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William J O'Leary


Assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 547th Bomb Squadron on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #254 dated 23 December 1944, George F. Ruckman Crew. 22 combat missions

In O'Leary's own words: "I'm proud to say that I flew my first Mission as a co-pilot on a B-17 while still 19 years of age. On my 9th Mission, Feb 1, 1945, as a co-pilot on Ruckman's crew, I suffered a damaged ear drum as the result of flying with a very bad cold. I was confined to the Base Hospital for thirteen days, plus a few trips to the Thrapston General Hospital.

On February 3rd, 1945, Ruckman's Crew, with a replacement for me, flew a mission to Berlin where our B-17 Stardust sustained major flak damage, and was forced to land on a Russian controlled airfield in Poland. The fate of the Crew was not known for over forty days. When Doc Vivian, 547th Flight Surgeon, cleared me for flight duty, I had no crew or airplane to fly.

Captain Shelley, 547th Flight Operations Officer, called and asked if I would like to get some missions in flying as Group Observer in the tail gunner's position in the Group Lead airplane. I flew several missions in that capacity, as well as a replacement for co-pilots on other crews. I completed a total 22 missions. In the interim I was commissioned from F/O, and 'checked-out' as a First Pilot. I participated in the Green Project and other minor projects, before returning to the U.S. on 21 April 1946."



  • George Ruckman

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot | 384th Bomb Group

Units served with

  • 384th Bomb Group

    384th Bomb Group

    The 384th Bomb Group flew B-17s from Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, between May 1943 and June 1945. They were engaged in daylight bombing missions over Germany as part of the Allies' efforts to destroy the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe by...

  • 547th Bomb Squadron


  • 44-6592 STARDUST

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Lincoln 16/9/44; Grenier 2/10/44; Assigned to the 547th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group [SO-S] Grafton Underwood 28 October 1944; Missing in Action on a mission to Berlin, 3 February 1945 with George F. Ruckman, Fiorino A. Cinquanta, John O....

Associated Place

  • Grafton Underwood

    Military site : airfield
    Grafton Underwood was built in 1941 by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. It was the first airfield in England to receive an Eighth Air Force flying unit, when in May 1942 personnel of the 15th Bomb Squadron took up residence. As a satellite airfield for...


Event Location Date
Born New York, NY, USA January 1925


Date Contributor Update
26 June 2015 03:05:02 bombercommand Changes to nickname, service number, highest rank, role, biography, awards, events, unit associations and media associations

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:28:22 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / leary&GivenNames=william