Bill H. Ichter
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 02/25/1944 - 06/11/1946
Infantryman, 66th Infantry Regiment

Bill was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining community, as one of two sons to Harold Lester Ichter and Harriet Ellen Tremayne. His father, a post office employee, was also a member of the National Guard. Young Bill worked in his uncles' grocery store, sang in the Methodist church choir, and studied piano. He doesn't recall the Depression as hard times because his father received salaries from the post office and the National Guard. He also participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers. In 1942, the family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where Bill graduated from Bolton High School in January of 1943. Two days later he enrolled in Louisiana College. Bill entered the U.S. Army in February of 1944. He was sent to the field artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, then to Camp Chaffee in Arkansas to train as a medical aid man. He was granted a transfer to the infantry he had adamantly requested, and was sent to Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, where he was placed into the 66th Infantry Regiment, 71st Infantry Division. When World War II began, his father's unit was mobilized as part of the 28th Infantry Division. "Fortunately for my dad he flunked his overseas physical," he says. "He had horrible arthritis." The elder Ichter administered prisoner of war camps at Camp Livingston and in Texas and New Mexico, while Bill sailed overseas from Fort Dix, New Jersey, arriving in England on February 6, 1945. He recalls General Dwight D. Eisenhower coming to visit his unit. The division soon moved out to LeHavre, France, made a four-day march, then boarded "forty and eights," or French railroad freight cars that handled forty men or eight horses. He first saw action in the Pirmasens-Bitche area in the Rhineland-Palatinate of Germany. Serving as a scout, he fought against a German SS division, a unit he describes as "hard, good fighters," as well as against youngsters in the Hitlerjugend, composed of "kids fourteen, thirteen years old." The fighting moved on into Czechoslovakia. He finished the war beside one bank of a river in Steyr, Austria, with Russian troops on the other. Austrians, he says, "were deathly afraid of them because these Russians there were pretty cruel, pretty crude guys. They'd never even seen modern plumbing." Bill often volunteered for missions until the war neared its end. "I said, `Man, this thing's about to be over. I don't want to push my luck,'" he recalls. Bill earned a Bronze Star. While in Europe after the war he served in an army choir and visited Rome, where he and twelve other GIs were granted an audience with Pope Pius. He recalls abject poverty in the Roman capital, where he saw "boys on the street corners with pictures of their sister, offering their sister for some bread or some chocolate." Bill returned to the states and was discharged as a corporal. He believes some of his post-war experiences in Europe influenced the course of his post-war civilian life, such as his decision to serve as a missionary. With the financial aid of the GI Bill, he graduated from Louisiana College, where he met his wife, Jerry Catron. Married on June 2, 1949. They would have four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Bill served as minister of music in an Alexandria church, then at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, he earned a master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He served as a minister of music in Tangipahoa Parish, and then moved to Brazil to organize a church music department for the Brazil Baptist Convention. He remained in Brazil 35 years where he served in several endeavors, including director of its foreign missions board. He also directed the Billy Graham Crusade Choir of 11,500 in October of 1974. Bill returned to Louisiana in 1990. A hospital chaplain, he now lives in Minden, Louisiana. "I was proud to have had a part in defending my country," he says in summing up his military service.