William Smith , of Columbia PA, flew 50 missions in his P-51 during WWII, mostly escorting bombers on their raids out of Italy. He vividly remembers escorting B-24 bombers on a raid on the Ploeti oil fields. His job was to escort them en route there and back, but he shakes his head as he recalls how many fewer there were coming back than when they went. “I realized then that bomber crews were the real heroes of the air war, he says.
Bill was pulled to safety when his P-51 was on approach and lost all coolant and the engine burst into flames and crash-landed. Bill was dazed and slightly injured but was rescued from the flames by two enlisted men who later received the Soldier’s Medal of Honor.
Bill doesn’'t talk about his wartime experiences much, but he says he’ll never forget them. Summing up, he says, "Like my RAF friends used to say, those missions were a bloody good show"Back to Vets Page