He Made the Supreme Sacrifice...
William Waldo Partlow was one of the fifty-two men from Liberty County who lost their lives in World War II
by Penny Clark
Former Archivist/Museum Curator
Sam Houston Regional Library & Research Center
It has always been popular to glamorize and romanticize war. This is particularly true about World War II. We want to remember the exciting and thrilling aspects of the war years. Many Americans are nostalgic for the strong sense of purpose our nation had during the war. While people were working hard, and making some sacrifices, such as limiting their consumption of meat and sugar, they believed that each individual's actions could help the Allies achieve victory. For many Americans the war years brought prosperity with higher wages than they had enjoyed before the war.
World War II was an exciting time. There were many couples who met, enjoyed a lightning fast courtship, and suddenly married. It is easy to see why a young woman might be swept off her feet, meeting young men in spiffy uniforms who were traveling to some of the most remote and exotic lands on the globe.
While it is appealing to remember the positive aspects of the Second World War, it is important to recognize that the war had a devastating impact on many people's lives. Homes and businesses were destroyed and people were maimed and killed.
William Waldo Partlow was one of the fifty-two men from Liberty County who lost their lives in World War II. Partlow's untimely death seems especially tragic due to his appealing personality. Will, as he was known, was the quintessential All-American boy. He was a native of Liberty, born to Mr. and Mrs. William Dozier Partlow in 1920. He had a sister, Ellen Catherine, and a much younger brother, Ray Dozier, known as Dick. As a youngster, he enjoyed all the normal activities of boys including playing football, participating in boy scouts and helping his father tend cattle. One day, while working cattle, Will became thirsty and drank impure water from a creek. He contracted typhoid fever from the water and became very sick. Despite this early illness, Partlow grew to be a handsome and tall man. A redhead, he stood six feet, two inches and weighed 159 pounds.
Will received a good education, graduating from Liberty High School in 1938, and the Schreiner Institute, a military junior college in Kerrville, in 1940. He was an Aggie, obtaining a bachelor's degree in Agronomy from Texas A&M in January 1943.
He enlisted in the Reserve Corps of the Army for the duration of the war plus six months on November 17, 1942. Apparently, Will Partlow, like many young men of that time wished to fulfill his military service as a pilot. Although becoming a pilot might have been considered glamorous, it was definitely not easy as there were strict psychological, physical and intelligence standards to meet. Early in 1943 Will was stationed at the San Antonio Cadet Center which specialized in the "mass production of pilots, navigators, and bombardiers." At San Antonio he had physical and mental training including course work in physics, mathematics, aircraft recognition, and the organization of the Army.
Later, during the summer of 1943, he continued his training at Cimarron Field near Oklahoma City. Here he was eliminated from further pilot training due to "weak coordination." Will had discussed his frustrations in a letter to his parents: " I'm plenty disgusted with the way my hands and feet don't do what I tell them to do lately." Although, Partlow may have lacked coordination, one of his instructors said that Will had an abundance of "horse sense and judgment" that would have enabled him to be a good pilot.
Although he didn't become a pilot, Partlow's training and skills enabled him to serve as a radio operator on an aircraft. In March of 1944 he was shipped overseas to North Africa. Will's task was to assist the Army in transporting cargo from the Middle East to India.
The letters he wrote home to his family and friends show him to be a pleasant, thoughtful, person who made the best out of military service. Even being stationed in the Middle East with its scorching heat failed to dampen his spirits, instead of complaining he enjoyed a wide variety of activities during his free time. He swam, read books, attended church, and toured exotic sights. He took particular pleasure in choosing souvenirs to send his family including brass ash trays and ivory elephants. Like most soldiers, Will looked forward to returning to America, but this was not to be.
Corporal William W. Partlow was killed July 27, 1945 in a plane crash in Saudi Arabia. One of his Army buddies speculated that a fire started somewhere in the front of the plane, and that the pilot attempted to make a forced landing, but was overcome by the heat or fumes and lost control of the aircraft. When the crew failed to reach their destination, search parties were dispatched, and located the wreckage.
Military authorities offered the family comfort. They praised Will's character, saying he was a person who "always brought cheer and happiness where ever he appeared. Although he was of a quiet nature, his personality was of the type that left a lasting favorable impression." Robert Nye, a Major in the Air Corps, told the family that: "All those who knew or worked with him have said he was as fine a man as they could hope to meet."
A military official wrote the family about the far-away funeral and burial in Iran: "Here your loved one was buried with full military honors, befitting one who has died in defense of his loved ones and country, and here with other fallen comrades of the service he sleeps beneath the gravestone that marks his grave. The magnificent towering mountains speak in their majesty of God's eternal care, and the grounds which are now, and ever will be, well cared for, speak for the care and interest which our government manifests in this spot made sacred by the dust of our fallen comrades."
In 1948 the Partlow family had the body shipped home for burial in the City Cemetery in Liberty. Two Methodist ministers conducted the services at Allison's Funeral Chapel. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion conducted graveside services. Will's pallbearers were high school classmates Rubin Allison, Marvin Waldman, Ben Pickett, Horace Pickett, Donald Tims, Glen Rodgers, Allen Chambers, Brit Perryman, Floyd Telford, and Leonard Mason.
A chaplain sent Mrs. Partlow a meaningful message: "I wish there was something which I could write that would assuage your grief. We can only trust that the new world which is to be when the guns of war are silenced will be such as to justify all the sacrifices that are now being made."
World War II did bring positive and long-lasting changes to the world. The evil dictatorships of Germany, Italy, and Japan were destroyed. A peace of almost fifty years was brought to the continent of Europe. Moreover, America emerged from the war stronger and more prosperous than ever.
But the Allied victory came at a huge cost. Men such as Will Partlow gave up their entire lives. He would never again join his family around the Thanksgiving table. He would never open another Christmas present. He never had a chance to pursue a career. Will never got married, never got to know the joys of raising children. If he hadn't been lost to the war, he would probably be living in Liberty today enjoying the company of his grandchildren. Instead, long before his time, he filled a hero's grave. He, indeed, made the supreme sacrifice.
This story is based upon the William Waldo Partlow Archives which were donated by R. D. Partlow and Ellen Swindle to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.