Happy 100th birthday to World War II veteran and Duxbury resident Willard Mills! Over the weekend, I joined Willard’s family and friends at the American Legion to help celebrate this incredible milestone and learn more about Willard’s life.
Willard served in the Army 849th Signal Intelligence Service, detachment “George”, stationed in Italy, for 2 years and 8 months where he earned the Good Conduct Medal and European Service Medal. After boot camp and specialized training at Arlington Hall, Det. George embarked on the former Grace Liner SS Santa Elena from Fort Hamilton on July 16, 1943, in support of Campaign Overlord, the code name for the Battle of Normandy. The liner joined a convoy crossing the Atlantic through U-boat traffic and safely arrived in Casablanca, Algeria. With administrative hassles, further training, and some relocation, they eventually were ordered to Foggia, Italy in early December, 1943. Their orders were to intercept and interpret German codes. Information was sent back to the Pentagon for analysis and potential action against the enemy. As the war progressed and continued to move north, their services continued until they were ordered home in August, 1945.
It was an honor to meet Willard, thank him for his service, and present a citation from the Commonwealth recognizing his 100th.