In honor of Veterans Day, we've put together several stories about our local World War II veterans that will be broadcast throughout the day. Here's one of those stories.
William “Bill” Sutley saw action in four of the major battles in the Pacific during World War II – Guadalcanal in 1943; Saipan June 6, 1944; Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945; and Tinian in November 1945. But among the memories that stand out most for the retired U.S. Marine is the equipment that he used for much of his service: the World War I two-man flamethrower tank, Nobby, and his service revolver, also from World War I, that was a gift to him from his mother.
He said he even slept holding the gun against his chest.
He is a native of Sheridan, growing up in a house on North Main Street, and a 1939 graduate of Sheridan High School. When World War II began for the United States, he received a draft notice from the Army, but he didn't want to join that branch. He opted for the Marines instead. He attended boot camp in San Diego, Calif., and was trained in medium tanks. He volunteered for a special weapons group.
Sutley served in Company B of the Fourth Marines, a company that was disbanded in October 1945. After the war, he was a funeral director and embalmer, a career that spanned 60 years, some of those years in Chicago. He returned to Sheridan with his wife, Mildred, in 1964, and worked briefly for Champion and Ferries funeral homes, which were then separate companies. He later moved to Torrington, operating a mortuary there for 18 years. He retired to Sheridan in 1987.
He bought his house on Beckton Hall Road in 1999, he recalls. “It was a brand new home, not even carpeted yet,” he remembers. As part of a two-man crew for a flamethrower tank, Sutley recalled, “I did a lot of praying” while he sat in the tank's turret, atop 160 gallons of flamethrower fuel. “I never got to bring the tank home,” he added. It was lost on Iwo Jima when it slid into a bomb crater.