William J. Lake was one of the few remaining WWI veterans when he was interviewed back in 2003 for an upcoming book. During the interview, the 107-year old told a story of how he narrowly escaped death in what could only be described as a moment of both tragedy and sheer luck.
Hear Lake tell the story in the video clip below:
In the interview with writer Richard Rubin, Lake reminisced about what it was like fighting in the war.
“There were bullets zipping around you all the time,” Lake said. “You just never knew when you were going to get hit.”
Lake describes one situation in particular in which he and his friend were positioned near a trench. The two men climbed up a tree and sat just a few feet from one another in the hopes of eyeing down a target.
Moments later and with no warning, a German sniper killed his companion, leaving Lake awestruck and terrified.
“No more than two feet apart, and they picked him instead of me,” Lake explained. “And he fell out of the tree dead.”
What’s more, Lake was mid-conversation with the man when the incident occurred.
“They shot the guy that I was sitting there talking to,” Lake said.
Lake quickly realized the precarious position he was in, and he immediately tried to take cover.
“I moved right down because I had no idea where it was coming from,” Lake said. The only thing he attributes to his survival at that moment is luck.
“They picked him instead of me. “I was lucky, that’s all.”
Lake’s interview is part of Rubin’s book “The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War.” The book was released in 2013 and documents the firsthand accounts of the few living WWI veterans that Rubin had the chance to interview during his time researching.
The 2003 interview with Lake was conducted less than a year before the WWI veteran passed away.