GOSHEN — Seventy years ago today, Willis “Bill” Hite was a junior in high school when he heard the news about D-Day and the Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy.
It was June, 6, 1944.
He joined the United States Navy almost a year later in April 1945.
“I enlisted in April before school was out with the condition I got my diploma, then I got to go,” Hite said. “I went for active duty the day before I turned 18 (June 30, 1945). I felt I needed to go.”
The 86-year-old Goshen resident said he recalls people talking about the invasion and knowing many of the more than 90,000 American soldiers killed and wounded.
“I knew guys that were there from the city of Goshen. Everybody (in Goshen) knew everybody. I knew guys who were there. It was a very costly effort but worth it to go in and free Belgium, France and capture Germany,” Hite said, with tears in his eyes. “I wanted to go. I felt it was the proper thing to do at the time.”
The Navy veteran shook his head while talking about the youth of today and their knowledge of World War II, especially D-Day.
“I think they will forget because they aren’t taught about battles fought during the war,” Hite said. “There is a lot of information being withheld when history is being taught. They (youth) don’t seem to realize that if we hadn’t gone to war, they wouldn’t have the freedoms they have in school now. If we hadn’t stood up for our country and religion, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it today. We had no choice but to protect ourselves.”
Hite chuckled at the irony of his orders as he neared the end of basic training.