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May 14, 2004
William D. Dunbar Lt. Col U. S. A. F. (ret)
WOW! A real life American Hero Fighter Bomber Pilot in my house. Ever since I was a young boy I have idolized the men that flew our combat planes. In his own words he wrote on a picture he gave to me “My contribution during WWII was flying the P-47 Thunderbolt in Europe. I was a assigned to the 396th Fighter Squadron 368th Fighter Group 9th Air Force. I flew 78 combat missions against Germany from September 1944- to May 8th, 1945. I was one of the lucky ones to survive.” It took both luck and flying skills to survive combat flying. So many were lost. The odds of survival were stacked against the young “Fly boys” from all over America. Many were killed at the very start of their service to our country. Many of our planes were lost in training, as you will learn Oroville gave too many to these causes. The planes were new with 1000,s of parts that could and did go wrong. Oroville is full of hero’s like Bill we just don’t know who they are when we pass them on the street. Maybe we need a “Hero” tattoo, only for those who truly are. Bill was born on December 21, 1922 in Le Grange, Oregon and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although not an “original” Oroville boy, since 1980 he has been living in Oroville. He graduated high school in January 1942 and entered the University of Minnesota in the Fall of 1942. Volunteering for the U. S. A. A. F. November 12, 1942. Bill had always wanted to fly and he had the discipline needed to be a Fighter Pilot. As an Eagle Scout (which doesn’t come easy), and growing up in the depression. He was called to duty 1 February 1943. Boot camp at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis. Then to Beloit, Wisconsin, first time up in a Piper Cub. Then he went to Santa Anna, California to Pre-flight School. Many washed out by this time. Discipline now was very strict, but they did have Saturday until 2pm Sunday to party in Malibu. He practiced in a PT17 bi-wing plane. Bill got his wings 12 March 1944 and became a 2nd Lt. in the Army Air Force his pay went from $75 to $200 a month. He then went to Pocatello, Idaho and saw his first P-47. “Am I going to fly that?” (As I thought growing up, how did the P-47 compete with smaller, sleeker looking, fighter’s of those days? But it did. Its 2000 H. P. radial engine could overcome its big size. It could survive hits better than the water-cooled Mustang. And Fly it Bill did, as the plane only had room for one man. You were on your own. This story to be continued next week.

Stu’s Note:
Wow thanks to so many people who came to our Spaghetti Dinner last Friday. Not only did we make a lot of money for the memorial but it showed us that the people of Oroville are really behind our Memorial. Our Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee has always been behind our plan and now it will happen. Nothing can stop it now. There is a lot of work ahead of us. Col. Bob Gilbert is back in town living at the Family home, ”for good” he says. Bob was in three wars. He served in the Special Forces, I’m looking forward to hearing his story. Debbie rode in the Feather Fiesta Days Parade, after much coaxing. She said she would ride on a float with me. So we rode the “Men Who Built Oroville Dam” float with all the old Dam Men. We had a sign on the front that said “Welcome Home Soldiers” and as we went by the people along the way stood to honor her. I felt very proud, as a father should be. Some of the older men held their hats over their hearts. I told her there would be more Parades in Oroville for her to be in. She said “No, unless I’m on my Horse”. Thanks again to the Department of Water Resources. Every year they furnish us their Big Rig and Curtis as our driver. We also need to thank Bob Sharkey at the Feather River Recreation and Parks for the Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee Float and to my good friend Raymond Jensen for being our last minute driver.