“I’m starting to forget things,” Park, 93, said as he read the words he had jotted down as a young man fighting for his country in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, thrusting the U.S. into the war in both Europe and the Pacific, Park, a University of Maine engineering student, enlisted with the U.S. Marines.

He turned 21 the day he signed up, the same day he was given the pocket-sized “things to do today” journal by his Aunt Lucille, who affectionately addressed it to “Tackle Low,” a nickname she had given Park when he was little and used to hug her knees.

“I joined the Marine Corps on Feb. 4, 1942, and the next day I was on my way to Parris Island,” a Marine training facility in South Carolina, Park recalled in the comfort of his Brewer home.

Three months later, he made one of his first entries in the journal.

“May 31 (Memorial Day), 1942 on U.S.S. Wakefield en route to Wellington, N.Z.,” he had written in pencil while heading to New Zealand.


“July 4, 1942 on [U.S.S.] American Legion in Wellington harbor,” the next entry reads.

Park talked about dates and places at first, but slowly shared details. He recalled the malaria that was rampant in the dense jungles of the South Pacific islands in which he was serving — he was stricken with it 15 to 20 times — and the horribly rainy tropical weather and mud. “It once rained eight inches in two hours. You could almost stand up and drown,” he said.

And then, finally, he talked about the battles he previously had only discussed with other veterans.

“I only spoke to the fellows who were there because most people don’t understand,” Park said.

The same is true for many World War II veterans, dubbed the Greatest Generation, who fought in the war and returned home never to talk about it.

Park and the 1st Marines Division stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on Aug. 7, 1942, and fought battles or occupied bases in Brisbane in Queensland, Australia; Melbourne, Australia; Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, Australia; and the island of Peleliu, where he was wounded.


“New Years [Day] came & went. We are here in a rock pile near the airport. The 11th is right beside us and you can get night blasts,” Park wrote in his journal on Jan. 8, 1944, during the Battle of Cape Gloucester in New Guinea, which started in December 1943 and ended in April 1944. “Right now, the A.A. [anti-artillery] boys are having a field day and we just had a condition red.

“The jungle is about 30 yards away from the Jap lines,” he wrote in the entry. “Miserable weather. Raining all the time. Damned if a guy can’t see and hear more things in the bush … Damn this rain — makes more noises.”

Park recalled that “you couldn’t see [the Japanese bombers] from the ground [because of the fog], but for crying out loud, you could set your clock. At 12 o’clock noon, they would be right there.”

Just days after his unit arrived for the Battle of Peleliu, which started in September 1944 and ended in November 1944, Park was injured by enemy fire.

“I got whacked on the fifth day,” he said.

Park was hiding in a mortar hole smoking a cigarette when, “We started to get a lot of mortar fire. I started to hear the guys saying, ‘medic,’ and when I came up to the edge (of the hole) something hit me.”


Doctor’s bandaged Park up and sent him back to the states, where he served as a guard at the Naval Air Station in Brunswick for a year. He was packed and ready to go back to the Pacific to fight the Japanese when the war ended. At that point in 1945, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California and a little over a month later he was back home in Brewer.

“I missed going back (to the Pacific) by a couple of hours,” he said.

Park’s wife, Louise, said their granddaughter, Crystal Roy of Veazie, had recently read the 19 pages of journal entries filled with dates, names and notes and said, “‘Grandpa, you should do something with that.’” Louise Park held her husband’s journal while sitting at a table covered with old black and white war photos, a stack of letters he sent home, coins, and his discharge papers from October 1945. “That is when I called [the Bangor Daily News],” she said.

The couple were friends growing up in Brewer and reconnected when he went to the hospital after a car accident and she was working as a nurse. They married on Oct. 1, 1947, and had two children, Brenda and Lewis, who followed his father into the military when he joined the U.S. Air Force and served for 22 years.

William Park’s story was one of 89 profiled in “Quiet Courage: Stories of the Unselfish Dedication of Maine Veterans,” by former local newscaster Don Colson that was published by Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.

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