After his experience on the Chicago Will decided to volunteer for the Raider Battalion 6th Marine Division. While scraping paint off of ships at Mare Island he and a fellow Marine were assigned to ride on the running boards of President Roosevelt's car in Southern California. During this event they saw many recruiting posters for Carlson's Raiders. They thought anything was better than scraping paint, so they joined the Raider Battalion. These Battalions spearheaded operations in the South Pacific and were reputed as the roughest of the Marines. Will went through rigorous training at Camp Pendleton, ending up as a Rubber Boat Instructor. He talked about riding the waves in with full gear. He reported that when a boat capsized they would end up picking up gear along the beach front. As far as I know his first action as a Marine Raider was on the island of Bougainville.
The following information was taken from Marine Raider Records and relates Will's official service experience. "On November 1st 1943 Assault landing at Cape Torokina, Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, BSI. I and K, and one-half of HQ Companies landed, at 0730, on Green Beach #1, on the north side of Puruata Island, and encountered heavy enemy resistance. M Company landed on Green Beach #2, on the main land, pushed through enemy positions to set up a road block on the Mission Trail, about a mile north of the beachhead. L Company landed over Green Beach #2 later in the A.M. The 4th Marines were reborn on 1 February 1944 when it was reconstituted from units of the 1st Raider Regiment on Guadalcanal under the command of Lt. Colonel Alan Shapley. The Raider regiment’s battalions had fought at Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and Bougainville. Following its initial operation in its new capacity, an unopposed seizure of Emirau Island, the regiment returned to Guadalcanal where it was integrated into the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade on 19 April 1944. The 1st Provisional Brigade was assigned to southern beaches in the Agat-Bangi Point area for the assault on Guam."
While on Bougainville Jungle Rot plagued Will. He and other affected Marines required treatment back at Guadalcanal that consisted of putting their legs in a metal basin of water with an electrical current flowing through to clean out the ulcerated sores. Will talked about squeezing the sores and having contests to see who could hit the top of the tent first. He also said that you could see right down to the bone. In his own words: "In December of 1943, while in combat on Bougainville, my legs below the knees became ulcerated (at least thirty ulcers on each leg). By the time I got back to our base on Guadalcanal, my legs were swelled at least twice normal with a goose egg in each groin. I was treated nearly every other day for over a month. The corpsman would clean out each ulcer and then put a band on my leg wired to 110V, put my leg into a box of water, leaving each one in about ten minutes, then cover the leg with sulfa ointment and loosely bandage until the next treatment." During Will's service on the islands it is documented that he contracted Dengue Fever. Of this he wrote: "After a combat mission to Emireau Island, I suffered from dengue fever for about one month." His experience on Guam would stay with him and affect him in various ways for the rest of his life.
Lieutenant Colonel Shapley’s 4th Marines were in the first assault waves that hit the beaches on 21 July 1944. As the regiment moved inland it encountered stiff resistance and the heavy fighting continued throughout the day. During the ensuing night the 4th Marines successfully withstood several enemy counterattacks. The following day the regiment reached the top of Mount Alifan across difficult terrain and secured the entire ridge line. Shortly before daybreak on 26 July, the 4th Marines led off the offensive on the Orote Peninsula. This objective was finally taken on the 29th. The end of organized resistance on Guam was announced on 10 August. The job of mopping up Japanese survivors remained and the regiment stayed on Guam for nearly three weeks to aid in this task. In his words: "About April 25, 1944 I went aboard ship for the Marianas operation. We hit the beach at Agat, Guam July 21. 1944. Around July 26 1944, in the middle of the night, I accidentally shot and killed my squad leader and good friend as he was coming in from down the lines. Just before that, a shell hit a tree and wounded my buddy who was on the same machine gun with me. Another person I was rather close to was killed, and the next day, my section sergeant was shot and fell next to me. He handed me his 38 revolver and that was the last I saw of him. Everyone that I was close to was gone in that twelve-hour period. From then on, I can't remember any names or faces, but I can remember what happened. After another few days (maybe a week) I started shaking pretty regularly--I shrugged it off to being scared, although this had never happened to me before. After another week or two I was out on patrol about a half mile in front of the lines and I passed out. How the people got me back, I'll never know. I wound up in a field hospital with Cerebral Malaria and received a good amount of blood at that time. From then on my memory fails me. I'm quite sure that I was taken to a mobile hospital at Guadalcanal and to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. After that I was transfered to San Diego Naval Hospital. Apparently, I had no conception of elapsed time."
Psychologically Will was a mess. Within a 24 hour period on Guam he lost two of his best friends and two were wounded. For most of his adult years he believed he fired one of those fatal shots. The iron clad rule in the Raiders was that anyone above ground after dark was shot. Without this rule the enemy could easily attack and kill after dark. If someone had to get out of his fox-hole at night word was to be sent down the line. Unfortunately this night word never was passed on to Will so he fired when he heard sounds, just as he was trained to do. The next day his friend was found dead. Will carried this burden with him, never talking about it until his mid-forties. He went on fighting until he was so ill with Cerebral Malaria that he was literally out of his mind. He was found at the top of a cocnut tree raving incomprehensibly. At the time his superiors thought he was suffering from severe post traumatic stress. He was put in lock-up on a ship full of men who were mentally ill and sent to a hospital in San Diego.
Will later recounted to his daughter that he knew he was physically ill but he was unable to communicate that to anyone. Once in San Diego he was again put him in lock-up. Finally, one of his buddies convinced the doctors that Will was not mentally ill. Once the Cerebral Malaria was discovered Will was given quinine and he began to recover. Decades later he ran into this same buddy. Unbeknownst to him his friend had spent time with him in San Diego when he was hospitalized. Much of his personal information came from this meeting.
Ninty-five percent of those who contract Cerebral Malaria never recover. Will was left with high blood pressure, terrible headaches, black-outs, sweating and the shakes along with a mirad of mental and personality changes. For the remainder of his life his war time maladies would follow him casting a shadow over all of his pursuits.