Professor Emeritus William J. Hall is pictured in front of the Washington Monument.
More than 65 years after completing his military service in World War II, CEE Professor Emeritus and department alumnus William J. Hall (MS 51, PhD 54) was invited to commemorate it. Accompanied by his son, Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., Oct. 18-19 with the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that honors America’s military veterans with two-day, all-expenses-paid trips to visit the capital’s war memorials. Hall served in World War II in the Pacific theater as a midshipman with the Merchant Marine.
“The whole trip was well planned, expertly executed, impressive and personally moving,” Hall said.
The Central Illinois Honor Flight included 65 veterans in all and another 65 guardians; each veteran was asked to bring a guest to accompany him or her. Guardians pay their own way on the trips, which are free to veterans thanks to private donations to the Honor Flight Network. The Central Illinois Honor Flight departed from Willard Airport early on Oct. 18 and returned in the evening on Oct. 19. While in D.C., the group visited the memorials of Iwo Jima, the Air Force, the Navy, World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, two Smithsonian museums—the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum—and the Lincoln Memorial.
Bill Hall, left, sits with his son, James, at the World War II Memorial.
Hall was accompanied by his son James F. Hall (MS CEE 80, MS ECE 85), a University of Illinois alumnus and electrical engineer at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.
“There were three things on this trip that really touched me,” the younger Hall said. “First, being able to visit the recently completed World War II monument with my father, who is one of the many it was built to honor. Second, each of the veterans was often approached by passersby who stopped to say, 'Thank you for your service.' This meant a lot to them, and I encourage you to do the same when you see a veteran. And third, the tremendous hero's welcome we received upon returning to the Willard Airport, even in the cold rain—emergency vehicle lights flashing, band playing, cheerleaders, and all the people that lined up en masse—most importantly my mother, Elaine—to welcome these WWII veterans home again.”
During Hall’s seven-month tour of duty from September 1944 to March 1945, he served on the Haiti Victory cargo ship, which traveled across the Pacific carrying war supplies. His duties included navigation, communications, watch and serving as an anti-aircraft gunner.
“The major hazards encountered are best described as submarines, aircraft bombing and snipers on Saipan,” Hall said. “I thank God every day that I survived.”
Still active in the department, Hall retired in 1993 after a 40-year career as a member of the structural engineering faculty. He served as department head from 1984-1991.
“Truly, this fantastic and superbly managed trip was among the top trips of my lifetime,” he said.