March 30, 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.
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.
from RECOLLECTIONS FROM ARMY DAYS By
Robert C. Brooks
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
sometime later that Robert
Hickey had been killed at Herrlisheim. Captain Beach
told me at a much later time that
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.
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”.
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
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!