Bill Winowich became a medic in the US Army, but he spent his first couple of days in the army as a patient in the hospital–he had lost consciousness after his arm had swelled to double its size from the tetanus shot he had received. After a harrowing 16 day trip over the ocean, Bill spent time in Northern Ireland, and he was eventually sent to France where he treated wounded soldiers. However, not every patient was a soldier wounded in combat. In one instance, while searching a nearby house for a soldier who had stabbed several other soldiers, Bill came upon a farmer, who, in addition to being stabbed by the soldier, had also been bitten by a pig. He ended up helping the farmer with his stab wound and also his infected bite.
As a 19 year old, the hardest part of being a medic was having to make a judgment call about who was going to live and who wasn’t going to make it. Bill had been told by his colonel that once a soldier started calling for his mother, it meant he wasn’t going to make it. One of his first experiences was trying to help another 19 year old, who, just as the colonel said, called out for his mother before he passed. The memory—that scared, dying voice—still haunts him.
At the end of the war, Bill was sent to Paris to re-train so that he could be shipped to the Pacific. It was there that he met his future wife. They had a rocky beginning from the start when Bill kissed her upon first sight and Jackie promptly slapped his face. “You Pig!,” she protested, but after a courtship lasting only a couple of months, Jackie agreed to marry Bill on Bastille Day, 1945. Upon Bill’s return to Pittsburgh, he struggled with mountains of paperwork to bring his bride to the United States. Eventually, Jackie and Bill were reunited New York in August, 1946. They have been married for 66 years.
To promote the sharing of stories among friends, loved ones, and family members, StoryCorps promotes a National Day of Listening held each year on the day after Thanksgiving.
In 2012, the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative was a participating partner with StoryCorps, promoting our own local day of listening at the Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh. On November 24 we met with three local families and recorded their conversations: Adam and Aaron Nye talked with their grandfather Felix Cistolo about his WWII service in Europe; Michelle Winowich-Zmijanac talked with her parents Bill (WWII Army medic) and Jackie Winowich (French Red Cross volunteer), who met in France during WWII; and Kevin Farkas talked with his father, Paul, who served aboard the USS Coral Sea during the Korean War.
National Day of Listening Interview
Bill Winowich and his wife Jacqueline of Allison Park, PA talk to their daughter Michelle about how they met during WW II. Bill was an Army medic and Jackie worked as a French translator. This recording was made on November 23, 2012 at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jacqueline Winowich: Cries
Jacqueline Winowich was a young girl when Germany invaded France. Her father joined the Resistance and the entire family aided the Allies as much as they could. But like too many children across Europe, Jacqueline witnessed the confusion, helplessness, and horrors of war—her innocent childhood deeply affected by unforgettable acts of inhumanity. After all these years, these shocking memories remain, as when during a visit to her grandmother’s village she learned that local Jews were being rounded up and shipped away from a nearby railway station. To this day she can still hear their plaintiff cries drifting up from the train depot and echoing across the rooftops. Historians estimate that during the Nazi occupation of France, nearly 76,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps in French freight cars between 1942 and 1944. Only 3,000 souls may have survived.
This audio short story is a production of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. The original interview was recorded November 23, 2012 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Audiography: Kevin Farkas.