nice. 

“Poems are made by fools like me”

I borrowed this from I Think That I shall Never See A Poem Lovely as a Tree.

If this is something like what a child might write,

It’s late don’t use it. Just say, “good night!”