GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a resident of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport has quite a story to tell.
William "Wild Bill" Allen is 91 years old and served in the Navy during World War II, assigned to a special unit with a critical mission. He remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor like yesterday.
When he was only 17, he knew there was only one thing to do - join the military.
"When I heard over the radio about the disaster, I wanted to revenge the Japanese by fighting," Allen recalled.
He was assigned to a unit with a unique name, running radar on military blimps.
"LTA stands for lighter than air. It was special crew operation out of Lakehurst, New Jersey," the Navy vet noted.
Protecting Naval convoys from Japanese submarines was the mission.
"It was hours and hours of flying around the convoy and making sure that the submarines won't come up and sink a ship. Because when they saw us, they dived. At that time, they couldn't dive and torpedo at the same time," Allen said. "They did research and said the lighter than air force escorted over 80,000 ships and not one was ever sunk while we were escorting the. And that's the bottom line."
True to his humble nature, Wild Bill doesn't take the credit. Instead, he praises those who helped on the home front during the war.
"If those women had not been going into the factories and working in a man's place, then man could not have been at war. So, it took the whole community to win World War II." Allen exclaimed.
He also knows that he and his comrades left a mark on the history books with their wartime work.
"It's king of a stressful job, but it was a wonderful job. A satisfaction that I was part of something that will not be forgotten, and will be in history forever," Allen said.
Wild Bill has just added another chapter to his storied and patriotic life. In November, he married Jamie. They plan on taking a short honeymoon trip to Florida.