GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– He was one of more than a million African Americans fighting for the United States in World War II.
Tommy Williams, 86, was just a teenager when he left home in Mississippi in 1946 and found himself half a world away in Italy, France and Germany.
At the start of World War II, most African Americans were assigned to non-combat units. But by 1945, troop losses forced the military to put more African Americans on the front lines. Williams was part of the field artillery where he helped man large guns.
He served two years before heading home.
In the 1970s, Williams met the love of this life, Edith. While he does not have any children of his own, Williams helped raise several step-children. In fact, they’re expecting great-grandchildren!
He lost many family pictures and pictures of his time in the service during a house fire.
Even after being out of the military for over six decades, Williams still tried to do what he can for aging veterans by being active in the Home for Veterans and the Kent County Honor Guard.
“I want to help people,” Williams said. “I had a bad time overseas and I’d like to help somebody.”
But there are some memories Williams remembers fondly of his time overseas. It was a two-week break away from the front lines, spent in Rome, Italy. When asked what he liked most?
“The hotels! The hotels were something else,” he said.