William E. VanKerrebroeck

1914 - 1992


Their Story

William E. VanKerrebroeck was born April 28, 1914, in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Emil and Florence VanKerrebroeck, both born in Belgium and spoke Flemish. Florence came to the U.S. in 1910.1 Emil came to the U.S. in 1884. William had one sister, Juliette. William attended Sacred Heart parochial school and graduated from Moline High School in 1933.2 In 1925, the family returned from a trip to France, arriving on the S.S. George Washington at the Port of New York from Cherbourg, France, on October 2.3 William worked as a bartender in his father’s tavern in Moline and was working there in 19374 at the time of the 1940 U.S. Census.5 He also was employed at John Deere Wagon Works for a time.6 He married Mary Alice Quilty in 1937 but divorced in 1944. His father retired from the tavern in 1942 and died in 1946 after a two-year illness.7 William married Mae. B. Nibert April 28, 1947, on his birthday, in Clinton, Iowa. In 1949, William was working at Bill’s Corner Tavern.8

He was a WWII veteran, being inducted into the Army on May 18, 1943. He did basic training at Camp Howze in Texas.9 He was with the 409th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division. They sailed on a converted luxury liner, Conte Grandi, now called the U..S.S Monticello, a Navy transport. It was anything but luxurious and seasickness was common. They arrived in the port of Marseille, France, October 20, 1944, just two months after its liberation.10 Marseille was still a port of desolation and destruction. Despite the ceaseless work by Army engineers for the previous six weeks, there were still sunken, burned-out ships in many of the docks, rendering piers unusable.

The 409th Infantry Regiment was one of three regiments in the 103rd “Cactus” Infantry Division. On November 15, the 409th received attack orders and were initially committed to attack on the morning of November 16. The Division was assigned the mission of seizing and holding the high ground southwest of St. Die.

They fought through the Vosges Mountains and later into the Rhineland area of South-Central Germany. Just one month after their arrival, near St. Die, France, William was shot twice by a German sniper in the Vosges Forest, earning a Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster for injuries on both November 16 and November 17, 1944. He spent six months in a hospital. He sent a letter to his parents, dated November 19, telling them of his injuries to his throat and back and that he had undergone an operation.11 This was during the Rhineland Campaign.

The Allied Rhineland Offensive comprised several large-scale military operations during the last months of the war in Europe with the two main objectives of these combined British, American and Canadian operations being to clear the area west of the Rhine and to cross the river itself. There were 254 men from the Cactus Division who died in the European Theater of Operations.12 The 409th completed its operations in the vicinity of Innsbruck, Austria, on May 5, 1945.

At some point, he was assigned to the Pacific Theater and sent to the Philippines. After Japan surrendered, he did occupation duty in Tokyo, Kure, and Hiroshima. He was honorably discharged on January 17, 1946.13 He was assigned to the 4171st Quartermaster Depot Company at the time of his discharge and was a rifleman 745 and PFC.

After the service, he owned and operated Bill’s Corner Tap, 18th Avenue and 10th Street, Moline, for 16 years. After that, he was employed for 12 ½ years with the Moline School District 40 in the maintenance department, from which he retired in May 1978.14

From his discharge paperwork: In 1945, William was vaccinated 5 times; two times for typhoid, and once each for tetanus, cholera, and smallpox. He spent 1 year, 3 months and 5 days overseas and a total of 2 years, 8 months in the Army. Wounded November 16, 1944, European Theater of Operation. European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Service Medal, two overseas service bars, lapel button issued, ASR Sep 2 45 – 54 points, inactive service (ERC) from May 18 1943 to May 24, 1943. Purple Heart G.O. #146 230th G.H. Nov 44 w/1 bronze cluster.


1 11 Aug 1969, 6 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

2 09 Oct 1937, 13 – The Rock Island Argus at Newspapers.com

3 Ancestry.com – New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

4 U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 – Ancestry.com

5 1940 United States Federal Census – Ancestry.com Moline, Rock Island County, IL

6 01 Mar 1944, 2 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

7 23 Sep 1946, 4 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

8 U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 – Ancestry.com

9 04 Nov 1944, 15 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

10 04 Nov 1944, 15 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

11 04 Dec 1944, 13 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

12 409thInfantryWWII.pdf (archive.org)

13 From discharge certificate dated January 30, 1946, in the possession of Thomas VanDeVelde, nephew

14 www.findagrave.com