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February 23, 2007
Oroville Mercury January 31, 1944

Death March Officer Flew At Local Port
Col. Dyess, Exposer Of Japanese Tortures Is Known Here
Lt. Col. William E. Dyess, one of the three officers who escaped from a war prisoners camp in the Philippines to disclose a story of Japanese brutality that shocked the world, was identified today as the commanding officer of a Hamilton Field Pursuit squadron that carried on war maneuvers here in June 1941. S. J. Norris, City engineer, recognized Dyess, killed recently in the crash of a fighter plane at Burbank, as the “Lt. Dyess’ who led the fast pursuit ships during the war games here. Norris made arrangements with Lt. Dyess and his fliers to occupy the field, on which WPA improvements already were underway.

He recalled that Dyess, who later was to attain fame as a fighter in battering the Japanese, was efficient and likeable. Other Oroville residents, with whom the army fliers came in contact during their week’s stay here, also will remember him. Norris believes. Open house for the public was held at the airport June 26, that year, and the pilots were entertained by various groups and individuals. Dyess was a captain when he was smashing the Japanese during the Philippines invasion. At Subic Bay, according to a fellow pilot, he earned the title, “One man scourge.” But it was in the later, bitter days of Japanese capture that Col. Dyess’ courage and leadership helped bring him to safety, with a tale that will spur Americans to speeding victory in the Pacific and may shape the peace, after the war.


After the war I was stationed in Metz for a while. I had a Jeep, and one day had to take a German POW to the hospital. He was a tall, strapping fellow. Spoke fairly good English, and told me he had been wounded at Herrlisheim. I didn’t say anything about being there, and he went on to say what a terrible time they had. Said it was like hell. So I didn’t have to add anything!

I learned sometime later that Robert Hickey had been killed at Herrlisheim. Captain Beach told me at a much later time that Sergeant Darnell of B Company had received a battlefield commission just prior to Herrlisheim, had been wounded there, and was killed while being evacuated. We lost many fine, good, brave men.

The Sky cleared enough for a day so our planes could fly in and attack German positions at Herrlisheim. We watched as a flight of P-47’s came down through the clouds and dove through flack coming up all around them. It seemed miraculous that none of them were hit. Brave pilots. They fired their machine guns as they dove, and the smoke trailed out behind them. After the bomb was dropped they went back up, and we could hear the explosion and saw smoke rising up. That helped boost our moral. We made another attack toward the Water Works Buildings along the same road from Rohrweiler. A Forward Observer from the artillery was with us, and let me look through his binoculars. I was surprised how clear they made things even in the dark. Technology today has developed even better ones using “Infra Red”.

The road had been “Zeroed in” by the German artillery and just before we got to the Waterworks they started a barrage. A round exploded near me; my helmet flew off and I went down in the snow. For a few minutes I couldn’t hear or see, but held on to the machine gun I was carrying. Dick Koos came running back and helped me get going. We got word to go back to Rohrweiler. There weren’t many of us at that time, and no one got hit. Lexie Baker had a concussion, too, and we were sent to the Aid Station for a checkup, but were both O K. After the attacks at Herlisheim, we had taken holding positions in an area outside Rohrweiler, facing Herrlisheim. There was possibility of German counter attacks.

Stu’s Notes: It still amazes me when I read of another Hero that passed through our Oroville Airport. When you drive by it, it doesn’t look like much, but oh the stories it could tell. As a boy I remember you could see the big flashing light it emitted every few seconds. I don’t see that anymore, Why? I wonder Why?
Could Oroville’s own Bill Dunbar have been flying one of those P-47’s? He was there at the time and fly them he did!