William (Bill) Yaryan was born in El Dorado, KS one of four brothers, all of who served in World War II. While they were at war, their mother, Pansy Dunham worked for the Boeing Military Air Company as a “Rosie the Riveter”.
In 1943 he entered the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theater (EAMET), serving in the 976 Field Artillery Battalion. During the next 26 months he was stationed in Africa, Italy, France and Germany.
He saw action in the following battles and campaigns: “Naples Foggia”, “Anzio”, “Rome Arno”, “Southern France” and “Rhineland Central”.
The 977th left the Port of New York for North Africa on 21 August 1943 and landed at Oran, Algeria, on 2 September. After a period during which the battalion trained and drew new high-speed tractors for towing their guns, the 977th moved to Southern Italy.
The men of the 977th set foot on Italian soil on 10 October, and shortly after landing, suffered their first casualties of the war during an air raid. The 977th was assigned to VI Corps Artillery and fired its first rounds in action on 1 November. The battalion supported the 3d Infantry Division attacks against the Mignano Gap, as well as VI Corps operations along the Volturno River. The 977th performed well during this breaking in period. This was especially fortuitous since it would soon find itself fighting on one of the most deadly battlefields of the Italian war.
On 10 February, the 977th landed at Anzio. The 977th was under enemy artillery fire and attack from the air as it disembarked onto the beach at Anzio. The men of the 977th soon learned that the nickname “Bloody Anzio” was well deserved. The battalion was attacked twenty-five times by enemy aircraft, and came under counter-battery fire on at least 100 occasions, as German artillery of all sizes, including the legendary 280mm “Anzio Annie” railway gun, pounded the beachhead. The German efforts to silence their guns were unsuccessful, and the men of the 977th continued to answer calls for fire support from British and American units alike. In a single twenty-four hour period, at the height of the fighting, the battalion fired 2,877 rounds, sending a remarkable 137 tons of steel and high explosives into enemy positions. The battalion’s rate of fire on this day was among the highest recorded by any 155mm gun battalion during the war. Captured German soldiers who had been on the receiving end of such sustained volumes of fire were so impressed by the sheer numbers of shells that landed on their positions that they sometimes asked to be shown the American’s “automatic cannons.” There were no safe places at Anzio, and the battalion lost seven men killed and forty-three wounded. Despite these bitter losses the artillerymen of the 977th gave better than they received. During their time at Anzio they fired a total of 49,903 rounds at the enemy in 2,172 separate fire missions. Following the breakout from the beachhead, the 977th moved North through Rome, to the area of Lake Bracciano. After only a few days of much needed rest, the battalion was withdrawn to prepare for the invasion of Southern France. The battle at Anzio was one of the longest protracted battles of the war with over 25,000 casualties.
On 15 August 1944, the 977th landed on the beaches of Southern France as a part of the Operation Dragoon invasion force. Again, as at Anzio, the battalion disembarked onto a beachhead under attack by the enemy. The LST carrying the men and equipment of A Battery had just started unloading when it was hit by a radio controlled bomb. The tremendous explosion and resulting fire killed twenty-one men and wounded seventy-one others. The battery’s equipment, including its 155 mm guns, was also destroyed. In spite of the terrible loss, the men of B and C Batteries quickly moved to their firing positions, and by that afternoon, their guns were answering urgent calls for fire from troops in the front lines.
The 977th went on to fight in many other engagements as Seventh Army advanced up the Rhone Valley, and through the rugged Vosges Mountains.
In 492 days of combat, the 977th Field Artillery Battalion participated in seven campaigns: Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France (with arrowhead), Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. It fired its Long Toms in support of British, French, and American forces serving with the U.S. Fifth and Seventh Armies, as well as the French First Army. The battalion was attached to or operated in support of three American and one British corps, twenty American, British, and French divisions, three field artillery brigades, and six field artillery groups. The battalion conducted 5,934 fire missions, firing a total of 118,710 rounds at the enemy, and in the process, wore out eighty-four gun tubes, enough to equip seven battalions.
After returning from the war he stayed in El Dorado. In 1948 he married Verda Selvy and they raised two children, Craig Yaryan and Bronna Yaryan (Leach) both of El Dorado. He worked for Skelly/Getty Oil Company until his death in 1982.