Willard E. Charrier
Yeoman 2nd Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 05/29/1944 - 06/11/1946
Yeoman, USS Kwajalien

Willard, who goes by "Bill," was born on the family cotton farm in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, as one of four children of James Edward Charrier and Mary Eduloie Bordelon Charrier. As a boy, Bill helped his father raise cotton, corn and soybeans. Each day he arose at 5 a.m. to feed chickens, horses, and mules, and milk cows. He often plowed with mules, a task he calls "hard work." He also "picked cotton, hoed cotton, plowed cotton." For recreation, and to supplement the table, the men of the family hunted and fished, even making their own boats. "I can't say that we went hungry," he said of the family fare. "We had enough to eat but we didn't have any surplus. We killed hogs in the wintertime and salted the meat down so it wouldn't spoil because we didn't have any refrigeration." The meat kept "way up in the summer." They also made boudin. The family generated its own electricity from Delco batteries. Inspired upon hearing a Navy recruiter address his high school, Bill "signed up," although he was only sixteen. Too young for the service, he rode the bus to New Orleans the summer after the 10th grade to live with his sister, Evelyn. There he worked in the Higgins shipyards making torpedo tubes for the Russian navy. He helped test-fire torpedoes. He was making "good money," he says, between $100 to $150 per week. Bill returned to high school, graduating in January of 1944, and entered navy boot camp at Camp Wallace between Galveston and Houston, Texas. After a short leave he was sent to Camp Pendleton in San Diego, where he was pressed briefly into service fighting forest fires. He was soon assigned to the USS Kwajalein (CVE-98), which had a crew, he recalls, of "between three and four hundred." Sailing from California on October 7, 1944, Bill soon made seaman 3rd class. He worked in engineering where he performed many duties, including serving as a runner in the chief engineer's office. He also made out daily reports for personnel count. "The Navy always has it where they count everybody," he says. "Everybody has to be accounted for at eight o'clock in the morning in case somebody falls overboard or gets knocked in the head or thrown overboard or whatever." Bill also ran the library on Sundays for the chaplain. At night he typed up a current events report from messages received from Pearl Harbor. "The guys really liked that because it was something from home," he recalls of the bulletins distributed each day at 8 a.m. His battle station was a 20-millimeter anti-aircraft gun, although he doesn't recall ever firing it in combat. Tasked to deliver aircraft, the Kwajalein called at Leyte, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa. It often carried "forty or fifty" aircraft. The carrier stopped for shore excursions occasionally, where the men could stretch their legs on a beach and swim in the surf. At other times, the men swam off the ship. "They'd designate someone and give him a rifle to watch out for sharks," Bill recalls. Bill returned to America when the Kwajalein picked up Marines from New Caledonia and took them to California. By then the war was over. He was re-assigned to an LSM (Landing Ship, Marines) as the captain's yeoman, and sailed to Astoria, Oregon, to de-commission the vessel. Discharged in New Orleans, Bill says he had "a little bit" of trouble re-adjusting. He joined the Navy reserves. "I wanted out, but I didn't want out, if that makes sense," he says. He attended Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute at Lafayette (Now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) for two years, then joined the U.S. Corps of Engineers and was moved to Shreveport, where he tested soil samples at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center. In October of 1949 he married Betty Jane Warner. They would have two children. Bill worked several other jobs, including Bingham Pump Company. On weekends he worked at Riverside Airport, where he learned to fly. He also worked for Sports South, a wholesale sporting goods company. He is now married to Jackie Robie.