if not for events; ‘wouldn’t be here today’
Bill Marmion does not have any stories from the battlefront.
He feels that if he did, someone else would be telling them.
Marmion does not look back with any contempt that a paratrooper jump that left him blind prevented him from going oversees during the Korean War.
“I was not meant to go to Korea, that’s for sure,” said Marmion. “Probably would not be sitting here today if I would have went.”
Marmion, who grew up in New York City and almost lost his life playing on a fire escape, enlisted into the military when he was 17 years old and headed to Fort Dix, Ga., for jump school.
“I enlisted for four years, but I was discharged after one,” said Marmion. “I went blind on my seventh jump.”
Marmion was jumping at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1950, training as part of the 11th Airborne Division and jumped from a C-82 airplane.
“I had fell about 90-feet when the jolting of the chute left me totally blind,” said Marmion. “I landed on the ground sightless and was instructed to lay still. Within 15 minutes or so, my sight returned.”
Even though his sight returned then, it was the start of a lifelong affliction, in which his vision would fade and return. It was also discovered he was completely blind in his right eye.
(In 2008 he underwent surgery for a corroded vein in the V.A. Hospital in Albany, on his left eye, and he has not lost vision since.)
As a result of that one fall, Marmion was taken off of jump status, preventing him from going with his group over to Korea. He continued with the military until one morning when the commanding officer asked for volunteers for fighting.
“I thought he meant boxing, said Marmion . “I and three other men fell out and he dismissed the rest of the company. I was fourth in line in the orderly room when we were informed that volunteers were needed for Korea, and that was the fighting he referred to. When my turn came, they said that I wasn’t going anywhere and told me that I was being recommended for honorable discharge with a medical clause.”
After discharge, Marmion returned home, looking for something to do. He took up the sport of bobsledding as a driver and made many trips through the town he now calls home.
“I bobsledded in Lake Placid for 13 years and traveled through here all the time,” he said. “I said that this is the area that I wanted to live in. After I retired, I came here and bought this place in Whitehall, which is really God’s country as far as I am concerned. I have been here for 33 years, now.”
Marmion stopped bobsledding after a pair of concussions.
“I felt at the time that I was a lucky guy and got out,” he said.
In 1985, Marmion had a chance to see the airfield that he would have landed on if he had been able to continue in the military 35 years earlier.
“I went to Korea in 1985 on a vacation,” said Marmion. “I happened to look out the window of my airplane and saw Kempo Airfield, where I should have jumped 35 years earlier.”