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William 'Bill" Cantrall - World War II

Bill Cantrall grew up in Athens, Illinois, but when war came to America in December, 1941, he was repeatedly rejected for military service due to some scarring on his lungs. He finally found a way to serve his country by joining the American Field Service (an entirely volunteer organization), and spent the rest of the war driving an ambulance in Italy and into Yugoslavia for the British 8th Army. He supported troops from many nations, including Indians, Poles, Gurkhas, Brits and others. Cantrall wrote about his experiences in his book, "Just Like a Taxi: Frontline Ambulance, Italy, 1944-1945."

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

Piss in Po River

Abstract

Interview Session 01 (Audio)

Growing up in Sangamon County, and the advent of WW II

Interview Session 02 (Audio)

Joining the American Field Service and experiences in Italy

Interview Session 03 (Audio)

Service with the AFS in Italy and post-war experiences

Transcript

Photos

Caption

Bill Cantrall’s family gathers in 1936 for older brother Young’s graduation from Springfield High School. From left to right are sister Ruth, mother Ruby, sister Luella and Bill.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1936

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Bill's American Field Service Identity Card. Once Germany and Italy declared war on the US, the card was sufficient to identify Cantrall as a U.S. Voluntary Aid Society Volunteer, which put him under the protection of the Geneva Convention.

Where:

New York, New York

When:

October 3, 1944

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

A wartime cartoon of an AFS volunteer in a very soggy foxhole. “Any complaints, Old Man,” read the caption. The cartoon appeared in the Eighth Army News published by the British Army during its brutal fight up the Italian boot.

Where:

Eighth Army News

When:

Circa 1940's

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

The AFS ambulances and quarters, at San Clemente MDS, during a time when Cantrall was working with Indian units in Italy.

Where:

San Clemente, Italy

When:

Circa 1940's

Ownership:

The photo is courtesy of Driver J.P. Brinton III.

Caption

The WC-54 ambulance driven by Bill Cantrall through much of northern Italy is parked in Trieste in May, 1945. Cantrall was watching the Jugoslav Partisan Army parade past his vehicle.

Where:

Trieste, Italy

When:

May, 1945

Ownership:

The photo is courtesy of Driver J.P. Brinton III.

Caption

Gen. Sir Richard McCreery held a farewell review for AFS volunteers. McCreery held the AFS in very high regard, a sentiment that was universal among the many nationalities that made up the 8th Army.

Where:

Near Rome, Italy

When:

July 3, 1945

Ownership:

The photo is courtesy of Driver J.P. Brinton III. Patrons desiring to use this photograph for any purpose should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

This is part of the message that Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery delivered to AFS volunteers at their farewell review in July, 1945 outside of Rome, Italy.

Where:

Rome, Italy

When:

July, 1945

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Bill Cantrall in his AFS uniform after he arrived back home in Illinois in mid-1945.

Where:

Illinois

When:

Mid-1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo



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