Dayton World War II veteran turns 100

Friends and family of Bill Jameson gather around the World War II veteran at his 100th birthday party Feb. 4.

Friends and family of Bill Jameson gather around the World War II veteran at his 100th birthday party Feb. 4.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

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William Jamerson’s journeys during the past century have taken him to three continents and numerous communities, yet he will be remembered for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II and for his ministry in helping others.

Friends and family honored Jamerson two days after he celebrated his 100th birthday Feb. 2 with a small party and presentations from the Nevada Army National Guard and the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Bill and June, his wife of 77 years, have lived in Fallon and Dayton after relocating to Nevada more than five years ago to be closer to family. They were affected by the disastrous Paradise fire in California that swept through the town of 26,000 residents in November 2018 and destroyed 11,000 homes — including theirs — and killed 85 people.

Greetings from Uncle Sam

Bill Jamerson was born in Michigan but grew up in Nevada City, Calif., and played basketball for the local high school until he enlisted in the Army during his senior year after receiving his draft notice. Bill’s coach “negotiated” with the draft board so his star center could play in the championship game, said daughter-in-law Carlene Jamerson.

“They won,” she said of the championship game played before Bill left for boot camp. “Bill was very excited about serving his country. On Jan. 13, 1943, he entered the U.S. Army. As time progressed, he became a skilled infantryman. Soon, he was promoted to corporal and then sergeant.”

Carlene Jamerson read a short biography about Bill to his extended family and friends who gathered at the Carson Tahoe Transitional Rehabilitation Center in Carson City. She told a story of Bill’s heroism and dedication to his unit and his fellow soldiers.

“One fateful night as they were preparing for deployment to Europe, Bill was given a compass reading of where his unit was to camp,” Carlene said. “Bill and his men were both on high alert and exhausted. That night, he laid down on the ground for a brief nap, but then he was rudely awakened with a Jeep on his chest.”

The incident startled the party’s guests and Jamerson’s new direction with his life. In the night’s darkness, Carlene said the Jeep’s driver backed up his vehicle not knowing Bill and others were sleeping on the ground. That night, Jamerson made a deal.

“God, if you will save me, I will serve you for the rest of my life,” he promised.

After the soldiers freed Jamerson from the Jeep, a medic by the name of Wally Squires began to care for his fellow soldier and arranged for the young soldier to be transported to an Army hospital where a medical team examined him. Miraculously, Carlene said Jamerson was not injured, but she revealed her father-in-law became convinced Jamerson was called to heal, not to kill. After talking to his commander and receiving his blessing, Jamerson relinquished his sergeant’s stripes and reverted to private as he began his training to become a medic. One of his instructors was Squires. They remained friends until his death.

Storming the Normandy coast

The Allies began planning for an invasion of the Normandy coast, but Jamerson’s battalion received orders on July 14, 1944, to sail first to England and then to France. The campaign to land at Normandy continued almost two months after the initial D-Day invasion on June 6. Jamerson’s battalion landed safely with no loss of life.

“No too long afterward, the men were chosen to stop the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge under Gen. George C. Patton,” Carlene said. “Bill was selected as the medic to go. With snow on the ground, his outfit began to move forward. Early the next morning, Bill was riding in a Jeep when he encountered multiple dead American soldiers. The war was brutal and personal, and he was unsure who would come out alive.

“Bill’s family has never heard about the lives he saved or the healing he rendered. What we have heard about are the lives of his comrades he was unable to save and his deep regret for being unable to save them all.”

Because of his heroic actions, Jamerson regained his sergeant’s stripes but he was awarded his first Bronze Star for military operations against the Germans in France and Luxembourg, and a second Bronze Star for “heroic achievement in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States in Germany (Battle of the Bulge).”

During Jamerson’s celebration, Master Sgt. Erick Studenicka, a public affairs officer for the Nevada Army National Guard, said he was in awe of Jamerson’s career, but he said they also shared the bond of serving in the Army and deploying overseas.

“I’m not in the same class as Bill,” said Studenicka, who presented Jamerson with the general’s coin. “He was a Bronze Star recipient and fighting in a war zone where no knew of the outcome. He gave up the years of his youth, delayed college — a great sacrifice for service to his country.”

Studenicka represented the state’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, at the ceremony due to the weather. Lisa Maciel, the acting director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, presented Jameson with a pin and commended the World War II soldier for his service.

A new life awaits Bill

Five months after the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945, and the Instrument of Surrender with Japan was signed at Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, Jamerson returned to Michigan to see his childhood friend, June Hostler, with whom he corresponded for almost a year. Less than a year of spending time with June, who at the time was finishing her studies at Andrews University, Jamerson took her for a ride and asked for her hand in marriage. She accepted and on May 25, 1946, they married.

Carlene said with the end of the war and a new life ahead of Bill and June believed God was calling him to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister. They moved to Angwin, California, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in theology from Pacific Union College. Exactly two years after they married, their first child, Gary, was born and less than a year later, the young family departed for South America where Bill taught the Bolivian Indians about Jesus.

“He was able to heal some of their infirmities because of his experience as a medic in the Army,” Carlene added.

In 1955 after four-and-a-half years of mission service, the family received a year-long furlough to the United States where Bill accepted speaking engagements at churches, civic clubs and other venues as well as discussing on national television their work in South America. Bill also worked on his master’s degree in Maryland where the couple’s second boy, Kevin, was born. Their year quickly passed, and the Jamersons prepared to return overseas after Bill received a call to serve in Lima, Peru as director of the Sabbath School, radio and personal ministries.

“Bill spent five years in Peru preaching, teaching, healing and directing," Carlene explained. “Later his work expanded to the Inca Mission which included Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.”

With almost a decade spent in South America, the family returned to Berrien Springs, Michigan, where Bill completed a master’s degree in practical theology and had a special love for children’s’ ministry. He received a call to be the youth pastor at Orangewood, California, but his ministry over the years took the family to Nebraska and to the California communities of Glendale, Sacramento and finally to Paradise, a small community east of Chico. Carlene said it wasn’t uncommon for the youth he mentored to communicate with him or to return as doctors, nurses, teachers, pastors and other professions. To them, he was Uncle Bill.

Another war changes Jamerson’s life

The Jamersons’ idyllic life faced adversity during November 2018 when fires raced through Paradise and engulfed many businesses and homes. No one was immune from nature’s fury including June and Bill, the retirement center’s bus driver, who was desperately dodging the fire that began to encircle the bus.

“Bill was praying out loud, pleading with God for their safety. June said the bus windows were so hot you couldn’t touch them,” Carlene recounted. “They left that morning with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They lost their home, the close fellowship and support of their church family and friends.”

Since they left Paradise, the Jamersons spent more than three years living in Fallon at Highland Village retirement community, but recently they moved to Dayton to be closer to Kevin. Bill’s 100th birthday was originally planned for Fallon for him to be closer to the friends they met in church and the Lahontan Valley, but Carlene said his party was moved to Carson City because of the weather. Nevertheless, several of their friends still braved the slick roads and cold weather to travel from Fallon to the celebration. A family with ties to the Jamersons’ years in Bolivia also attended as did many of their family members from California.

“Bill is an example of a life well lived,” Carlene said. “When he made that pact with the Lord at the age of 19, he didn’t realize he was making a commitment to heal … not just the body but also the soul,” Carlene said. “His life of service and the impact he’s had on thousands of others will not be known until eternity.”

Jamersons’ mission work forges 70-year friendship

Gary Raines and his wife, Marina, attended the Feb. 4 centennial birthday celebration for World War II veteran and missionary Bill Jamerson. If it weren’t for Jamerson and his wife, June, Raines would never have met his wife.

“I am married to Marina because of Bill and June,” he said.

Raines, who lives in Glendale, Calif., said the Jamersons met Marina’s family when they were missionaries in Bolivia for the Seventh-day Adventist Church more than 70 years ago. Eventually, Marina’s parents moved to Southern California.

“They have been friends since the early 1950s,” Gaines said.

Gaines described the day when the Jamersons arrived in the South American country and began their outreach.

“When they arrived in Bolivia, they were unable to speak fluent Spanish, but they were so kind and loving,” as Gary recalled Marina’s story. “They were willing to hug and greet everybody they met. They were the best missionaries who could be for Christ.”

Raines said it was important as well as a blessing to be in Carson City to celebrate Jamerson’s 100th birthday.

Raines added he and Marina also have visited Fallon numerous times to see the Jamersons at the Highland Village retirement community prior to them moving 50 miles west to Dayton to be closer to their son, Kevin.

Marina’s family lived near Sucre in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. Raines described the area as farmland with cattle and soybeans. While Marina can relate to the Jamersons and their work in Bolivia, Gary Raines associates his father, also a World War II veterans, with Bill.

“My dad Ernest Raines was originally from a village in western Virginia near Kentucky,” Bill Raines said.

Ernest Raines enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in his early 20s and was sent to boot camp and then training. He was assigned to a B-17 Flying Fortress, which flew for the Eighth Air Force’s 92nd Bomb Group/407th Bomb Squad based at Alconbury, England.

By 1943, Raines had advanced to the rank of staff sergeant and was a waist gunner on the B-17. On the plane’s fourth mission over Germany on Oct. 14, the plane was shot down on a raid over Schweinfurt, and most of the crew parachuted out of the aircraft.

Raines said his father was captured and taken to Stalag 17B near Krems, Austria, as a prisoner of war for almost 19 months until the war ended. Among his awards were Prisoner of War, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

The elder Gaines returned to Virginia and earned a college degree on the GI Bill. He became an educator, first serving as a teacher, principal, supervisor and then superintendent of schools in a career that spanned 37 years. He died in 2014 at the age of 93.


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