William served as a Staff Sergeant & Engineer / Gunner on B-26 #40-1421, 33rd Bomber Squadron, 22nd Bomber Group, Medium, U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.
He resided in Kearney County, Nebraska prior to the war.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 20, 1940, prior to the war, at Fort Crook, Nebraska. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed in the building of aircraft and also as Single, without dependents.
B-26 #40-1421 took off, with a crew of 7, from 7 Mile Drome, Central Province, Papua New Guinea on a bombing mission against a Japanese Convoy off Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.
They were attacked, near the target, by Japanese Zeros. Over the target they were hit by anti-aircraft fire and severely damaged and had to ditch in the Hercules Bay about eleven miles off shore, two miles north of the Eia River. off Salamaua on January 7, 1943. Five of the crewmen survived the ditching and eventually four of them swam to shore.
S/Sgt. Brown, who was one of the five survivors, was shot two days after the ditching by local natives who thought he was a Japanese soldier after reaching the shore.
1st Lt. De Freese (see below), who was also one of the five survivors, had severe damage to his leg from a shell exploding inside the B-26 when they were hit by the anti-aircraft fire. He died shortly after the ditching prior to the crew swimming to shore.
William was declared "Missing In Action" after being shot during the war.
He was awarded the "Silver Star with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster" and the Purple Heart.
Service # 17004410
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Airmen who perished on B-26 #40-1421:
Brown, William M ~ S/Sgt, Engineer, NE
De Freese, Norman E ~ 1st Lt, Navigator, KS
Moseley, Jack C ~ Sgt, Bombardier, GA
Papp, Joseph P ~ S/Sgt, Radio Operator, OH
The other three crew members survived.
( Bio & Crew Report by: Russ Pickett )