William A. Campbell (Tuskegee Airman)

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This article is about Colonel William A. Campbell, U.S. Army Air Force pilot. For William A. Campbell, the Canadian politician, see William A. Campbell.
William A. Campbell
Nickname(s) Wild Bill Campbell
Born (1917-04-12)April 12, 1917
Tuskegee, Alabama
Died April 24, 2012(2012-04-24) (aged 95)
Phoenix, Arizona
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Service/branch United States Army Air Force
Years of service 1942-1970
Rank Colonel
Unit 332nd Fighter Group
Awards
Spouse(s) Wilma Jean Burton
Relations William A. Campbell, Jr. (son), Stephen Campbell (son), and David Campbell (son)

Colonel William A. "Bill" Campbell (April 12, 1917 – April 24, 2012) was a highly decorated member of the famed group of World War II-era African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He had a long and storied military career, having served as a wingman in the first combat mission of the Tuskegee Airmen, risen to the rank of Group Commander of the 332nd Fighter Group shortly after World War II, and then serving in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

William A. Campbell was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on April 12, 1917, the fourth child of Thomas Monroe Campbell, the first Cooperative Extension Agent in the United States,[1][2] and Anna Campbell. In total, he had five siblings, including two younger than himself.[3]

Education[edit]

Campbell attended elementary and high school in Tuskegee, Alabama.[3] He then matriculated at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute from which he graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in Business in 1937.[3][4]

Military career[edit]

99th Fighter Squadron patch

Following his graduation from the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Campbell went to work as a clerk for the U.S. Dept. of Agricultural Extension. During his time working for Agricultural Extension, he encountered an opportunity to enroll in the Tuskegee Army Air Field class SE-42-F. He graduated from the program on July 3, 1942 as a Second Lieutenant.[3][4] Campbell was then assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the 33d Fighter Group, which was stationed in Farjouna, Tunisia in 1943.[3] Due to the distinctive red paint on the tails of their planes, the 99th Pursuit Squadron came to be known as the "Redtails.[3]

Campbell flew in the first combat mission of the 99th Pursuit Squadron on June 2, 1943 as they served as wingmen to pilots of the 332d Fighter Group during WWII.[4]

Campbell, Spann Watson, and Herbert V. Clark were given orders to return to the United States to train replacement pilots. They left the European theater on November 5, 1943[5] and reported for duty to the 553d Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Michigan in December 1943.[6]

Campbell returned to the Europe in 1944 as a Captain and, on October 11, 1944, joined the 332d Fighter Group as it made a strafing run on targets on the railroads and on the Danube River from Budapest to Bratislava.[7] The mission successfully destroyed 17 enemy airplanes on the ground.[7] Eighteen days later, he assumed command of the 99th Fighter Group as a full Major, replacing Captain Alfonza W. Davis, on October 29, 1944.[8]

Campbell received the Distinguished Flying Cross on New Year's Day 1945; the medal was presented to him by Brigadier General Dean C. Strother.[9]

Three months later, on March 31, 1945, Campbell participated in a mission of the 332d Fighter Group to destroy railroad and other targets in the area surrounding Munich, Germany.[10] The mission successfully shot down 13 enemy fighters; Campbell was credited for one of the 13 kills.[10]

On April 15, 1945, Campbell participated in another strafing mission of railroad targets in the areas around Munich, Salzburg, Linz, Pilzen, and Regensburg.[11] For his actions, Campbell earned his second Distinguished Flying Cross.[12] He became the first African American pilot to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross when he was officially awarded the oak leaf cluster to his cross on May 29, 1945.[13]

Over the course of World War II, Campbell actively served in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns and flew 106 missions, becoming the first African-American pilot to drop a bomb on enemy targets in United States history.[3]

Following World War II, Maj. Campbell assumed the position of Group Commander of the 332nd Fighter Group on August 28, 1947.[4][14] Campbell went on to fight in two more wars during his military career, as he served in both Korea and Vietnam.[4] He remained in the service until 1970, reaching the rank of full Colonel.

After his retirement from active duty in 1970, Campbell taught Defense Resource Management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California for 13 years[3] and was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Commission established by the State of Alabama.[4]

Marriage and Children[edit]

He married Wilma Jean Burton from Chicago in September 1946. He and his wife had three sons: William A. Campbell, Jr., Stephen Campbell, and David Campbell.[3]

Death and Legacy[edit]

Colonel Campbell died at the age of 95 on April 24, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[3] The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. was renamed in his honor.[15] Colonel Campbell's personal papers documenting his military career, the Tuskegee Airmen and their service, as well as his personal life were donated to the University of California, Riverside.[4]

Awards[edit]

Col. Campbell received numerous medals and awards during his military career, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and 13 Air Medal clusters.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Campbell, T. M. (1969, 1936). The Movable School Goes to The Negro Farmer. New York - Tuskegee Institute: Arno Press & The New York Times - Tuskegee Institute Press.
  2. ^ Rasmussen, W. D. (1989). Taking the University to the People - Seventy-five Years of Cooperative Extension. Ames: Iowa State University.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "William A. Campbell Obituary". The Monterey Herald. Retrieved November 16, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Guide to the William A. Campbell Papers". University of California, Riverside Libraries. Retrieved November 16, 2013. 
  5. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 24. 
  6. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 26. 
  7. ^ a b Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 57. 
  8. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 60. 
  9. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 65. 
  10. ^ a b Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 76. 
  11. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 80. 
  12. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 81. 
  13. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 85. 
  14. ^ Haulman, Daniel L. (2013). Tuskegee Airmen Chronology (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency. p. 89. 
  15. ^ "Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. William "Bill" Campbell Chapter". Retrieved 21 November 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

Books, Articles, and Reports[edit]

  • Tuskegee Airmen Chronology / Daniel L. Haulman. -- Organizational History Branch, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-642424, July 2013

Audiovisual Materials[edit]

Archival Resources[edit]

External links[edit]