by David Flint
Veterans Day ceremonies in Stephentown this year focused on the veterans of the Korean War era, appropriately so since this year marks the 60th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in Korea. Last year the Veterans of the Stephentown Area honored in a special way the veterans of World War II. There were thought to be eight of these veterans still living in Stephentown, namely Vincent Devlin, Charles Hoffman, Howard Leibensperger, Franklyn Mooney, Lewis Sharp, Raymond Schielding, David Jacobs and Francis Foody. A brief resume of the service of each one was included in the issue of The Eastwick Press reporting on the 2012 Veterans Day ceremonies.
But one quiet, unassuming individual, who labels himself as “not a joiner,” was overlooked. That was William Halleck who lives on Garfield Road.
[private]Bill Halleck served in the US Marine Corps from 1942 to 1945. He signed up with the Corps in New York City in September 1942 at the age of
21. Working at the time on Long Island for Grumman Aircraft building Wildcat and Hellcat fighter planes, and the sole support of his mother and younger brother, he was probably not subject to the draft. But he “got patriotic” and figured the best training was to be had with the Marines.
Following training at Parris Island and New River, NC, he was assigned to an anti-aircraft battalion as an Aerologist, a fancy name for a weather technician. He shipped out to the War in the Pacific in December 1942. First Stop after several weeks on a troop ship was New Caledonia, an island about 750 miles east of Australia. After a year and a half of island hopping and setting up batteries in places such as Guadalcanal, Eniwetok, Kwajalein and Saipan, the 14th Marine Defense Battalion with their 90 mm anti-aircraft guns stormed ashore on the island of Guam in the Marianas on July 21, 1944. Your job description may be Aerologist but as Bill puts it, “When the Marines hit the beach, everyone goes in as an infantry man.” The island was retaken from the Japanese finally on August 10.
Bill was “volunteered” to stay on for a while after most of his unit left the island because he had the knowledge to train others in the use of the 90 mm gun to engage targets on the ground as well as in the air.
In April 1945 he was flown back to the States and was stationed at Quonset Point, RI, until the War ended. It was at Quonset that a fellow Marine begged him to fill in for a blind date. He grudgingly went along and six weeks later he married the date. He and Yvette are still happily married and have raised four children together.
After his discharge, Grumman took him back at his old job. He stayed there for seven years, but he and Yvette felt Long Island was too crowded for raising kids so they ended up buying a piece of land in Stephentown. Bill worked as an Expediter for the E.D. Jones & Sons Company, manufacturers of paper mill machinery in Pittsfield, a company that later merged with the Beloit Company. He worked there for 24 years before retiring.
For his service in the Marine Corps on Guam, Pfc William Halleck was awarded the Unit Commendation for Excellent Performance of Duty in Action. He also received the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Ribbon with one Star.