The waves that ripped across America after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were felt in Akron by Bill Bond.
At age 18, he had a day off from his job at Firestone Tire & Rubber when the news came, and he recalls 71 years later clearly uttering the words, “Oh, my God!”
He had no idea how it would change his life, but it did, and still does.
Now 89, living in Ellet with his wife of 60 years, Esther Bobo Bond, a former Salvation Army captain and minister, Bond speaks with great clarity of his days in the war.
Bond started working for Firestone in 1938 out of East High School and Hower Vocational. By the time he was drafted in September 1943, he was part of Firestone’s war effort manufacturing Borfors anti-aircraft guns in Plant One.
After his training as a tank gunner, Bond arrived in France on July 15, 1944, to join Gen. George Patton’s Army and the 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron. He took part in four major battles in Northern France, the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland and Central Europe and received four Bronze Service Stars.
“At night, we had to park the tanks,” he said. He and three others set out on foot one day to figure out where the Germans were. They apparently were spotted by a sniper in a building in Borg, Germany, and reported to an artillery unit.
A shell landed right in front of the four Americans.
“When it cleared, I was the only one left,” he said. “There were three of them killed right in front of me.”
There were other close calls. As a line of tanks made its way up a road, five in front of his were all hit by a bombing.
“Boom, boom!” he said.
His tank was spared.
“They missed me,” he said.
His only injury came when a mortar hit his tank and he suffered a concussion.
“That’s all,” he said. “Amazing, isn’t it?”
Another clear memory is the night he guarded a German soldier he had captured.
The prisoner cried all night, said he had a family and tried to persuade Bond to let him go.
“I felt sorry for him,” he said, but didn’t let him go.
There were some leisure moments.
Twice, he encountered Gen. Patton. On one occasion, Patton was on the front lines, shaking hands with his troops.
Another time, during a lull in fighting, the soldiers were playing a game of baseball when Patton arrived.
“He said, ‘It’s all right to have a good time, soldiers …’ ”
When the war ended, Bond’s father, Homer Bond, met him in New York.
“God love him,” he said of his late father.
After the war, he returned to Firestone and attended a Salvation Army church where he met Esther.
They were married 60 years ago this past June.
But the war never ended for Bond.
“He would wake up at night screaming,” his wife said.
Just recently, he went through another episode, he said.
Both retired from Firestone after each worked there 38 years, and then filled their retirement years visiting the sick at hospitals, nursing homes and individual homes.
He is a 33rd degree Mason with the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of Akron.
After all the close calls, he said, he has no idea how he survived to be 89 years old.
“You wonder why I’m here today?” he said.
He and his wife, who had no children, still worship at the Salvation Army’s Wadsworth church.
They have burial plots at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.
“That’s where we’re going, kid, when it’s all over,” Bond said to his wife with a loving smile.
“Time goes fast,” his wife said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.