Oral History of William Sharp
Operation Desert Storm was a very speedy and efficient war. To understand the operation one must understand Saddam Hussein. He was the leader, or most would say dictator, of Iraq starting in 1979. He instilled fear in his people through countless acts of violence and, because of that, stayed in power for many years. Since the early 1980s, Saddam Hussein had been trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, Iraq had an extremely strong military at this time and Israel and Iran both failed to do much to stop it. To keep this huge military force Hussein borrowed a lot of money from his neighboring countries. Furthermore, Iraq invaded Kuwait because it claimed Kuwait hurt Iraq’s oil profit by lowering prices. By invading Kuwait Hussein had over twenty percent of the world’s oil supply and he then turned his attention to Saudi Arabia, another extremely oil rich nation. Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States, requested an intervention and President Bush gave it. Operation Desert Shield was enacted to defend Saudi Arabia from foreign invasion. After trying to get Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, international forces finally enacted operation Desert Storm which lasted a month and a half, but with only a few days of actual fighting. However, not everyone in the armed service was in the desert during Desert Storm. For example, Mr. Sharp was deployed to Miesau, Germany, where he worked at an ammunition supply unit.
William “Bill” Sharp was born in 1968 in Oswego, New York. His father was a demolition expert in Vietnam, but he refused to speak of his experience with anyone. His parents got divorced when he was a young child, and with the divorce came a lot of extra responsibility for Bill. He knew how to change diapers and make bottles by the time he was six. His mother worked at a dress factory until she hurt her back, which brought some financial strain to the family. With two younger sisters and one younger brother, Bill ended up taking on the role of a parent. Until 7th grade Bill’s father lived nearby, but he ended up moving to California which wasn’t easy on the family. By the time Bill started high school he was working forty hours a week at a local restaurant while trying to keep up with his studies Bill’s high school experience definitely was not the time of his life. Sadly, because of the extra work he did to provide for his family, Bill didn’t get to participate in a lot of activities. Bill played baseball for a while, discovering that while he could write with his right hand when it came to sports he was more comfortable using his left hand. A truly ambidextrous person! He had a lot of close friends in high school, most of whom he still keeps in close contact with, and it was those same close friends that helped sway him to join the Army.
William Sharp attended Sony Oneonta College, and was persuaded to join the reserves by his best friend. He initially wanted to join the Air Force but on the way to the recruiting office he got a speeding and parking ticket. He quickly decided that fate didn’t want him to join the Air Force, so joined the Army Reserves in 1987 in his freshman year of college. He claimed he had the time of his life simply because most of his friends had joined up. He was in an ammunition supply unit where he drove forklifts and transferred ammunition. He honestly never expected to get deployed. Bill received the news at the home of his girlfriend, Lynette. Needless to say, there were some tears that night. The hardest phone call of his life was calling his father to tell him he was being deployed. It was Bill’s junior year when he got called up. It was especially bad because at the time he called he was sure his unit was being sent to Saudi Arabia. However, when medical complications occurred within his unit, they were sent to Germany instead. His main job overseas was to load ammunition onto trains where it would eventually end up in Saudi Arabia
A lot of the men in the reserves with Bill weren’t expecting to get deployed, and needless to say some didn’t handle it well. They were in Germany in the small town of Miesau in the middle of winter, and they weren’t warmly received by the natives. They lived in old WWII military barracks which probably added to the discontent. A couple of the men in his unit almost deserted the unit. The hard fifteen hour days added to the extreme stress. However, Bill had a lot of support back home. His education professor and class actually sent him care packages and letters while he was away.
Although Bill never saw combat, his men constantly had to watch their backs. The locals were not impressed with the Americans returning to their country and let them know this very quickly. More than once his platoon was cornered by German Nationalists. This created a true sense of brotherhood within their platoon; a brotherhood that only comes from being surrounded by people willing to risk their lives with you and for you. Bill says he remembers the stress being the worst part. He and Lynette had to do a lot of letter writing to stay in touch, and even with that there was distance between them after Bill returned.
The highest ranked officials had secrets they weren’t telling the rest of the men. However, the soldiers saw the fear and stress in their superiors’ eyes and couldn’t help but suspect that the danger was greater than they had been told. Eventually, after operation Desert Storm came to an end, the stress started to lessen. The fifteen hour days were reduced to eight hour days, and most of the men could breathe a sigh of relief. On the way back home the men were finally told what had been stressing those higher officials. The Miesau Ammunition supply building they had been at for the last couple of months was one of the top five terrorist targets of the time period. Bill doesn’t know if telling him would have relieved the stress he went through or made it worse.
After returning home Bill had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. His girlfriend, Lynette, tried extremely hard to understand what he went through but as Bill says, “the only people who can understand what I went through are other people that have served.” The stress wears one down day by day, and many people eventually crack from the pressure. Bill ended up adjusting fine. He finished his education degree and was then hired as an Earth Science teacher. Everyone has their own reasons for joining the military, and Bill’s were undoubtedly money and family related. For someone who became used to responsibility at a very young age Bill adapted better to his environment then others, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have to live with the memories. Bill says “I wouldn’t take back my time in the military for anything, it is a part of who I am.”
Researched by Laura Szakmary
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
O'Hara , Scott. "Desert-storm.com." Desert-storm.com. Scott O'Hara, 2005. Web. 20 Apr 2010. <http://www.desert-storm.com/>.
"Operation Desert Storm." Americas Wars a Complete History. MultiEducator Inc, 2006. Web. 20 Apr 2010. <http://www.historycentral.com/desert_storm/index.html>.
Sharp, William. William Sharp War Interview. Personal Interview by Laura Szakmary. 4/16/2010.
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