WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII veteran William (Billie) Seamans in his latest edition of ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing military service of Arkansans.
Seamans was born in McGehee on May 22, 1921. After graduating from high school he worked at the local hardware store.
Seamans enlisted in military service and started five weeks before he was scheduled to report for duty. He served in the Army Air Force.
Plane problems kept him stateside for five months. “I had to bail out in the ocean and I can’t swim,” Seamans said of his first attempt to fly overseas.
The second plane also had trouble, but the pilot was able to land in Cuba. “The little runway was so short for that powerful plane. We just kept going when we got to the runway,” Seamans said, recalling that it ended nose down in a patch of thickets.
Seamans was stationed in Tunisia in North Africa. He served as a photographer for 54 missions on the “Flying Fortress,” the B-17.
“The main thing was getting the bombs away shot and watching the bombs hit the target. I was taking pictures of all of it,” Seamans said. “I sat in a little place called the camera well and the bomb bay doors were right behind by back.”
His work was dangerous. He recalled landing after one mission with 147 holes in the airplane.
Seamans helped defeat the Germans at the Battle of Anzio.
“We got orders to bomb them. We dropped fragmentation bombs, where they throw a lot of shrapnel. We weren’t trying to blow up anything. We were trying to kill them,” Seamans said.
He was medically discharged in 1944. When he returned to McGehee his sisters introduced him to Dorothy, a woman he married two weeks later.
“As a member of the Greatest Generation, there is a lot we can learn from people like Billie Seamans, whose service and sacrifice defeated tyranny. Honoring Billie and our veterans by sharing their experiences of serving our nation in uniform is important to understanding our history,” Boozman said.
Boozman submitted Seamans’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.