|Birth: ||Nov. 27, 1919|
|Death: ||Dec. 30, 2008|
Lt Gen. William Frederick Pitts class of 1943. Retired 1975 as Commander 15th Air Force, March Air Force Base, Riverside, California
William F. Pitts Jan 1943
Cullum No. 13207 • Dec 30, 2008 • Died in Riverside, CA
Cremated. Inurned in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY
Late in World War II, B-29s from the Twentieth Air Force were returning to the Marianas after a massive bombing raid on Japan. Flak was heavy. The bombers were clear targets against high cloud cover. Enemy fighters attacked in droves.
The lead bomber for the 504th Bomb Group from Tinian was a B-29 named Dina Might. It was shot down in flames as it was approaching the Japanese coast line abeam Nagoya. The attacking Japanese fighter was shot down as well, but the aircrew was forced to bail out of the burning aircraft at about 8,000 feet. The last man to parachute was the aircraft commander. The aircraft blew up ten seconds later. The largest pieces to hit the water were the four engines: plop, plop, plop, plop, Japanese ships roared out to capture the survivors and seal their fate, but the submarine USS Springer picked them up in shallow water close to shore and got them away. The B-29 crew later thanked their aircraft commander effusively for forcing them all to learn to swim. The aircraft commander was Bill Pitts from the Class of Jan ’43. It was his 25th mission.
William Frederick Pitts, the second son of LT and Mrs. Younger A. Pitts, was born at historic March Field on 27 Nov 1919. Bill got his first ride in an airplane when he was ten years old and was hooked for life on flying. Like his classmates, he sought an appointment to West Point from everywhere; in 1939 he won one from the Louisiana National Guard.
As a cadet he excelled in many sports, including football, baseball and, especially, swimming. Like half his classmates, he chose a flying career and was one of the cadets in the Class of January 1943 who won their wings in 1942 and came back to West Point proudly wearing them for their last few weeks as cadets. His father, COL Y. A. Pitts, pinned Bill’s wings on at Victorville.
His roommate at West Point, Jack Shaffer, described Bill as a man who “accepted everything with philosophical good humor; a man with contagious enthusiasm in all undertakings, a man always willing to lend a helping hand.”
After World War II, Bill dealt successfully with rapidly increasing responsibilities. In November 1948, he went to the Army Language School in the Presidio of Monterey, CA, to learn Spanish. It was there he married Doris Mansfield, in the Presidio Chapel on 22 Dec 1948. Upon graduation, he was ordered to Havana, as assistant air attache to Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In 1953, Bill took over the 44th Bomb Squadron, 40th Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command, at Smoky Hill AFB, flying the B-47. By 1961, Bill was serving as the vice commander of the 100th Bomb Wing, SAC, at Pease AFB.
Upon graduation from the National War College in 1962, Bill was assigned as Chief, Senate Liaison Office, for the Air Force and later promoted to brigadier general. In 1966 Bill was ordered to Taiwan as both commander of 327th Air Division, Thirteenth Air Force, and chief, Air Force section, Military Advisory Group, Republic of China, under CINCPAC. In 1967 he returned to the Pentagon to become director of budget, HQ USAF and was promoted to major general in 1969.
In 1971 Bill went to London as commander, Third Air Force, USAFE, and he and Doris were presented to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. In June 1972, Bill was ordered to Izmir, Turkey, as commander of the Sixth Allied Tactical Air Forces with the rank of lieutenant general. This NATO command included all Tactical Air Forces of Greece and Turkey.
In 1972 Bill returned to March AFB as Commander, Fifteenth Air Force, including all the intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic reconnaissance assets and 40% of the bombers and tankers in the Strategic Air Command. He was thrilled to assume command on his 53rd birthday. The highlight of his career came on 6 Jul 1973, when he flew an SR-71 Blackbird out of Beale AFB. He retired 1 Aug 1975 at March AFB, where a stone marker now celebrates his name.
Bill went back to Washington, DC, as a civilian working for the Burroughs Corporation. He retired again in 1987 and returned to Riverside, where he began volunteer work as chairman of the board of Air Force Village West, chairman of the March Field Museum and a director of the LeMay Foundation. But he spent most of his time with Doris, with a little golf on the side.
In 2000, Bill hammered a pair of copper wings on the Famous Fliers Wall of the Mission Inn in Riverside, joining such famous aviators as Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager and Charles Lindbergh.
Bill celebrated his 60th anniversary with Doris on 22 Dec 2008. “Theirs was a love that never waned,” his daughter Dale Cowgill said. “My mother was the great love of his life. They were together for 60 years and in love. That’s how he died: holding my mother’s hand.”
Bill died from cancer and complications from a broken pelvis suffered in a September fall. He is survived by daughters Dale, Linda and Alisha, all in California; and his sister, Nanetta Atkinson
Bill Pitts divided his life into two parts: before Doris and after Doris. Before, he was a tall, adventuresome, outgoing young man imbued with the desire to live life to its fullest. After he met and married Doris, he became a loving husband and father. Through both phases ran a constant theme of devotion to his country and the highest code of personal honor. Doris passed away shortly after Bill, on 1 Mar 2009, and their ashes were jointly inurned at West Point on 18 Jun 2009.
—Alisha Pitts and classmate, Bill Stewart
Younger Arnold Pitts (1892 - 1946)
Nanetta Rings Pitts (1894 - 1945)
Doris Mansfield Pitts (1924 - 2009)
William Frederick Pitts (1919 - 2008)
James Richard Franklin Pitts (1929 - 2006)*
United States Military Academy Post Cemetery
New York, USA
Plot: Section 26, Row B.
Created by: micosay
Record added: Jul 02, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 132208688
|Photos may be scaled.|
Click on image for full size.
Added: Aug. 30, 2014
USMA Class of January 1943|
Added: Aug. 16, 2014
Rest in Peace|
Added: Jul. 2, 2014