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Cpl. Townsley, William E.

Cpl. William E. Townsley 511 PIR 11th airborne

HQ2 Company, 511th PIR

January 31, 1920 - February 26, 1970 (Age 50) - Gravesite

Citations: Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal with service star, the American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Battle Stars and one Arrowhead,

William "Bill" Edward Townsley  was born January 31, 1920 to William Edward Townsley (1878-1919) & Minnie Lee McClure Townsley (1880-1925) in Oran, Texas, Palo Pinto County.

During World War II, William served as a paratrooper in the historic 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion. As part of the 11th Airborne, Bill and the 511th PIR fought on Leyte and Luzon before the regiment was sent to Japan as part of the Occupation Force. 

Bill did not go with them, however. On March 21, 1945, while the 11th Airborne was fighting to liberate southern Luzon, Cpl. Townsley and his squad were on patrol near Real, when a Japanese sniper who was hiding up in a tree fired down on Bill. The bullet entered Cpl. Townsley's right front shoulder and exited below his right shoulder blade, indicating that the enemy was practically right above him.

The impact spun William around a full 180 degrees, but he somehow managed to stay on his feet. Questioning why the enemy didn't fire a second shot, Cpl. Townsley (who was right-handed) carefully transferred his .30 M-1 Carbine to his left hand and shot and killed his assailant. Bill was later evacuated and his wounds were treated, though he carried the scars from the entry and exit wounds for the rest of his life. For years after the war, Bill carried a small rubber ball with him that he squeezed to help strengthen his grip. 

Following his discharge from the service, Bill worked as a neon bender and as a sign-painter. He was also a licensed Texas State barber. Bill married Floy May Pinkerton on July 11, 1968 in Tarrant, Texas. To this union were born William Boyd Townsley (1951-) and Troy Ray Townsley (1952-2019).

Bill passed away on February 26, 1970 and the age of 50.

Bill can be seen with his family (on the far right) in the photo below, taken at Christmastime of 1935.

To learn more about the 11th Airborne Division in World War II, please consider purchasing a copy of our books on the Angels: