BEST EYES IN THE BUSINESS

Veteran: Ted Williams
Artist: Michael Koulermos
Writer: Paul Cappelli

Ted Williams was “no hero”. Those are his words but not the words of anyone who knew him or fought alongside him.

Unfortunately, it’s easier to be remembered as a baseball star than as a man who served his country – not once but twice.

In 1942, Ted was notified that he would be called to serve even though he was the only one that could support his divorced mother and the family.  He was already a baseball star but because of the needs of his family, lawyers got him a deferment. The press didn’t like that – and neither did he. 

As hard as it may to believe, Ted Williams was never a healthy man but deferment be damned, in May 1942, Ted Williams enlisted. Fraught with health problems, he made it through all the naval aviation training and set a student gunnery record. Unfortunately, just as he was ready to see combat, victory over Japan was declared and Ted was sent home.

Eleven years later, he would see combat but this time as a U.S. Marine. And this time in Korea. While on a bombing mission less than 2 weeks after landing in Korea, his jet was hit by North Korean gunfire. His plane on fire and without landing gear, hydraulics or radio, he somehow was able to land it and himself safely. And in less than 24 hours he was back in the air.

On April 28, 1953, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire. This time he was lucky that his fuel didn’t ignite and was able to land safely. But his bad health would catch up with him. That June, after 39 missions flown, the Marines decided that enough was enough and in July, after having been awarded the Air Medal and two Gold Stars, Ted officially left the Marines.

Ted could have stayed home but he chose the more valiant path and served his country – heroically.