NewsLocal News

Actions

The fight continues: 32 year Army veteran shares hope for today's youth

Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 18:25:40-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — "You never forget it."

94-year-old Sgt. Major William Webb recounts his role in D-Day during World War II.

"I made the Normandy Invasion...June 6, '44. I was part of the invasion fleet."

He was part of that invasion fleet as well as being a member of the "Triple Nickles"... first African-American airborne unit of the U.S. Army.

The 555th Parachute Infantry Company was constituted in 1943, and got the "Triple Nickle" name because of the 17 members it took from the the Buffalo infantry division's "colored test platoon".

Three Buffalo nickels (old English spelling) joined a triangle-pyramid as its identifying symbol.

The Battalion was created the year Webb lied about his age to enlist in the Army at age 16.

"Well...all my friends that were older than me were leaving.. going to the military. I wanted to go, too."

He enlisted, and re-enlisted many times in his career.

"I was only in there 32 and a half years."

He says his time in both World War II and the Vietnam War were times in his life he was fighting for more than just his life...and our freedom.

"We were fighting three wars: the Germans, the Japanese, and segregation," he said. "And we're still fighting segregation."

The 555th Parachute Infantry was inactivated in 1947 and the men were transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment -- there the men were transferred throughout units in the 82nd Airborne Division. Those units became the first integrated divisions of the Army.

Webb says the difference between fighting overseas, and the fight against segregation at home in Buffalo, was that at least one battle was tangible.

"We were fighting segregation and we thought...at least with the Germans I could shoot back."

Being one of the first black paratroopers came with just two months of training, and back then, parachutes weren't what they are today.

Webb was jumping 1,700-2,000 feet to train, a task that left many men hurt, and some killed.

"They're not like today's parachutes so when you jump -- you landed soft. They're very small parachutes, so when you jump you landed hard."

Today, Webb reflects on his time serving our country with only one regret: that children today don't know enough history to understand why he fought.

"I helped make it possible for them to be where they are now, but they don't listen..they don't care."

He says he wants to see people in our community stop working against each other's success.

"They're not trying to work together."

And he wants our children to pick up the fight he started in 1943...

"We had to prove to the white man that the black man can do the same thing he's doing."