Athol man named veteran of the year in Westborough

  • William Carr Contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

ATHOL — A Marine with local roots was honored Tuesday as The Westborough Veterans Advisory Board 2017 Veteran of the Year.

William Carr, 89, joined the Marine Corps in 1946 after graduating from Athol High School, in the town where he grew up and played football, one year following the end of World War II. Even though fighting was officially over, Carr experienced war first hand, engaging with remnant forces from the Axis powers hiding in strongholds throughout the Caribbean Islands — St. Martin, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico.

“We went down there because the Japanese and Germans were still on some of those islands. We lost 100 men down there. Some of the (Axis) soldiers didn’t get the word that the armistice was signed,” said Carr, remembering a tragic friendly fire accident when an American mortar “came down and killed one of the men. I pulled one guy out of the way.”

Carr’s foot was hit by hot shrapnel, and he was hospitalized. After being discharged from active duty in September of 1948 as a sergeant, qualifying for the World War II Victory Medal, Carr served in the Marine reserves until 1952.

Back in the United States, while studying forestry at the University of Massachusetts, “they pulled me out during the Korean War — I was all set to go, but then they cancelled my orders,” said Carr.

Post-military, Carr found plenty of excitement and had a few more brushes with death. Over the course of his civilian career, he worked at Hamilton Standard as a contractor for NASA’s Apollo 11 mission handling logistics, and then at General Dynamics building nuclear submarines.

“As a civilian, I saved a submarine from sinking, once. I was told that one of the crew members had not connected one of the pipes. It started sinking at the dock,” Carr said.

A Naval security guard wouldn’t let him past, however. “I said ‘arrest me. We need to find out what’s going on,’” Carr continued. “I could do no wrong after that. Another four hours and that boat would have been under water — millions of dollars.”

Another time, Carr was spooked when he saw workers spraying a different submarine’s torpedo room with a substance he suspected was flammable, and told people to leave.

“I had asthma when I was a kid, and I’m suspicious of anything that’s in the room. I said, ‘we’d better get out of here.’ Halfway up the topside the room blew up,” Carr said. A few men were killed in the explosion.

As advice to younger generations, Carr said to remember “there’s only one United States — join the Marines of course — if you don’t know what to do with your life join for four years, you’ll know what to do after that.”

These days, Carr, who is legally blind, keeps up an active lifestyle. Most recently, he earned a master’s degree in military history from Worcester State University, while in his 80s, and published a book in 2012 from his thesis called “A Pact with the Devil: World War I Air Combat.”

Around town, he volunteers at the Westborough Health Center, and still has an active security clearance — just in case.

“They said just hang on to it, you’ll never know when you’re going to need it. I said, ‘I’m 89 years old, when am I ever going to need it?’” Carr said.

Carr was recognized along with fellow Marine Veteran James A. Willworth at Westborough’s Town Hall.

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