By Jennifer Martin - email
It was winter of 1944. Bill Correll and his fellow soldiers of the 100th Infantry Division were pushing back the Germans in the Vosges Mountains.
He says, "We were sleep deprived and the Germans were pulling back most of the time when I was there. In fact, just climbing a mountain is exhausting because of lack of oxygen. And you got tireder and tireder every day. Sometimes you felt like you could hardly go."
He captured a german prisoner on the mountain and had to take him back to the command post. It began the chain of events that would end his military career.
"When I got back to where I captured the guy, where I left my platoon, it was no longer there. I figured, I saw the footprints, I figured they'd gone up and waded over the ice cold creek and gone up the next mountain. So i did the same thing. I got half way up the mountain. It got pitch dark.
I was walking and all of a sudden, I just dropped, falling about 15 feet in a standing position. When my feet hit the ground, it was such a jolt and my teeth jammed together like that and it popped my steel helmet off my head and it went in front of me, hit the ground and I could hear it roll, roll, roll until it hit a tree somewhere."
He later realized he had stepped off a pillbox. He made his way back down the mountain and made a dugout in the side of a gorge. He sat there, in the sleet and freezing cold as the Germans shelled all around. The next morning, his men had to cut him from the ice now surrounding him in the dugout.
"My feet were dark blue, my fingers were dark blue some part of my face and they were numb. I had to wait a whole day for an ambulance to come."
His first stop was an army tent hospital. There, he faced off with a doctor who wanted to amputate.
"He looked at my feet, he said 'soldier, we're gonna have to amputate your toes.' I just raised cain. I wouldn't let him near me because I had kept a bayonnet under the blanket and so he got furious, said he was gonna have me court-martialed. He left, came back with a major."
The major let him keep his toes.
"Later, all my fingers and toes started swelling. It felt as if each one of them had been mashed with a hammer, it was so painful. So they kept us doped up on intermuscular injections of morphine."
The army sent him to one hospital after another, further and further from the front lines. Eventually, they flew him back to England. And several months later, he returned to the states, on the Queen Mary.
Correll was reunited with his sweetheart --and they later got married. He went back to Millsaps, and established the 1st research lab at the old VA in west Jackson.