WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of veteran Willie Newman in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Newman, the second youngest of 12 children, was born in Hon, Arkansas in Scott County and was raised on the family farm.
Newman was drafted in 1942 and was inducted into the Army in Little Rock on December 9 of that year. He completed basic training at Camp Howze, Texas and was encouraged by a friend to volunteer to become a paratrooper.
“My buddy said let’s go Newman, so we lined up and went. They turned him down, but I had to go,” Newman laughed.
Newman attended jump school at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont. He was assigned to the 1st Special Service Force, nicknamed the “Black Devils,” a joint U.S.-Canadian commando unit.
Newman and members of this elite force served at the Aleutian Islands for the invasion of Kiska Island and fought in Italy. As the unit was on its way to take Rome, Newman was wounded but he forced to continue fighting.
“The lieutenant told me to get rid of my M1 and the sergeant said I wasn’t out of action yet. There was fighting. That wasn’t going to slow us down, shrapnel in my shoulder,” Newman recalled. “Two or three days later I finally went to the hospital. Then I was too cold. They had to thaw me out.”
The 1st Special Service Force disbanded in December 1944 so Newman had the opportunity to join the 82nd Airborne Division or the 101st Airborne Division. His sergeant encouraged him to join the 101st Airborne. He met the division at Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
Newman recalled one instance in Germany, when his unit was on the move near a hedgerow, that his sergeant said to fix bayonets.
“We were getting pretty close. We fixed bayonets. About the time we were getting ready to go the Germans came swarming out. It made us feel good. They gave up before we got there,” Newman said.
Newman and the 101st Airborne spent the last days of WWII at Berchtesgaden, Germany, near Adolph Hitler’s vacation retreat. He spent three months here before being sent home.
Newman sustained two injuries during his service and was awarded the Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Cluster. In 2015, the 1st Special Service Force was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. Newman has a bronze replica of the unit’s award.
Today, Newman calls Waldron home.
“I am grateful for Willie Newman’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Newman’s 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.