By Brandon Bosworth, Assistant Editor, Ho’okele
The ashes of Army Private 1st Class William “Bill” P. Mueller, a survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Oahu, were scattered in the waters near the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island during a ceremony held April 9. Mueller was at Hickam Field during the attack.
Lt. Col. Sonny Young (Army ret.), served as the officer in charge during the ceremony, and Chaplain Capt. Ray Kitagawa, senior Army chaplain, Hawaii Army National Guard, presided over the services. The Hawaii Army National Guard provided full military honors.
“It was Bill’s wish to make a final voyage to Hawaii after he died to have his remains scattered here in the waters of Pearl Harbor,” said Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison. “Thanks to the efforts of his son, Mike, and these wonderful people, his wish will come true today.”
Mueller was born in Germany on June 9, 1921. His family immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of the growing strife in Germany. Mueller joined the U.S. Army on Oct. 6, 1939 in Pittsfield, Mass. at the age of 18. He arrived at Schofield Barracks in December 1939 and was assigned to ‘D’ Company, 19th infantry, 24th Division.
On the morning of Dec. 7 1941, Mueller was waiting to begin a flying lesson at Hickam Field.
“His instructor was a little late landing to pick him up and, unfortunately, Bill witnessed him getting killed by a Japanese fighter,” said Taylor. “He was an eyewitness to major destruction to aircraft and hangars at Hickam and the terrifying scene of Navy ships blowing up, bombs falling everywhere, and fighter planes strafing with their machine guns – one of those guns killing his instructor.”
Following the attack, Mueller was sent to Canton Island where he underwent six months of intensive combat training, which was followed by jungle warfare training in Australia. He first entered into combat in the jungles of Papua, New Guinea, where he lost many fellow Soldiers. In over a year of fighting, he received many combat wounds, malaria, amebic dysentery, dengue fever and jungle rot. Despite his desire to stay and fight, Mueller was ordered back to the U.S. for medical care in June 1944.
Mueller went on to serve a year of cadre duty at Camp Croft, S.C. and received an honorable discharge on June 15, 1945. Over the course of his military career, Mueller received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal and many other citations.
“He was a proud U.S. Army veteran of the 24th Infantry Division, which was the first to see combat in World War II,” said Taylor. “The 24th Infantry Division is fiercely proud of their heritage as the ‘first to fight’ in defense of freedom.”
Just prior to his discharge, Mueller met Jean Marler, the woman he would marry. He and Jean were together until her death in 1975. After leaving the Army, Mueller worked for the post office and retired 30 years later as a letter carrier.
“Bill was my kind of guy,” said Taylor. “He loved country music, very cold beer, flirting with the ladies, traveling, photography, prospecting, riding motorcycles, and spending time in his ‘ham shack.’ He rode his custom-made Gold Wing trike until he suffered a stroke in 2011.”
Mueller died on Dec. 23, 2012. At the April 9 ceremony, he received full military honors, including three rifle volleys, the sounding of “Taps” and folding and presentation of the U.S. flag.
Mueller’s son, Mike, flew in from Kingman, Ariz. for the event.
“It was very touching and very impressive,” he said. “It was better than what Hollywood could have done.”
Mike Mueller always knew that his father’s wish was to return to Pearl Harbor upon his passing.
“He was very patriotic, and very proud of being a Pearl Harbor survivor,” he said. “Since I was a child I knew he wanted to come back to Pearl Harbor.”