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Former Flushing mayor looks back

May 19, 2011
By MICHAEL SCHULER - Times Leader Staff Writer , Times Leader

FLUSHING - A former mayor and councilman in Flushing - Bill Gossett keeps himself busy as he continues to farm on land he rents, raising feeder calves.

Born on a farm about a half of a mile south of Oco, outside of Lafferty, Gossett was one of eight children and went to a one room schoolhouse Oak Hill.

After graduating from Lafferty High School, Gossett remained on the family farm for a few months before heading off to Columbus.

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T-L?Photo/MICHAEL?SCHULER
BILL?GOSSETT, a former mayor and councilman for the Village of Flushing, reflects on his time spent serving his country and how he has managed since the end of World War II.

"I had $12 in my pocket and stayed in Columbus for a couple of days with some of my cousins who were going to Ohio State," Gossett said.

Unable to find work there, he went to Marion where he got a job driving an ice truck for $18 a week. A week later he got a raise to $28 a week.

"I stayed there about three weeks when my parents came up and got me," Gossett said. "They said my brother has gone into the Army and I had to go home and help farm. So I went home and farmed until fall."

His brother ended up getting an exemption and Gossett went to Canton where he got a job doing defense work in a warehouse for about six months. Then, he joined the Army where he was accepted into the Army Specialized Training Program which would have sent him to college for three years and would have earned him a commissioned officer's rank.

"I was young and patriotic and didn't think I ought to be going to college while the war was going on," he said. "Then I found out I could transfer to the Air Force as a navigation cadet and applied for it and was accepted."

He took a six month course and 10 hours of flying time. While waiting for re-assignment for the second stage of the training, an order came through that anyone with ground force training had to go back to the ground forces.

"That was a real downer, going from being a fly boy to being a grunt in the infantry," he said.

Gossett was transferred to the 87th Infantry Division and remained state side for another four or five months before being shipped out as a replacement to England.

It was after D-Day when Gossett was sent to France. Landing at Utah Beach, he was sent to Paris, then Belgium and then to the front lines in September 1944.

"Hurtgen Forest is where we were at," he said. "Everyone was talking and joking. We went about 100 feet and there lay a guy along the side of a path a perfect specimen guy who looked like a linebacker for football expect he didn't have a head. Everyone got real quiet then.

"We knew that the playing was over."

Gossett and a friend of his decided not to venture anymore into the forest and ended up on top of a big hill, looking into a valley.

"We finally decided we'd better get moving, it was getting dark," Gossett said. "So we went down into the valley and started to cross the bottom and I hollered to my buddy, 'Don't move we're in the middle of a mine field.'"

They made there way through the mine field when the German's opened fire on them.

"We hit the ground and I looked over at my buddy," he said. "If I hadn't been so scared I would have laughed. He was on his hands and knees, digging. I hollered 'Ivan, let's get out of here' and we ran back into the woods."

The two made it back and as soon as it got dark, Gossett said the Germans began shelling for about two hours.

A week later, after nights of shelling, word came that the soldiers were moving out. A lieutenant told the men where they were going and if anyone had any radio training.

Gossett said he did and was handed a "walkie-talkie."

"We went to the top of the hill and there was firebreak on top of that hill and as so as the guys that firebreak, they opened fire on us," Gossett said. "Of course we hit the ground and I called for a medic because I knew there were guy there hurt bad."

As the battle continued, Gossett was looking to see what was ahead of them when a shell landed by his foot.

"It felt like somebody kicked my foot," he said. "I looked down and I said, I've been hit. I took off my boot. The hole went through my boot and I said 'It must be in my foot.' You see, my feet were frozen and I didn't have any feeling in them."

Gossett went to a sergeant and told him that he needed to go to an aid station. The sergeant didn't say anything and Gossett made his way back through the line.

He was later transported to a hospital where his foot started to thaw out. Gossett said he then started shaking and a doctor gave him a shot for the pain.

The next day they operated, removing the shrapnel and he was transported by train to Paris where he stayed in a hospital for about a week before being transported to a hospital in England.

It was while in the hospital ward when Gossett was awarded the Purple Heart.

"A guy came in and he started hollering 'Smith Jones Gossett.' He just tossed the Purple Heart and it landed on our bunk," Gosset said. "He went down through the barracks. That's how we were presented our Purple Hearts. Nobody in there thought much about it because everybody in there was wounded.

"I stayed in the hospital for about four months and they either had to send me home or back up to the front," Gossett said. "Some major had an interview with me and I said 'I didn't want to go home, the wars not over, I don't want to go home until the war is over.'"

Gossett went back to France and through Luxembourg and Belgium where he was assigned to F Company.

He saw some more action, but Gossett said the German's spirits were broken and in retreat.

"About a month later, the war ended," he said.

The soldiers occupied a town for a time after the fighting ended and were then ordered to move to a harbor in France and then back to the U.S. for a 30 day furlough. After the 30 day furlough, they were suppose to get more training to prepare for the invasion of Japan, where the war was continuing.

It was on his first night home during that furlough when Gossett met his wife, Marcella.

He was at a restaurant with a friend of his when they met.

"I met her the first night I was home and married before I went back," he said. "That all happened in 30 days."

Gossett said many of the soldiers returning from the furlough had stories like that

It was also during that time when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, bringing the war to an end.

Gossett returned home, taking a job with the railroad and took an accounting course after being injured on the job.

He then worked for a few coal companies before retiring.

He was mayor of Flushing for about 10 years and was on the village council for about 20, he said and is still known by many for his years as a Little League and Pony League coach, including one Pony League team that came within one out of going to the nationals.

Shoe may be reached at shoe@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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