WILLIAM G. (BILL) ORR
Patriot, Chapter 1919
Army, WWII, Pacific
William G. Orr was born in San Antonio in 1923.
He grew up on a family farm near Carrizo Springs (Zavala County) and
graduated from Carrizo Springs High School with the class of 1941.
He enrolled at Texas A&M and while a student there he also joined a
unit of the Army Reserve. At the end of the next year, he did not return to
school after the Christmas holiday break, and very quickly thereafter he
received his “call-up” notice.
Bill entered active duty on March 1, 1943 and was sent to Camp Hood, Texas
for Basic Training.
After his individual training, Bill was ordered to Camp Luis Obispo,
California and assigned to the 6th Infantry Division.
He arrived there in early June 1943 and was further assigned to
Company F, 1st Infantry Regiment.
Bill remembers the division was training for combat and preparing for
overseas movement. He worked at
receiving new equipment as the division was being brought up to full
strength. He was granted a ten-day leave during the four months after his
arrival before the division was ready to deploy.
The 6th Infantry Division would be sent to the Pacific, serve seven months
in combat along the northern coast of New Guinea, then participate in the
invasion landings on Luzon and in the Battle of Manila, and would close out
the war fighting in the mountains northeast of Manila, after having seen 306
days in combat. Here are more details about what they were doing, and Bill
Orr’s part in it.
The division arrived in Hawaii September 20, 1943 and moved into positions
manning the beach defenses of Oahu Island.
They continued that mission for approximately four months and also
had two weeks of intensive training in jungle warfare.
In January 1944 they were shipped to New Guinea and set up camp at
Milne Bay, a previously secured location near the extreme southeastern tip
of the island. Bill says,
“We were camped in a coconut grove at Milne Bay and spent the next several
months in training.”
Meanwhile, Australian and American troops were fighting further up along the
northern coast, driving the Japanese forces out as they leap-frogged their
way up the island. In late May
1944 the 6th Infantry Division took ship and moved up the coast, landing in
the Maffin Bay area on June 6th.
After relieving U.S. troops in contact with the enemy, the division entered
battle on June 20, 1944 at Toem.
Fighting continued until July 12th, but the most intense combat was in the
first ten days during the taking of Lone Tree Hill, key terrain leading to
the capture of Maffin Airdrome.
The Japanese attacked in force at night and there were several days of heavy
rain that slowed the division’s progress. Pfc Orr recalls,
“There was one night I won’t forget.
We were in a dug-out position, a covered bunker, and it rained all
night. It rained without letting up and the dug-out filled up with water. It
filled up completely, but because of the enemy close by, we had to stay put
there all night, it was really miserable.”
Airdrome was captured along with Japanese engineer construction equipment,
weapons of all types and a large amount of supplies.
After the Maffin Bay area was secured, the 6th Infantry Division
again loaded on ships and moved up the coast, this time to Cape Sansapor,
near the extreme northwest corner of
After a massive bombardment, the division landed unopposed on July 30, 1944
and almost immediately began construction of an airfield.
Enemy forces in the area, unlike the elite troops encountered
earlier, were not well organized and were largely ineffective.
Plans for a large scale Japanese
counterattack were discovered by monitoring radio messages.
Many enemy troops were destroyed by artillery fire timed fifteen
minutes before they had intended to hit the 6th Division.
Japanese forces put up some resistance but Sansapor was secured
without sustaining heavy combat losses.
Bill remembers one particular incident about the approach to Sansapor,
“We were attacking enemy fixed
positions on a hill. They had a
large weapon (artillery) set up at the base of the hill and we had come up
against it. A flame thrower
gunner with us had just started to fire when at that precise instant the
enemy gun fired. The muzzle
blast of the gun blew the flame back on the flame thrower gunner and he was
After the Sansapor area had been secured and the division had settled in to
conduct training, 1,800 casualties were sustained from an outbreak of “Scrub
Typhus.” On December 20, 1944,
the division sailed for the Philippines.
The 6th Division participated in the invasion of Luzon, landing at Lingayen
Gulf on January 9, 1945 and began to push inland from the beachhead.
In the coming days they advanced, against opposition, into the
Cabanatuan hills, and it was during this early phase that William Orr was
wounded. He says,
“It was January 25, 1945, near Santa Barbara, only a short distance inland.
The terrain was open farm land, 5-6 acre plots that were divided by rows of
brush. We were advancing against
Japanese troops in fixed positions, dug in along those rows of brush.
Tanks had been brought up to assist in the attack, but everything was
stalled and nothing had been moving for some time.
I got up and went out to check out a nearby position, found it empty
excepting for one of the enemy dead inside, and returned to my position.
Just as I had gotten back there I was hit by a single rifle shot, I
believe it was one of their small .25 caliber rounds. The bullet went
through my upper left arm and then through the front of my abdomen, with
entering and exiting wounds penetrating the peritoneum, but fortunately not
tearing any of the digestive organs. A Medic was nearby and he reached me
quickly, applied bandages, and had me put on a litter.
The Battalion Aid Station was very close, maybe 500 yards to the rear
of our position, so they didn’t have to carry me very far.
But, going back through one of the brush dividers one of the bearers
fell and they dropped the litter (but, it didn’t hurt a bit).
The Aid Station put me in with an ambulance load of wounded and sent
us off to a Field Hospital. On
the way a Japanese small arms round hit the ambulance, making a loud noise.
It didn’t hit anyone but it sure scared all of us. In the Field
Hospital I was in a great deal of pain and was given a lot of morphine,
apparently without it being recorded. Then I was moved to another Field
Hospital nearby and since I was still in pain they gave me more morphine.
Then I got really sick, throwing up, not what you want to do if you’ve been
shot in the gut. I’d had too much morphine. A regular transport plane, not
equipped for medevac, flew me with a plane load of other hospital patients
to Mindoro where I stayed for about a week.
From there I was sent to Leyte and put in a regular hospital. I don’t
recall any special treatment to prevent infections, I know there was no
penicillin used then. The soldier in the bed next to mine, who had a foot
wound, developed gangrene, I detected it immediately from the smell.
He was quickly taken away for amputation, there was no other
alternative. At the time, patients were being returned to duty before their
wounds were healed and that’s what happened to me also. After two weeks on
Leyte I was checked out of the hospital and sent to the Replacement Depot.
It took them another week to send me on my way back to Company F.”
Meanwhile, the 6th Infantry Division had captured Munoz on February 7th, and
then driven northeast to Dingalan Bay and Baler Bay by mid-Febuary,
isolating enemy forces in southern Luzon.
Bill’s 1st Infantry Regiment was sent to the Bataan Peninsula where,
in coordination with Philippine Commonwealth forces, they had cut across the
peninsula from Abucay to Bagac by late February.
The division then pressed the
fighting northeast of Manila. It was at this point that Bill Orr rejoined
his unit. He says,
“My wounds had still not closed and
had to be kept clean from the seepage and constant discharge, so the
Commander told me not to go back to my squad, but to stay back in the
kitchen area where it would be more safe and easier for me to take care of
myself. That didn’t last long.
That same night the kitchen area was hit by enemy shelling.
Next morning I went back to my squad.
The company had lost men in leadership positions at all levels and I was
promoted from Pfc to Staff Sergeant and became Squad Leader.
After about ten days in the area north of Manila we moved into Bataan
and the companies were strung out, placed in the villages along the coast,
protecting them from the Japanese coming down out of the mountains and
raiding them for food. After
that we were shipped to northern Luzon, fighting in the mountains and that’s
where we were when the war ended for us in late July.”
After VJ-Day the 6th Infantry Division moved back to the Lingayen Gulf and
was shipped to Korea with the mission of occupation of the southern half of
the US Zone of Occupation. By this time, SSG Orr was acting Platoon
Sergeant. They landed at Inchon
and initially were quartered in miserable living conditions in an old
factory building as the division was unloaded.
Unloading was a slow process, the harbor was shallow and the tides
forced delays. Bill’s unit
finally was moved by train to their designated area, but had just arrived
when he was put on a truck and sent back on the return trip.
He had enough points and it was his turn to return home.
At Inchon, Bill was put on a ship bound for home.
He arrived in Portland, Oregon on December 2, 1945, travelled to San
Antonio by train, was discharged at Fort Sam Houston on December 17th, and
was back home in Carrizo Springs in time to celebrate Christmas in 1945.
In the first few post-war years, Bill farmed at Asherton (near Carrizo
Springs). He then found employment
with the Texas Highway Department and he worked for the state for 32 years.
For most of that career he was a construction inspector for the
department in Del Rio. He married and he and his wife Lois had five children
who grew up there. In the last few
years before his retirement, he was moved to Austin and worked as bridge
inspector. He has been a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart
for the past eleven years, and this month Chapter 1919 proudly salutes
Patriot William G. Orr.