William P. Harrison passed away on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. He was 99. Mr. Anderson was a World War II veteran who traveled on the electric cooperative-sponsored Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2012.
The following article on Mr. Anderson is excerpted from the Honor Flight book which recognizes the 100 veterans who traveled on the April flight:
William P. Harrison began his World War II service preparing to deploy mustard gas on the enemy. The former Santee Electric Cooperative member finished it having only had to deploy mustard on sandwiches for fellow soldiers, which was a very good thing when you're assigned to a chemical warfare company that, thankfully, never had to ply the tools of its trade.
When he was drafted in June 1943, Harrison, who had completed Morris College in Sumter in 1940, had been teaching fifth grade for three years in Olanta, just up the road from his hometown of Turbeville.
“I had never been anywhere but Turbeville and Sumter, and I told my mother I wouldn’t volunteer, but if I was called, I’d go, and if I passed, I wanted to go overseas,” he says.
Harrison got his wish. Not only was he accepted and assigned by the Army to the 55th Chemical Processing Company, which was a segregated, all-black unit, he soon found himself stationed in New Guinea, where he would spend the next 27 months of his life. Because there was no use for chemical weapons, his culinary skills meant he immediately was reassigned to the role of company cook.
“At home, I was the ninth child of 12, and at about 8 years old I learned how to cook, grits and meat and such,” Harrison says. “Well, they needed a cook in New Guinea at our little unit there next toofficers’ headquarters, and so I wound up cooking and liked it.”
After two years, Harrison’s unit was transferred to the Philippines, where he re-enlisted. Eight monthslater, the war was over. Harrison was discharged in November 1945. Once back home—he had gotten married during the one furlough he had—Harrison farmed and taught farming courses for fellow veterans. He returned to education in 1952, where he would spend the rest of his career, retiring in 1979. As principal for many years at Wilson Elementary School, Harrison had a huge impact on educating children in the Wilson and Manning communities, according to one of his students, Santee Electric Cooperative CEO Floyd L. Keels.
Along with his mother’s guidance, Harrison partly credits his military experience for his success: “The Army helped me learn to deal with a lot of different situations I faced later in my educational career.You never know what you can do until you have to do it. It’s been a wonderful life.”