I served in WW2, the Cold War, the Korean War, and part of the Vietnam War. I flew the T-6, T-28, T-37, T-33, T-38, C-45, B-25, C-47, C-54, B-29, B-50, B-47, and B-52, as an instructor pilot, for various classified missions, and the "chrome dome" patrol as part of Strategic Air command.

Please give me a minute to upload a photo for verification. Internet connection is very slow at the moment. [enjoy a potato-quality picture from my grandson's smartphone]: http://i.imgur.com/5HDGbBZ.jpg?1

My grandson /u/slapdashbr asked if I would do this to share some of my experiences with the reddit community. He is assisting by typing my responses.


edit: thanks for your questions. It's getting late here, time to watch Blue Bloods.

Comments: 236 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

poorWilson144 karma

Thank you for your service.
How old were you on D day, and how has your experience shaped your life?

wildbillpilot194 karma

Well, I was not quite 6 months past 18, and I grew up very fast.

Ultimately I was matured well beyond my years compared to my peer group. As were all of my fellow comrades.

Ntjs9598 karma

We will start this off on a positive note. What was one of your most memorable moments as a pilot?

wildbillpilot200 karma

Having to crash-land a B-29 at Yakota AB in Japan because the right gear wouldn't come down. I landed on the left main and the nose gear, but it turned into a crash. Luckily, with a crew of 13 on board we all got out safely and there was no fire. At that time the B-29 was infamous for blowing up if you put it on the ground like that.

Fortunately that was the only time I ever had to land an airplane like that.

Two crew members bailed out, although we were still in control, a navigator and one of the weather officers took the opportunity to bail out.

USAGrey75 karma

Also, those are loads of medals, thank you for the service; do you mind if I ask how you got each one? Just curious with the story behind the medal

wildbillpilot121 karma

OH good heavens! It would take too long.

Some are theater of operation ribbons, others are commendations. Including American theater, European theater, and North African theater. Both Army (1943-1948) and Air Force (1948-1965).

IAmHavox59 karma

Hi! Thanks so much for your service. Can I ask how you felt knowing the danger you were putting yourself in? Scared? Excited? How did you cope with that? I could never imagine. Thank you again.

wildbillpilot144 karma

Anybody who says he wasn't scared to death was lying. We were all very well trained, and we knew everyone else in the unit had our back and we had theirs. You could elucidate on stuff like that for hours but I'll try to answer some other questions.

The only other time I was the least bit apprehensive was the time I flew INTO a typhoon in the far east. I had always been trained as a pilot to stay away from severe weather, thunderstorms, etc. and here I am flying a B-29 into the eye of a typhoon! THAT was an experience. After that it became old hat.

wildbillpilot125 karma

To elaborate a bit on the typhoon, I was part of just about a dozen or so crews in the far east that did the same thing during the typhoon season. We had a crew of 13 men including myself, weather officers and technicians, and drop-sond operators. (a drop-sond was a technical box dropped by parachute to measure weather phenomenon such as wind, barometer pressure, etc in the eye of the storm as well as the periphery).

We would locate the eye of the storm with radar that at the time was still classified. Doppler radar was still classified at the time. We'd fly to the 50-knot wind perimeter, where 50-knot winds were blowing and fly around the storm.

The second fix we did that at 500 feet above sea level/ground elevation.

LeonNight53 karma

Of all the foreigners you served with AND against, which allies or enemies surprised you in their characters compared to how you pictured them before your contact with them? Also thanks to both of you (vet and grandson) for bringing this out to everybody!!

Edit: Can you describe being behind the lines and meeting the OSS and Maquis?

wildbillpilot84 karma

Probably the French; even though it was their country, to me they appeared to be willing to let someone else fight for it. But not all, I worked with some OSS and French "Maqis" who were so dedicated it was frightening. They met us, a team of Frenchmen and 2 OSS after we landed.

USAGrey53 karma

If you don't mind me asking, what was the most intense battle you fought in?

wildbillpilot126 karma

Well, they weren't really named... the Battle of the Bulge, it started on the 16th of December, shortly before my 19th birthday.

entgardener43 karma

I don't consider myself particularly patriotic. There are things about the US that I find hard to relate to. Which is likely a very different attitude than the one a soldier of so many wars would have. Can you tell me something about our way of life and what you've done to maintain it that might change my mind, if even a little?

wildbillpilot123 karma

I've bitched a lot about what's been happening.

I guess the easiest way to put it is that I tried to teach my four children as they grew up the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I don't think that type of training is coming from every parent.

I think the citizens of this country need to live under the Constitution and its amendments. I'm a staunch defender especially of the first, second, fourth and fifth amendments. That's what I was taught when I was a young man growing up, that's why we were willing to go into that war and fight the way we did in order to preserve it.

Watching the fact that there are attempts being made to change that are breaking my heart. I think it's wrong.

entgardener36 karma

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I wish we heard those words more often.

The amount of mud slinging and negative rhetoric that is being used right now really makes it hard to remember that we do have the right to maintain a quality life, to be independent in society and to pursue the things that make us happy.

Thank you for taking the time to remind me of that right now and for making sure I have had them in my life. I am a parent and I regularly stress these three things to my kids. I never thought of myself as particularly patriotic but maybe I am after all.

wildbillpilot46 karma

That's good to hear. I hope there are more parents like you who teach their children the bare essences of living in this country and to appreciate being born here.

iwasteabunchoftime32 karma


wildbillpilot57 karma

22 years all together, yes I enjoyed my time in the service. There were some exceptions to that when I really questioned my decision to do what I was doing, but I would have had it no other way. I was stationed at Ft. Benning GA in 1947 and had always wanted to be a pilot. The Air Force became its own department in 1947. That prompted me to transfer in-grade as a S/Sgt.

Unfortunately before that I only got to fly one-way, I didn't get to come back. Whether I started in an airplane or an old CGA-4A.

iwasteabunchoftime21 karma


wildbillpilot55 karma

The gross weight for take off of a B-52 is 225 tons. I'm sure as a trucker you have an idea how much that is.

That's why it took eight jet engines!

Cav-Medic31 karma

Hello and thank you for your service sir. Coułd you answer what Airborne Division you were in, and where you dropped on D-Day?

wildbillpilot70 karma

82nd division, near a little town in France called Huberville, near Ste. Mere Eglise, on the Cherbourg peninsula. 2 days before D-day. (on the night of June 4)

ClearlySituational30 karma

What was the process of becoming a pilot like back in the day? Did you only need a highschool deploma?

How competitive was it to become a pilot and not wash out?

wildbillpilot52 karma

You needed 2 years of college, yes it was very competitive. The wash-out rate at the time I went through was about 20-25%. I have no idea what it was before that. I was in the second OCS that the Air Force had so I went through as a Student Officer, not as an aviation cadet. Same training, but we didn't have to go through the same rigamarole. Luckily I got my college credits while still in the Army.

ClearlySituational20 karma

Ah I see. Did you always have your eyes set on bombers or did you go in wanting to fly anything else?

Are there any other aircraft you would've like to fly while in the service?

Which aircraft did you like the most for flying from point a to point b?

wildbillpilot62 karma

(he chuckles). I started flying the P-51, after training, when the Korean war started in 1950. By '52 they had me go into B-29 training, much without my approval, but I had no choice. I learned to fly the P-51 at Las Vegas Air Force Base.

The P-51 was a "pilot's airplane", I've never spoken to another pilot who has flown one who would pick another airplane over it. The only disadvantage was that it only had one engine and if it quit, the law of gravity took over.

elmanutres29 karma

What was the feeling like when the war was finally over? Especially to a soldier involved in it.

wildbillpilot87 karma

Which war? World war 2, a sense of great relief and an ambitious sense of "what can we do now to prevent another war" such as this one had been.

jjjaaammm28 karma

what year did you retire and what was your last post?

wildbillpilot89 karma

I retired in Dec 1965, my last post was the 17th bomb wing as a B-52 instructor pilot and aircraft commander. After serving in WW2, Korea, the Cold War and the Vietnam war had already started. A young co-pilot of mine was killed over Vietnam and I decided I had been lucky enough getting through two wars without injury and it would be best not to chance a third.

jjjaaammm18 karma

A few more questions if you don't mind...

1)Did you have a second career, or have you been enjoying retirement since 1965?

2)What about life in the service did you miss after retirement? What about life in the service were you happy to leave behind.

3)What was the transition from the Air Corp to the Air Force like?

Thanks for this AMA, my grandfather was in the Pacific in WWII and my uncle retired as a USAF Col. in the Air Mobility Command.

Best wishes to you and your family.

wildbillpilot54 karma

I actually wasn't in the Army Air core, I was in the infantry before transferring as a jump master at Ft. Benning.

I flew commercially for about ten years after retiring. My flying career ended after my first heart attack, during the ensuing period I owned and operated a commercial construction company. Later I was licensed as a realtor in, let me think now, 1989.

I finally retired January of last year.

What about life in the service did you miss after retirement? What about life in the service were you happy to leave behind.

I never owned a passport but I've been all over the world, I did miss that. Honestly I thought the military was a great way of life, there wasn't anything that I disliked intensely.

beingand26 karma

Thank you so much for your service! Also, thank you for doing this AMA! Just a light question: What is your favorite kind of pie?

wildbillpilot59 karma

OK, last answer: Cherry.

No need to bake any and send them to me, thanks anyway.

trollsting20 karma

What do you think of the military forces in other countries, specifically Japan and China?

wildbillpilot55 karma

The japanese self-defense force when I got over only about 7 years after WW2 was patterning itself after the American Army very successfully. They didn't have an air force or navy such as they do now.

Japanese children are brought up pretty differently than Americans, their outlook on life is different.

I'm more concerned about today's (US) Air Force and some members I've had contact with, wanting to work their job from 8am to 5pm and not worrying about whether they are really doing a good job. My career was not like that.

Dcanseco20 karma

Hi sir, thank you so much for your service, i and this country thank you immensely. Have you gone back to Normandy? If you have what was going through your head when you arrived? If you have not why not?

wildbillpilot50 karma

No I have not been able to go back; I would have loved to go back this year as one of my local neighbors did, but it would be very expensive.

Nearest I ever got to going back was being stationed in North Africa in the late 50s, I was in Morocco 23 days a month flying B-47s. Actually standing alert, during the Cold War.

(here is a link about another area veteran who went back this year to jump again at age 93): http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/93-year-old-jim-pee-wee-martin-parachute-normandy.html

BinHated11 karma

Thank you for your service. My father also served in WWII as a pilot with the 13th Air Force. Although he led a pretty normal life afterwards, there were always lingering issues he dealt with. He recently just started opening up about things. How well did you adjust? What were your ways of dealing with the things you had seen? We're you open about it? Thank you in advance for your answer sir. And again, thank you for your service. Your generation is definitely the greatest ever.

wildbillpilot44 karma

I celebrate my 89th birthday this year. This is the first time I've talked this much about it (WW2). Some of it I've tried to dis-remember.

trollsting2 karma

Who do you think has sovereignty over the Diao-kaku (Diayutai/Senkaku) islands?

wildbillpilot7 karma

Who they belong to? Russia or Japan.