Age 97, and still living in Hurricane, Roland Hall is a sought-after speaker at veteran's events. He cuts a handsome figure in his dress uniform. Funny thing: He never wanted to be a paratrooper.
“I went to Fort Douglas and signed up for the Navy,” Roland recalls. “My dad applied for a 30-day deferment for me because we had a crop of wheat growing in our farm in the Apple Valley area. I was the one who operated the harvester. When I went back to Fort Douglas, they were already signing me up for the Army. They said the Navy is full, but we have some openings in the Marine Corps.”
Marine Corps? Roland had heard about the adversity the Marines faced in the Pacific. And they had a reputation for being a little rough around the edges. “I said, ‘Nah, those Marines are too tough for me, I’ll just stay with the Army.’”
Roland arrived in Leyte, Philippines, as an infantry replacement in January 1945. While the paratrooper units were made up of volunteers, glider regiments were not. Roland was assigned to the 188th GIR after the heaviest fighting had taken place on the island—but there was still risk—and some close calls.
“When I think about it, it’s almost scarier to me now than when it was actually happening,” Roland says. “But I was there to do a job.”
Later that summer, Roland’s unit was pulled off the line and many of the men took jump training. They became full-fledged paratroopers.