James Humphrey

James Humphrey

United States
About: Colleague of Eric Williams
Bio: I am from Leavenworth, Indiana and joined the military at 17, I was young and thought I was ready to take on the world. I built bridges in the military and served in the 516th Engineer Company.

    Remembering Sergeant Williams

    My first tour of Germany


    I was stationed with SGT Williams for a short time in the 516th, I left there a couple of months after he arrived in the 516th. He was a really nice guy and my friends and I were really young and not above getting into trouble now and then. Sgt Williams wasn’t our supervisor but he treated us well and we liked him and appreciated how he treated everyone. 

    My Second tour of Germany


    I went back to Germany in October of 88 and I was assigned to the 814th Engineer Company which was also on Pioneer Kaserne right across from the 516th where I had been the first time. There was a lot of camaraderie between the 516th and the 814th because we were the same MOS (job) for the most part (most of us were 12c bridge builders), our units were also both in the 559th Engineer Battalion. I didn’t know SGT Williams was still in the 516th until I saw him in front of the 814th talking to someone and I immediately walked toward him and he recognized me and smiled. He was very friendly and upbeat, he was excited about going home to see family. He told me that he was excited because the family was finally going to get to see his new baby, I teased him about the clothes he was wearing that day because it was the whitest nicest jogging suit. He said he had just bought the jogging suit because he wanted to look good when he got home and I think he said he was going to wear the jogging suit because it was comfortable. After about 15 minutes of talking we both had things to do so we moved on and that was the last time I saw him.

    The day of the attack


    The day of the bombing we were all in shock, every military member in Germany had been on a plane exactly like that one, and still had at least one more flight on one to go home again and it hits you. Hanau was a pretty big military community and most everyone had been to Pioneer Kaserne and felt a connection with Sgt Williams. He was a good man and in a time when people were sometimes divided, he was liked by everyone. 
         In the years since that day I have thought of him and his family (who I never met) often. Every single time the news said Pan Am 103 I remembered him. Through all these years memories fade but the memory that is seared into my mind is him standing in front of the 814th that December day with his white jogging suit and his eternal exuberance to be going home. There are groups online for veterans of the 516th and 814th that any family members would be welcome into if they gave a brief explanation of who they are. As long as I’m alive I will help with anything you might need. God Bless the Williams Family. 

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