When little Billy Sanders was born on July 23, 1926 his parents were absolutely delighted. After having had six daughters, they probably wondered if they would ever have a son. As it turns out, William Sanders Jr. was their only son and the seventh of their nine children. Billy was born in Pine Township Pennsylvania, in the heart of western Pennsylvania's coal mining area. His father, Williams Sanders Sr., was a coal miner. His mother, Hester, kept a neat home and kept busy with her children.
Billy was a very likable child, hale and hearty, and a good student. He enjoyed school and was rewarded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a certificate of perfect attendance for the years 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1936. Here he is pictured in the third grade, 1933. Cute little kid wasn't he?
Billy went on to attend Pine Township High School where he played on various sports teams, football, basketball, and he ran track as well. He was the Senior Class President and graduated May 19, 1944. There were thirty students in his graduating class, five of them graduated in absentia because they were already serving in the United States Navy. This was wartime after all, WWII was well underway. Young people grew up quickly. Their nation needed them and they answered the call. Billy would answer the call as well.
Billy turned 18 in July of 1944 and like his classmates, he joined the United States Navy. He had the summer to enjoy some time with his family and friends but by the end of August he was on his way to Sampson, New York for basic training. On August 31 he sent his mother a picture postcard from Niagara Falls telling her that he had arrived safely in Sampson. He was in the Navy!
While in New York, Billy trained to be a radioman. His basic training continued until late January of 1945. After a short leave home, he reported to Norfolk Virginia for his next assignment on January 24, 1945. In Norfolk, he was assigned to the USS Frederick C. Davis (DE 136), a destroyer escort ship. The ship left port February 8, 1945, and Billy was off to war.
The complete series of WWII, One Man's Story:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8