Gerald Evan Williams
Gerald Evan Williams
Col. Gerald E. Williams circa 1943
December 17, 1907|
|Died||February 17, 1949
|Buried at||Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery|
|Years of service||1931-1949|
|Awards||Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters|
|Spouse(s)||Marjorie Parker Williams|
|Other work||Assistant Air Attaché to American Embassy in Buenos Aires|
Gerald Evan Williams (December 17, 1907 – February 17, 1949) was an American officer in the Ninth Air Force during World War II.
Background and family
Gerald Evan Williams was born in Bridgewater, Maine to Myron Luther Williams and Lottie Belle "Belle" (Barrett) Williams. His father's family had lived in Bradford, Maine since before the Civil War, but in his teens Myron moved to the rural potato-growing area of Bridgewater, where he lived with his sister's family, before his marriage. Belle Williams was born in Bridgewater, the daughter of a Canadian-born farmer. Myron Williams worked as a potato buyer. Myron and Belle moved their young family to Presque Isle in 1917, establishing a laundry business in an older section of town. Gerald Williams graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1925 and then studied for a year at Hebron Academy, where he helped the academy win the state championship in football. Congressman Ira G. Hersey of Houlton nominated Williams for appointment to the United States Military Academy.
West Point and Army Air Corps
Gerald Evan Williams entered U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1926 and graduated with a B.S. degree with the class of 1931. He completed the academic work, while playing football four years, lacrosse two years, and wrestling two years. Shortly before graduation, he was described in the USMA Annual as "[a] cynic, [and] bon vivant, who would rather be wrong than gregarious, rather be right than acquiescent."
Following his graduation from West Point, Williams enlisted as a 2nd Lt., in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was assigned to the Flying Service at Randolph, San Antonio, Texas on September 11, 1931 and trained in attack, bombardment, and pursuit groups. He completed Air Corps Primary Flying School, Air Corps Advanced Flying School, and Bombardment Course in 1932, with his advanced flight trainings undertaken at Kelly Field. He would soon demonstrate his skill with multi-engined aircraft (i.e., medium and heavy bombers).
|Luke Field, Kaalawai, Hawaii,||bef. 1933|
|20th Bombardment Squadron.||Langley Field, VA||bef. 1937|
|99 Reconnaissance Squadron (ACC)||Piarco Field, Trinidad||Oct 1941|
|9 Operations Group||Waller Field, Trinidad
Orlando AB, FL
|391st Bombardment Group||Matching, Essex England||26 Jan 1944-1 Oct 1944|
|391st Bombardment Group||Royal Army Airfield, France||19 Sep 1944 -22 Apr 1945|
|47 Operations Group||Biggs Field, TX||Aug 1946|
Williams was stationed at Luke Field, Kaalawai, Hawaii, where he married Marjorie Parker in April 1933. Williams was rated command pilot, combat observer, navigator (celestial and dead reckoning), bombardier and unlimited pilot.
Williams was next assigned to Langley Field, VA with the 20th Bombardment Squadron. In February 1937 he served as navigator for a flight from Langley Field to Panama, participating in the then-longest non-stop army flight. He experimented and he learned. On a flight in the North American BT-9B from Virginia to San Antonio, Texas, it was reported in the Air Corps News Letter,
"On two legs of the flight he encountered icing conditions, and while the plane picked up considerable ice the flying characteristics did not appear to be affected. The carburetor heat control, however, was entirely inadequate, and time and again with the carburetor heat full on, the carburetor iced up sufficiently to lose flying power. The opening of the mixture control, however, caused the engine to backfire, clearing the ice out of the carburetor."
|Lieut. Col.||Army||1 May 1944|
|Major||Army||18 Mar. 1943|
|Col.||Army||4 Jan. 1943|
|Lieut. Col.||Army||23 Jan. 1942|
|Major (temp.)||Army||15 Jul. 1941|
|Capt.||Army.||11 Jun. 1941|
|Capt.||Army||9 Sept. 1940|
|1 Lieut.||Army||1 Aug. 1935|
|1 Lieut.(temp)||Army||18 May 1935-31 Jul 1935|
|2 Lieut.||Air Corps||25 Jan. 1933|
|2 Lieut.||Infantry||11 Jun 1931|
1938 Goodwill flight to Argentina
In 1938 Williams was honored as a 1st Lieutenant, to be chosen one of the pilots of a pioneering flight of six early YB-17A "Flying Fortress" four-engined heavy bombers. Part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's prescient Hemispheric Defense Initiative, the history-making flight commanded by Col. Robert Olds traveled 6,000 miles from Langley Field, Virginia, to Lima, Peru and Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Roberto M. Ortiz was being inaugurated as president. The feat was widely publicized, and an Air Corps newsletter provided lengthy descriptions.
"On a bitingly cold Tuesday morning, at 9 o'clock, February 15, to be exact, the last of the six Boeings lifted gracefully into the air headed south for Miami. This departure was an example of all of the other take-offs of the flight. They were two minutes apart, the flight commander being the first to push the nose of his flying fortress into the cold ozone. With him he carried the greetings of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt to the President-elect of the Argentine, Roberto Ortiz."
"As the planes flew toward the appointed rendezvous at Point Salinas, just north of Lima, thousands of Peruvian officials and aviation fans at the Loma Tambo airport were eagerly awaiting the visitors from the Big neighbor of the North. Where frightened civilians in other countries during the past quarter century scanned the skies with dread, these friendly people were eagerly awaiting these Ambassadors of Good Will, who were bringing not bombs but messages of Friendship. Landing at 4:25 PM, the six planes made the record non-stop flight of 2695 miles in 15 hours and 32 minutes."
Williams' accomplishments and skill were becoming legendary. Two years later in a landing at Presque Isle, Maine by Lieut. Williams and Capt. Neil B. Harding, a newspaper article proclaimed, "Famed Aviator Visits His Home Town."
"The purpose of the extended navigation trip is to determine the suitability of the new type drift meter and periodic compass. the trip up was by day to try it out for daytime use."
Ninth Bomb Group
By 1940, Williams was a captain and served with the Ninth Bomb Group in 1940-1941 in Panama and the Caribbean. In 1941, the United States Army Signal Corps released a photograph of Army planes arriving at Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana. Williams, by then a major, was shown on guard duty with the plane.
World War II
During the Second World War, Williams became a renowned officer in the U.S. Army Air Forces' Ninth Air Force as commander of the B-26 'Marauder' twin engined medium bombers of the 391st Bombardment Group of the Ninth Bomb Group. from 1943 to 1945. He personally led more than 75 missions, often placing himself as lead pilot in his B-26 Lady Belle on low-level bombing runs against heavily defended Axis targets in Occupied France. The Lady Belle, was named after his mother, Belle Williams.
Williams' Marauders were known as the "Black Death" group. As a California newspaper reported, "In less than eight months of operation the Black Death's Marauders carried destruction to 167 German targets." Williams was awarded a Bronze Star medal "for meritorious achievement in direct support of combat operations against the enemy from December 23 to December 26, 1944." Citing over 200 missions by Williams' B-26 Marauder group, the late December attack at Ahrweiler, Germany was notable.
"The viaduct was wiped out, but the Marauders were jumped by 50 to 100 Luftwaffe fighters in the 'Black Death' group for the bitterest battle of its combat history. Their guns accounted for at least 11 German fighters and four probables. The group, however suffered its heaviest losses since being in operation. Under Col. Williams 'superior leadership and his superb power of organization' the group went back the same day to Germany for a second mission to successfully blast a heavily defended town. Then for three succeeding days Williams' Marauders dealt four smashing blows at German targets without losses."
Williams won Distinguished Flying Crosses from both the USAAF (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), as well as from the Royal Air Force, and the Croix de Guerre from liberated France. Thus three nations paid tribute to his valor and leadership.
Col. Williams has received the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission May 9, when, according to the citation, he 'led a group against heavily defended enemy installations in occupied France. During the attack his aircraft was severely damaged by flak, his navigator wounded. Disregarding his own personal safety, determined only to lead his group successfully against the enemy target, he continued the bomb run and found the target with devastating effect.'"
The raid on the bridge at Nantes, France, on July 31, 1944 resulted in the second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster added to his Distinguished Flying Cross. Williams believed that the success of the attack would be jeopardized if he relinquished his lead position. He thus "retained control of his battered bomber and led his formation over the bridge, blasting it out of the water."
"The inexorable determination, outstanding skill and unhesitating courage of the officers and men of the group in so brilliantly carrying the attack to the enemy is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army Air Forces."
The citation continued:
"[A]lthough his formation was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire, Colonel Williams gallantly led his formation to attack the assigned target with superior bombing results. The bombs were released on three road intersections and twenty-seven large buildings were left blazing after the devastating attack. Colonel Williams' fortitude and extreme determination in the face of overwhelming odds contributed materially to the success of joint air-ground operations in the Ardennes Salient and his courageous leadership and coolness under fire reflect high credit upon himself and the Army Air Forces."
After the war
In 1945 Williams was appointed commander of the Rapid City Army Air Base. On August 30, 1946 he became commander of the 47th Light Bombardment Group, composed of the 84th, 85th, and 86th Bomb Squadrons. 
On April 21, 1948 Williams was appointed Assistant Air Attaché to the American Embassy in Buenos Aires. He worked under Brigadier General B. H. Hovey, the U.S. air attaché. On February 17, 1949, Williams, his wife and six other Air Force officers and enlisted men, were killed when the Air Force C-47 transport piloted by Williams crashed on an Andean mountain in northwestern Argentina, on a flight from Panama en route to Buenos Aires. Williams and his wife were buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. The Congregational Church in Presque Isle, Maine held a memorial service at 11:00 on a Wednesday morning—the very same time as the funeral services in San Antonio.
- "99 Reconnaissance Squadron (Acc)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 23 Feb 2013.
- "Historical Data Pertaining To The 391st Bombardment Group". B26.COM. Retrieved 24 Feb 2013.
- "47 Operations Group(Acc)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 23 Feb 2013.
- "Silver Star Citation for Gerald E. Williams". Military Times Hall of Valour. Military Times Network. Retrieved 18 Feb 2013.
- United States Adjutant General's Office (1946). Official Army Register. Washington,D.C.: Government Printing Office.
- "47th Group Chief Is West Point Graduate". El Paso Herald. 11 Oct 1946. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
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- "1860 Census Bradford, Penobscot, Maine". 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- "1900; Census Bridgewater, Aroostook, Maine". 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- Maine State Archives. "Record of a Live Birth". Maine, Birth Records, 1621-1922 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 18 Feb 2013.
- "1910; Census Bridgewater, Aroostook, Maine". 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- "1920; Census Presque Isle, Aroostook, Maine". 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- "Been Assigned to Flying Service". Presque Isle Star-Herald. 27 Aug 1931.
- "Lieut. Williams, Presque Isle, Is Pilot on Good Will Flight". Bangor Daily News. 23 Feb 1938.
- United States Military Academy (1927). Official Register of Officers and Cadets. West Point, NY: United States Military Academy Publishing Office.
- "Gerald Evan Williams, USMA '31". Eulogies. West-Point.org. Retrieved 16 Feb 2013.
- The Howitzer, Annual of the Corps of Cadets. West Point, NY: US Military Academy. 1931.
- "'Airplane Pilots' in the Regular Army". Bangor Daily News. Oct 1932.
- "Local Pilot and Wife Killed in Transport Crash". Presque Isle Star-Herald. 24 Feb 1949.
- "9 Operations Group (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 23 Feb 2013.
- Headquarters Ninth Air Force (6 Apr 1945). "Press Release". European Theatre of Operations.
- "Experiences in Bad Weather Flying". Air Corps News Letter: 7. 1 Jan 1938.
- "Flying Fortress, Commander and Maine Pilot". Portland Press Herald. 17 Feb 1938.
- "The Argentine Flight". Air Corps News Letter. 21 (5): 1–2, 18–19. 1 Mar 1938.
- "Goodwill Flight Planned By Army Planes To Argentina". Evening Leader [Corning, NY]. 11 Feb 1938. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "Army Bombers in Non-Stop Hop Near Peru Goal". Citizen-Advertizer [Auburn, NY]. 17 Feb 1938. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "6 Bombers Land in Buenos Aires". New York Evening Post. 18 Feb 2013. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "Your Visas Gentlemen! Bombers off for Buenos Aires". Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, NY]. 17 Feb 1938. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "Army Bomber at Presque Isle Field". Bangor daily news. 19 October 1940.
- "Famed Aviator Visits in His Home Town". Presque Isle Star-Herald. Oct 1940.
- "United States Army Lands in Giana by Sea and Air". Dallas Morning News. 5 Dec 1941. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- "Tacoman Killed". Seattle Daily Times. 19 Feb 1949. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- Craig, Elizabeth May (10 August 1944). "Col. Gerald Williams Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for Action Over France". Presque Isle Star- Herald.
- "Officer from Knights Ferry is Promoted to First Lieutenant". Modesto Bee and News-Herald. 10 Oct 1944. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "Presque Isle Officer Awarded Bronze Star". News Clipping. 8 Feb 1945.
- "Aircraft Armorer". Evening Recorder. 24 Feb 1945. Retrieved 18 Feb 2013.
- Maurer, Maurer (Ed.) (1961). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 106.
- Grodecki, Maj. Thomas S. (1988). Military Observers 1815-1975 (PDF). Washington, D.C: Center of Military History.
- Wilson, David (19 Feb 1949). "Eight Feared Crash Victims". Lubbock Morning Avalanche. Retrieved 21 Feb 2013.
- "Air Attache Killed With Wife in Crash". San Diego Union. 19 Feb 1949. Retrieved 17 Feb 2013.
- "Hold Memorials Here for Plane Crash Victims.". Presque Isle Star-Herald. February 1949.
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