William Wallace, Sr.

William Wallace, Sr., born on April 1, 1922, grew up in Millen, Georgia. After graduating high school, he joined the Army Air Corps on October 14, 1939, and became part of the 16th bomb squadron. A couple of weeks before World War II officially started, William Wallace was stationed at Fort McKinley in Luzon, Philippines.

After the United States surrendered in the Battle of Bataan, Wallace was taken prisoner by the Japanese army, and was forced to walk approximately 60 miles from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac, Philippines, with little food or water. Now known as the Bataan Death March, the walk resulted in hundreds of deaths. He was later transported on a “hell ship” to Niigata, Japan, to work for Rinko Coal Company.

In August of 1945, Wallace was liberated to San Francisco, California. After returning to Georgia, he married Mary Dickey and reenlisted into the Air Corps, where he served until 1949. He later graduated from Mercer University’s School of Theology, and pastored in small Baptist churches until 1991. He received the Bronze Star in 1985 and the Prisoner of War Medal in 1992. Wallace died in February of 1995.

William Wallace, Sr. and Mary Dickey Wallace had two children: William Wallace, Jr. and Carolyn Wallace. Their son, William Wallace, Jr. recorded his oral history with the Museum of History and Holocaust Education on October 30, 2018.

Early Life

“His mother and father passed away by the time he was eleven years old. So, he was raised by his grandfather. He had two brothers. He was the oldest of the three. Grew up during the Great Depression down in the rural south, and they were farmers.…

Basic Training

“It was the regular twelve weeks infantry training that all military personnel are required to take when they enter the service. It included all types of calisthenics, all kinds of weapons training, all descriptions on all types of guns, and…

Fort McKinley

“It was one of those Philippine scout training camps. We were stationed there until we were given a permanent assignment. Of course, that assignment never came, but our quarters were there on the post at McKinley.”

Voice of America

“We listened to the ‘Voice of America’ from the time the war started until we surrendered on April 8, 1942. Each night we had a fifteen-minute news broadcast through the ‘Voice of America’ which was broadcast out of San Francisco or Los…

The Battle of Bataan

“Beginning Christmas Day, 1941, we were put on a boat and taken across the bay to Bataan. We advanced as far up the peninsula as possible, marching until we met the Japanese, 75 or 80 miles up the Bataan Peninsula. That is where we drew a line…

The Bataan Death March

“Our rings and watches and any gold that we had was taken by [the Japanese]. We were lined in columns of four and started marching up the one little narrow paved trail toward San Fernando. We didn’t know where we were going, but every time we met…

Camp O'Donnell

“Then I was [on] a train there— a hundred men to a box car. The doors all closed and when were arrived 3 or 4 days later, twenty-five or 30 men in each box car had died. Upon arriving at the camp in 1942, we were told by the Japanese that we were…

The Journey to Japan

"We were stacked in the hull of the ship. We were just stood up in there with no bathroom facilities, no nothing. A little food once a day, if you were fortunate enough to get some food, if not, you waited until the next day. We were packed in…

Slave Labor

“If you were not in the mines, you would take and unload coal off the ships onto railroad cars. We would work every morning about 4:00 am and you did not know where you were going to be, whether in the mine or on the ship or where. Then the next…

Liberation

“I weighed 135 pounds when I was captured, and when I was released from prison I weighed 87 pounds. Just a bag of bones covered with skin.”

Reenlistment

“I reenlisted and served three more years in the Air Force after the war was over.” “I was stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Macon. From 1946 to 1949. I was placed in personnel. Base personnel and regular squadron duties.”

Higher Education and Pastoring

“He went to Mercer University in Macon, to their school of theology. Went through in twelve consecutive quarters. He did four years’ work in three years and became a minister, and then pastored in small rural churches from that point forward.”

Holiday Memories

“I can remember Christmas presents. And I probably was 5 or 6 years old. My sister [Carolyn Wallace]. And see [my father] sitting in his recliner. My mother [Mary Wallace] would fix breakfast. And just the four of us sharing Christmas together is…

Bataan Survivors Reunions

“I have been to 8 or 10 in Fontana Village, North Carolina the 4th Sunday in August of every year. Those who will and want to meet in Fontana. It begins on Saturday and ends on the Thursday after… There are 400 or 500 of us there, different ones.…

The Bronze Star

“I was awarded the Bronze Star on September 30, 1985, at Robbins Air Force Base. It was through an act of Congress that had been signed by the President that awarded to all personnel that had been in the Philippines. To all personnel who helped to…

Prisoner of War Medal

“My father was also awarded a Prisoner of War Medal, and that was approved by President Ronald Reagan. That anyone who was or had been a prisoner of war would be awarded a prisoner of war metal. Congressman Roy Rowland, from Dublin, awarded that to…
Click here. to view William Wallace, Jr.'s Legacy Series oral history remembrance of his father.