McBride, Willard

Willard McBride was born on January 23, 1924 in west Texas.  He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, and was forced to leave school in 5th Grade so he could help support the family.  Willard worked on farms, fought forest fires, picked cotton, dug ditches…in short he did what he had to do to make ends meet, especially after his father left the family.  When the war came Willard was working in an ammunition plant; he left that job when he was 18, opting to join the US Navy.  He did his training in California, and he headed into the Pacific out of the port of San Francisco, en route to Noumea, New Caledonia.  The battle for Guadalcanal was underway at this time, and Willard’s ship, the USS Argonne, came under attack at this time, raked by shrapnel when a nearby ship exploded.  Willard rose through the ranks as the Argonne moved through the island chains north of the Solomons on its way to the Philippines.  His story here shines light on many of the details Navy personnel experienced when not on the immediate front lines, from the many repairs carried out by the crew of the ship to the interactions with the indigenous peoples.  Willard’s ship returned to the US in the summer of 1945, and he learned about the atomic bombs and VJ Day while in San Antonio.  After the war Willard spent time in the merchant marine, and he was able to meet his future wife on a return Cunard voyage from Britain to the US; together they settled into the rhythms of postwar life.  Willard McBride was interviewed over zoom by Scott Masters in May 2022.