Lieut William Monson “Bill” Armstrong

Lieut William Monson “Bill” Armstrong

Birth
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington, USA
Death 19 Aug 2013 (aged 89)
Orting, Pierce County, Washington, USA
Burial Kent, King County, Washington, USA
Plot Sec. B Row B site 110
Memorial ID 116804249 · View Source
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Lieutenant, USAAC, 737th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Group, 304th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, 1943-1945. Bombardier. B-24 and B-17 aircraft. Africa and Italy. Honorably discharged as a 1st LT.

Decorations: EAME Ribbon WD Cir 62/44, AM, 15AF GO 196 w/2 OLC, Purple Heart GO 26 Fld Hosp 30 May 44, Victory Medal and American Theater Ribbon.

Received the Air Medal first Oak Leaf Cluster (Bronze) on June 23, 1944 for meritorious achievement in aerial flight while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy between the dates as indicated, and/or, for meritorious achievement in aerial flight while performing an act of merit as indicated: Missing in Action 19 March 1944 to 20 April 1944.

Bill joined the USAAC in San Francisco in June 1942. He enlisted in the Pilot training program, but due to a critical shortage of Navigators and Bombardiers, Bill along with many others, were reassigned. August 1943 he received his Wings at Midland, Texas. In December 1943 he left Mitchell Field, arriving in Foggia, Italy sometime in January. Bill's first combat missions were flown out of Tunis, North Africa.

On May 19,1944, his B-24 (42-78193) was shot down on a mission flown out of San Giovanni Air Base in Italy, to hit a partially sunken Heavy Cruiser in the harbor of Genoa. The plane with crew was reported missing in action, and next of kin were informed.

This was Bill's twenty-first mission. Of those, four were to Ploesti, Romania and two were to Vienna, Austria. "You had to beat the flak, then you had to face the JU-88's equipped with rockets." "On targets such as Ploesti or Vienna, flak would be so thick that it would blot out the sun." "Over the Alps at 25,000 feet...often the electronic suits would malfunction due to short circuits, with frost bite the result."

The B-24 was badly shot-up by 88mm flak and JU-88's. With all the engines out, all the controls out except the elevators, and the bomb bay doors stuck in the open position, they had to "fly it right into the water to avoid a stall".

After impact Bill found himself in deep water - all black. Which way up? When he finally reached the surface: "I see the airplane - nose to forward bomb bay, and one wing up, but just going under. One of the guys was holding on to the wing. The wing went, and he went down with it. We had a new navigator with us and he died in the crack-up."

Six men initially surfaced from the crash. All were injured. Bill's injuries included several broken ribs; broken left and right clavicle (collarbone); cracked tibia; broken nose; broken teeth.

All but one of the remaining aircrew were able to inflate and board a ten man life raft. Due to his injuries, one man (believed to be the Co-Pilot) was only able to hang-on to the raft. As they tried to bring him aboard there was an explosion - thought to be a 20mm shell. The raft was suddenly full of holes. That man went down with the raft when it sank, the rest were all back into the water.

After approximately four hours clinging to a "walk around" oxygen bottle for flotation, Bill along with the Pilot, Radio Operator and Tail Gunner were spotted by the Pilot of a patrolling P-39 Air Cobra responding to thier mayday distress call. He dropped a life raft to them that immediately sank.

A British Air/Sea Rescue Supermarine Walrus amphibious biplane was dispatched to pick them up. Once the four were aboard, the aircraft began taking on water and was now too heavy to fly. To save his own aircraft, the Pilot ordered the men back into the water. A British Medical PT boat had arrived in the meantime. A life raft was sent to transfer them over. After two trips with the raft, the surviving crew were taken to safety and much needed care at a British Field Hospital for sailors located on the island of Ischia where Bill remained about a month. He was released in the middle of June, but grounded for the next 3 months.

When his tour of duty was completed Bill returned home aboard the ocean liner "SS America"* to West Hampton Roads on the Chesapeake Bay, and then by train to the west coast. Bill was 21 years old when discharged.

(From interview December 7, 2001)

* From 1941 - 1946 the "SS America" was renamed the "USS West Point" by the US Navy for use as a troop transport.

___________________________________________________________________________

Bill attended Broadway High School in Seattle, Washington where he was a notable Pitcher on the school Baseball team. (Known as Shirt-Tail Bill)

He received a baseball scholarship from Salinas Junior College, and was recruited by a Pacific Coast League team. Injuries he suffered in the war would end his pursuit of a career in Baseball.

After the war, Bill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Engineering from the University of Washington (U.W.), and went to work for the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company. Years later he returned to the U.W., and earned his Master of Arts degree. Bill spent his working career with Boeing, retiring as a Manager in Manufacturing Design Engineering.


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Inscription

ARMSTRONG
WILLIAM M.
LT. USAAF
WORLD WAR II
AM W/1 OLC
1923 2013
BELOVED
HUSBAND & DAD


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  • Maintained by: H T
  • Originally Created by: Donald Miller
  • Added: 9 Sep 2013
  • Find a Grave Memorial 116804249
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lieut William Monson “Bill” Armstrong (25 Aug 1923–19 Aug 2013), Find a Grave Memorial no. 116804249, citing Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, King County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by H T (contributor 47057229) .