I, James B. Willis, was born in 1924 in the community of Clark's Station (now known as Willisville) which is about three miles south of Petersburg, Indiana. My family lived near an existing portion of the historical Wabash and Erie Canal and there were many adventures growing up with five siblings...three of which were close to my age. As a young child, I learned the meaning of working hard and sharing home responsibilities which was from necessity during those difficult years of the depression.
I attended the Church of God in Petersburg and became a Christian during my high school years. After graduating from Petersburg High School in 1941, I attended Purdue University (in Lafayette, Indiana) until the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. This event triggered the involvement of the United States in WWII and the temporary end to furthering my college education.
During the last days of the Battle of Okinawa, I was assigned to the U.S. Army 77th Division. Wounded while fighting on the front lines, I was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. Those who participated in World War II were there by necessity. In doing so, we had to fight our worst fears and, in many cases, call upon our Lord God for protection.
For the past several years I have been writing down the memories I have about events I've lived through. Most of those were ordinary events, and yet, some of them quite extraordinary indeed. There is truth in the saying that when a person dies, a library of information is lost forever. Through God's mercy I have lived a rich and full life with many meaningful experiences.
The Battle of Okinawa is understandably one of the most vivid and memorable fragments of my life, even though it encompasses a brief window of time. In my book, The Odyssey of a Purple Heart Vet, I have written about my experiences and other events of World War II.
After being discharged from the army, I continued my education at Indiana University (I.U.), in Bloomington, Indiana. I graduated from I.U. with a BA degree and secured an Indiana Teaching License for both elementary and high schools in Indiana. I continued my studies at I.U., working toward a Master of School Administration degree. I then worked as principal and teacher of elementary and high schools in Indiana public schools for over 30 years.
I have written another book about my days of growing up during the 20s and 30s in rural southern Indiana and other events of my life. That book will be available soon.