Have you ever visited the Fold3 Honor Wall? The Honor Wall is comprised of thousands of Memorials created by our users to pay tribute to America’s veterans. Memorials can contain memories, diaries, stories, photos, and more! They are a wonderful way to share, collaborate, and even learn things about your loved one’s service based upon the histories contributed by others. These pages are a great way to keep our veterans’ stories alive.
For example, the children of Willis H. Bell created this Memorial in his honor. Bell enlisted in the Marine Corps the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed when he was just 17-years-old. He was stationed aboard the USS Chicago when the ship was hit with torpedoes during the Battle of Rennell Island. Bell remembered, “When the first torpedo hit the ship, I was blown through an open hatch down to the next deck, which really did a number on my back. In a later explosion that same night I sustained flash burns about the ankles.” The USS Chicago sank, and Bell ended up in the water for two hours before being rescued. The Navy dropped depth charges to keep the sharks away. Bell received treatment for his injuries though it took about a month before he could stand up straight.
After being released, Bell volunteered for the Raider Battalion 6th Marine Division where he landed at Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. While on Bougainville, Bell was plagued by jungle rot. Jungle rot was a tropical disease that occurred when skin lesions caused by microbes became infected and ulcerated. The painful disease eroded muscles and tendons, and sometimes even bone. Bell’s treatment consisted of putting his legs in a metal basin of water with an electrical current flowing through to clean out the ulcerated sores. Bell remembered that he and other soldiers would have contests to squeeze the sores and see who could hit the top of the tent first. He remembers being able to see right down to the bone in his wounds. Bell also contracted Dengue Fever on the islands.
Several months later, Bell’s regiment came ashore at Guam. One night while hunkered down after dark, Bell heard movement. The regiment followed a hard and fast rule that nobody was allowed above ground after dark without letting fellow soldiers know. Bell had not received word that anyone would be out, so when he sensed movement, he fired. Horrified, Bell learned that he shot and killed his squadron leader. Within 24 hours Bell also lost two more good friends and a third received serious wounds. Devastated both mentally and physically, Bell continued fighting until he came down with a severe case of cerebral malaria. He was so ill that he was found raving incomprehensibly and shipped to a hospital in San Diego. He eventually recovered, but his wartime maladies bothered him throughout his life.
Bell’s family recalls that later in life, Bell did not consider his life a success. Sometimes he displayed irrational anger but understanding his story helped Bell’s family to overlook his weaknesses and imperfections. To them, their father is a hero!
Do you or your loved ones have military stories, photos or diaries? Creating a Memorial is easy to do! Follow the instructions in this video tutorial. Be sure to include regiment, unit, or battalion and as many searchable details as you can. Don’t forget to search other existing Memorial pages and you may learn more about the service of your veteran! Visit Fold3 and get started today!