Editor’s Note: After documenting the stories of many other veterans, Bill Houston didn’t live to see his own story published in The Wenatchee World on Dec. 19, 2008. He died the same day.
OKANOGAN — Bill Houston, a World War II veteran from Okanogan, says time is running out to gather the stories of people who served in history’s greatest conflict.
Over the past few years, Houston has taken on a personal mission: to talk to and record the war stories of other men from the Okanogan Valley who came back after the war.
He’s interviewed more than a half-dozen men. One served on the USS Wasp CV-7 when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942.
Another was a gunner in a B-24 that was shot down over Germany. He spent 14 and a half months as a prisoner of war.
Most of the veterans have died since his videotaped interviews. “I’ve known them all my life,” he said.
But he never knew details about their stories, until now.
This summer, he finally got the story out of one U.S. Marine who never wanted to tell his story.
Marine Pvt. Delmar Fowler of Okanogan spent more than five weeks fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the toughest engagements in the Pacific and the first U.S. attack of Japan’s home islands.
For years, Fowler had declined Houston’s invitation to be interviewed about his experiences there. “He wouldn’t talk about it for 50 years. He absolutely wouldn’t discuss it,” Houston said.
Not long before the 84-year-old man died in June, Houston convinced Fowler that his experiences in one of the bloodiest battles in the U.S. Marine’s history needed to be told.
With help from his wife, Houston wrote up Fowler’s story, and put it together in a booklet, reading it back to Fowler and editing in changes before printing the final version, signed by Fowler.
With Fowler’s permission, he distributed it to friends and other war veterans. “It’s been extremely enriching for me,” Houston said of his project .
to record the stories of World War II vets.