Friday, November 10, 2023



"Padre, we just lost my Chronicler's Father, an American ally from World War II. I want you to assist Miss Céline Evangeline Desmond, Correspondent for The Exploration Times, San Francisco, USA with his photo story."

"Of course General Pettygree."

"My dear readers, Bill's father passed away October 29, 2023 a few months short of his 99th birthday. Whilst Bill and wife Dorothy were creating memory boards, his father's WWII photos were recovered. I think these and his story will interest you. Miss Desmond will take over from here with Padre Reynolds to tell the story. Meanwhile, I'm going to dinner with Bill and Dorothy at The Fox and Hounds. Won't the patrons be surprised when we arrive in the halftrack behind me --- much like the one Bill's father rode in?"


William B. Protz, age 18.
On 2 March 1943 Bill was inducted out of college into the US Army postponing engineering studies at The University of Florida. He reported to Camp Blanding, Florida seven days later for basic training. That's Bill on the right. 

Later he joined the 106th Infantry Division and was promoted to Corporal. The shoulder emblem is the division's Golden Lion patch. However, Bill wanted to be an airman. Training soon commenced, but the Army Air Corps had too many eager pilot trainees. So he was transferred out into a Repo Depot from which soldiers would be taken to join units needing soldiers to replace those lost in combat.

Departure for the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) happened on 28 June 1944. He arrived in England on 5 July 1944 still unassigned to a combat unit. It is unknown when Bill landed in France. However....

The photo of this German artillery bunker is presumably in the Omaha Beach American Landing Zone Sector. It is Summer or Autumn, 1944. However, it could be in the Siegfried Line. Note the gun barrel aperture on the far right. 

   DECEMBER 1944

On 10 December 1944 Bill was in Givet, France near Belgium. While in a medical facility for a minor burn, he observed The Golden Lions drive by heading east. Although he did not know at the time, the division would take up front-line defensive positions near St. Vith, Belgium, a quiet sector given to this green unit to gain combat experience.  

On 16 December The Battle of The Bulge commenced. The German LXVI Corps of the Fifth Panzer Army struck and surrounded two regiments of the 106th on The Elsenborn Ridge. 6.000 men surrendered or were lost on the 19th becoming POWs. Later they were sent to work in mines in Silesia.

On 25 December the deepest penetration for the German offensive came within 6-7 miles of Givet where the 2nd Panzer Division was stopped. We do not know if Bill was still there.

Motto: Discover, Then Destroy

We do not know when Bill was eventually assigned to the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion's Reconnaissance Company.

 After ten months of service he was promoted to "Buck" Sergeant.

According to an official Army Separation Qualification Record, he, "Received all radio messages for reconnaissance cars and observation posts and consolidated them and forwarded them to higher headquarters." 

Presumably the following five photos were taken close to the end of the war in 1945. By then the 776th had passed into Austria. Bill never fired a shot nor was fired upon. He tells a story of celebrating the war's end with Soviet Russian soldiers where there was lively drinking and dancing.

He apparently rode in this halftrack.

A disabled American Sherman Tank.


No danger here apparently. Bill is seated second from the right.

"Continental Service: 1 Year, 2 Months and 26 days."
"Foreign Service: 1 Year, 7 Months and 4 Days."
"Served in Central Europe, Rhineland [and Austria]."
"Honorable Discharge: 7 February 1946."

The official 776th website is below. Check it out and find Bill's name.


On 22 January 1946  Sergeant Protz embarked for the USA arriving on 1 February 1946. He was separated from the Army on 7 February at Fort Dix, New Jersey. 

Back at The University of Florida again, he met his future wife Shirley. They were married for 61 years. She passed away in 2008.


14 January 1925 to 29 October, 2023.

"On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."

General Pettygree and his Adventure Chronicler Bill P., are also sincerely grateful for your readership over the years and for your interest in the military history about the latter's father. Chaplain Reynolds follows with remarks of an extraordinary nature next.

Céline Evangeline Desmond


Our late comrade's favorite expression was, "Time and Circumstance."

By this he originally meant the mysterious passage of time mixing with events resulting in significant outcomes. Later he recognized the involved hand of God in this repeating pattern.

One of the most significant examples of this happened during WWII when he was transferred out of the 106th Infantry Division to attend flight school. However, due to an overabundance of pilots, he was later sent to a Replacement Pool. After disembarking in France, he was ordered east to Givet. While there on December 10th he watched his first outfit, the 106th, drive by on its way to take up front line positions in quiet Belgium.

Now for the guiding hand of God keeping Bill's dad --- out of harms way seven times.

1. WWII US Aircrews had less than a 50% chance of survival. Losses: 78,017. One-third of these were from accidents.

2. The 106th was surrounded by the Germans in The Battle of The Bulge. 6,000 died or surrendered on 19 December. POWs went to labor camps in Germany.

3. Sergeant Protz was later posted to the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion serving in The Rhineland and Austria. He never fired a shot or was shot at arriving safely back home in February 1946.

Home was New York City. He was born on January 14, 1925 to Mary and Joseph Protz who had emigrated from The Ukraine in 1912 and 1914, preserving them from an imminent WWI. His parents learned English and they lived in apartments in The Burrow of Manhattan. The family has a photo of Bill and brother Dan showing them smiling in ethnic garments before doing one of those jumping, squat kicking and whirling dances unique to their Old World culture. In the 1930s the family spent summers in Connecticut enjoying farm life. Grampa Joe at some point became an entrepreneur operating a Pool Hall where both sons helped. Bill learned to be a very good pool player and was introduced to the business world.

After the war he earned a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Florida. There he met his future wife Shirley. They married in 1947.

More of those “Time and Circumstance” events started happening again.

4. Money was sparse for the newly married couple. One night Bill had a dream advising him to place a bet on a certain dog at the race track. He did and won.

5. Dad took his new family back to New York beginning work as a Continental Can Company management trainee. After a meeting with upper management, he was asked to drive the top boss to the airport. On the way they talked about WWII, family life and aspirations. As a result, Bill was placed on a fast track. During his time with the company, he was promoted to run several can plants (at one time three) in Wisconsin and out West. What if he had never driven that boss to the airport?

6. Speaking of airports, in the late 1950s, Bill was supposed to accompany a management team from New York for a meeting in Milwaukee. Something bothered him about the flight. He did not board. All company people were lost in a crash. We now know this was again the hand of God.

7. During a western vacation, the family drove in the Rocky Mountains for hours on a winding road with shear cliffs sometimes off to the sides below. It started to snow. After exiting a two-lane tunnel, driving through under a foot of newly fallen snow the family never saw another car. At the next stop, someone exasperatingly asked, “Didn't you know the road was closed due to weather?” ---“No.” --- We now know someone was looking out for them. Bill agreed.

At times the company asked that he attend betterment courses. One was the Dale Carnegie Program. Two principles have remained in the family for decades.

The first is: “Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.”

Another gem: “In order to make a friend you must first be one.”

Two long-standing family traditions were important.

From the late 1950s to now the family has gone to The Fox and Hounds Restaurant for important events.

From the early 1960s to now there has almost always been a Dalmatian in the family.

Bill lived on his own until cancer made it tough to continue living alone. Last December he moved into an Assisted Living Facility where he met new people, had new experiences and recently increasing care.

Bill Jr. and Bill Sr. could talk calmly about almost anything such as current events. A few years ago he asked to go through The Gospel of John, Bill Jr's favorite Bible book because of The Eucharist. In recent months bedtime prayer was added. Senior would start with Holy Water and The Our Father followed by the St. Michael Prayer, The Memorare and Hail Mary. Then, What are you thankful for today?

Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Blessed Mother, Saint Michael and His Guardian Angel, we sincerely thank you for Bill Sr's 98 years of blessed and protected time and circumstances. Your guiding hand is absolutely evident.

Excerpts taken from Bill, Jr.'s 11/07/2023 Eulogy by Chaplain Reynolds



  1. My most sincere condolences for your loss, Bill. It sounds like your father had a long and happy life.

  2. Bill, my sincere condolences on your loss. Thank you for sharing his story and his photos.


  3. My condolences to you and your family. Your Dad had an interesting life that was full of “God Shots” that changed his life.

  4. Gentlemen,
    Your kindness and sentiments are truly comforting and appreciated.
    Bill P.


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