Wynne, William “Bill”

First Lieutenant

d. January 29, 2010

US Army Air Forces


Italy, Austria


Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters and a Squadron Presidential Citation

I was accepted by the Aviation Cadets of the U.S. Air Corps in the fall of 1942 when I was 19 years old, and called into service in March, 1943. My first post was the Classification Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where you took tests to determine whether to be a Pilot, Navigator or Bombardier. I qualified for all three so I decided to be a pilot. From Nashville we went to pre-flight school at Maxwell Field, Alabama for two months then on to Primary at Clarksdale, Mississippi. At Primary we started flying a Stearman PT-17, a bi-wing, open cockpit plane. After two months at Primary, I went to basic at Courtland, Alabama where we flew Vultee BT 13s, fondly called the Vultee Vibrator. Another two months here and then on to Advanced to learn to fly the twin engine AT-10 at Seymour, Indiana. In January, 1944, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and received my pilot wings.

After graduation at Seymour, I was fortunate to be selected to go to a First-Pilot training base at Smyrna, Tennessee to learn to fly B-24 Liberators which was quite a big step up from what I was piloting in the Aviation Cadets. I completed this training and was send to Westover Field at Chicopee Falls, Mass., to begin assembling a crew of nine other fellows — Co-Pilot, Navigator, Bombardier, and six enlisted men, crew chief, radio operator, and four gunners to begin phase training in preparation for going overseas to combat.

After phase training, my crew and I picked up a brand new B-24 at Mitchell Field at Long Island, ┬áNew York. We flew the plane to Italy by way of Gander, Newfoundland, Azore Islands, Marakech, Africa, Tunis, Sicily, and finally our assigned based at Cerignola, Italy, near the Adriatic Sea. We arrived the first week of August 1944. I started flying combat missions within a few days of arrival. The tour of duty for all flying personnel was based on flying either 35 sorties or 50 missions, whichever came first. A sortie was counted each time you took off for a target and a mission was based on the length of time of the mission. As an example — Blechamer, Germany where there was a large oil refinery installation was a trip of about nine hours duration and was long enough to be recorded as one sortie or two missions. I might add that Blechamer was a very difficult target and one that we would prefer to avoid.

One mission that will always be part of my memorabilia is the one to Vienna, Austria in November of 1944. Our target was the railroad marshalling yards at Vienna. This was to be a maximum effort, meaning that the entire 15th Air Force — all heavy bombers B-24s and B-17s (Flying Fortresses) would be going on the mission. Everything was going fine — we dropped our bombs on the target and then the weather closed in on us, which makes it very dangerous to fly in formation. This means that you sort of scatter until you can reform again. One added problem for me and my crew was that while we were over the target at Vienna anti-aircraft flak blew out my windshield and knocked my helmet off. We also lost one engine to flak and one of our 2,000 pound bombs did not release from our bomb bay and was still with us. With only three engines we could not stay up with our squadron and we continued to drift further back alone. I had feathered the damaged engine, descended to a lower altitude from 25,000 feet, and had my crew chief (Tom Matson from Ohio, a wonderful guy) trip and release the hung up bomb over the Adriatic Sea. Luck and the Lord was with us that day and we all made it back safely to our base in Cerignola, Italy.

I finished my tour of duty — 35 sorties or 50 missions — the first week of December, 1944. I left Naples, Italy on a packed Army Transport and arrived home December 24, 1944. Deserved or not, I did receive some medals — Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and squadron presidential citation. I was 22 years old — where did the time go?

William (Bill) Wynne, First Lieutenant
Pilot B-24 Liberator (4 engine bomber)
15th Air Force, 459th Bomb Group, 759th Squadron