William T. Whisner, Jr.
|William T. Whisner, Jr.|
|Service/branch|| United States Army
United States Air Force
|Battles/wars||World War II
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross|
William T. Whisner, Jr. was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on 17 October 1923 to William Whisner, Sr. and Eloise Whisner. In his youth, Whisner was an active member of the local Boy Scouts of America, eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout in that program. Growing up in Shreveport, Whisner attended C. E. Byrd High School, becoming active in the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. It was during this involvement that Whisner developed an interest in becoming a military aviator.
Immediately upon graduating from high school, Whisner applied for the United States Army Air Forces cadet program, being accepted and began his training on 8 April 1942. Whisner first began Primary Flight Training training at the Lafayette Municipal Airport in Lafayette, Louisiana, getting his first flight time aboard PT-17 and PT-19 trainer aircraft. Following the successful completion of this training, he underwent Basic Combat Training at Greenville Army Airfield in Greenville, Mississippi. After this training, Whisner attended Advanced Flight Training at Napier Field, Alabama flying the AT-6 Texan. Whisner completed his training on 16 February 1943 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Whisner's first assignment in the Air Corps was sent to Westover Field in Springfield, Massachusetts for operational training, where he learned to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft. With this training complete, he was assighed to the 34th Fighter Squadron at LaGuardia Field in New York City, New York. The squadron was in the process of training for deployment in support of World War II. The unit was later redesignated the 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group.
World War II
With the unit's training completed, the 352nd Fighter Group boarded the troopship RMS Queen Elizabeth in June 1943. The group landed in the United Kingdom, and was assigned to RAF Bodney in Watton, Norfolk, under the operational control of the 67th Fighter Wing, VIII Fighter Command. Throughout the summer, Whisner and his fellow aviators were occupied in training flights over England, where they acclimated to flying in unfamiliar weather. This training was completed on 9 September 1943 and the group flew its first combat mission on that date.
From September 1943 through January 1944, Whisner and the group saw limited success, as the P-47s were limited in range and few Luftwaffe patrols of Nazi German pilots appeared over Norfolk. In its first four months of short-range patrols, the 352nd Fighter Group had 23 confirmed victories, two probable victories, and two German aircraft damaged.
In late January 1944, the US Army Air Corps adapted a new strategy for P-47s to escort bombing runs as they returned from their missions. The first attempted mission, on 24 January, was disrupted by bad weather. On 29 January, 13 P-47 and P-51 Mustang fighter groups escorted a bombing mission of B-17 Flying Fortresses to Frankfurt, Germany, and Whisner was among the pilots in the group. German aircraft launched heavy resistance against the bombing, and it would be the first time he could engage enemy aircraft. Whisner and the 352nd Fighter Group joined the mission over Namur, Belgium, as the bomber group was already under attack. Whisner, who was the wingman of Captain George Preddy, joined the chaotic battle, and within 10 minutes Whisner spotted two Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters which had just shot down a B-17. Whisner pursued one of the Fw 190s down to 1,000 feet (300 m), pursuing it closely as it attempted evasive maneuvers. As the Fw 190 attempted to dive behind a bank of clouds, Whisner struck it with three bursts from his machine gun, and it descended to 800 feet (240 m) before its pilot bailed out. By the end of the day, The American pilots claimed 47 German aircraft destroyed and 5 probables, losing 14 of their own.
By March 1944, the 352nd Fighter Group had 63 victories to its pilots, but senior leaders felt it was under-performing, so the group was equipped with P-51 Mustangs. It was customary for pilots to nickname and decorate their own aircraft, but a command decision compelled Whisner to name his aircraft "Princess Elizabeth" in honor of an anticipated visit by Elizabeth II. Over the next month, the squadron saw much greater success, and Whisner was among the pilots to benefit. On 9 April, Whisner and Preddy were on an escort mission over Belgium when they spotted an airfield which the flight attacked. In five passes, Whisner destroyed two Junkers Ju 88 dive bombers and damaged a nearby barracks. The group eventually claimed 12 aircraft destroyed and one probable in the attack. On 30 April, during an attack on an airfield in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Whisner shot down an Fw 190 which was attempting to attack the bombers. The 352nd ended the month with 107 victories and 4 probables, and 62 aircraft damaged Whisner was certified a flying ace.
In May, Whisner and the group continued aggressive bombing missions, and while he was unable to get any aerial victories, he was credited with destroying several ground targets. On 10 May, Whisner was a part of an attack on an airfield in Frankenhausen, Germany when he destroyed a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka on the ground. During another mission 24 May, Whisner was credited with destroying seven locomotives and damaging three others during an attack on a German railyard, as well as destroying a railroad station, a tugboat and a gun emplacement. On 29 May the group escorted a flight of B-24 Liberators over Glastrow, Germany when they were met by 40 German fighters. Whisner engaged an Fw 190 at 26,000 feet (7,900 m). The pilot was extremely skilled, but Whisner managed to strike the Fw 190 with six bursts of machine gun fire, destroying the aircraft. The next day, on a mission against a fuel depot and aircraft production complex in Magdeburg, Germany, and during the subsequent heavy engagement, Whisner and Preddy shared a victory, making Whisner's total victory count 6.5.
In June, Whisner flew missions in support of the allied invasion of Normandy. For the first week of the month the group supported attacks to soften German defenses in France and Belgium. Following Operation Overlord, Whisner conducted bombing and strafing missions in close air support of ground forces. Flying multiple missions a day, Whisner assisted in the destruction of a convoy on 7 June, with 15 vehicles credited to him. On 13 June, Whisner was given three months shore leave in the United States, having completed his first tour of duty.
Whisner returned to England in late September. By this time, however, the Luftwaffe had taken heavy losses and was opposing allied pilots far less often. Whisner flew his first combat mission on 28 September, shortly after being promoted to Captain. The 352nd Group was not credited with destroying any aircraft until 1 November.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
- Lorenz, William E.; Oliver, Dwight L. (1999), The Inner Seven: The History of Seven Unique American Combat 'Aces' of World War II and Korea, Nashville, Tennessee: Turner Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1563115042
- Werrell, Kenneth P. (2005), Sabres Over MiG Alley: The F-86 and the Battle for Air Superiority in Korea, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1-59114-933-0