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William Brooks Southworth Jr


William Brooks 'Billy' Southworth Jr was son of Major League baseball player and manager Billy Southworth. Over three seasons from 1938-1940 Southworth enjoyed a successful career as an international league baseball player and was in 1939 honoured as Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Rome Colonels.

In 1940, Southworth expressed a desire to join the Army Air Corps, but delayed doing so until the end of the baseball season at the request of his father. Southworth eventually enlisted in December 1940 and underwent pilot training, earning his wings as a bomber pilot in August 1941.

In February 1942 Southworth was assigned to the newly formed 303rd Bomb Group at Pendleton field and departed for England in October 1942. Southworth flew his first combat mission on 18 November 1942, on the group's second combat mission against u-boat pens at St Nazaire.

Southworth was known to forgo his flying helmetin favour of a Cardinals baseball cap gifted to him by his father (who managed the team at the time), allegedly because its visor provided better shade from the sun than his flying helmet and was more comfortable to wear with earphones. He completed his tour of 25 missions on 17 July 1943, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, for succeeding to complete his tour without injury to any member of his crew.

Southworth returned to the US in January 1944, choosing to remain in the US Army Air Force, rather than pursue his baseball career. He was promoted to major and assigned to the Second Air Force, eventually becoming an instructor on B-29 Superfortresses at Grand Island Army Air Field in Nebraska in late 1944.

On 15 February 1945, Southworth was killed on a training flight from Mitchell Field to Florida, when his B-29 ran into engine troubles and he attempted an emergency landing at La Guardia field, where he overshot the runway and crashed into Flushing Bay. Despite rescue attempts supported by his father, Southworth's remains were not recovered until they washed ashore in August 1945. In 1946, Rome Colonels erected a plaque in his memory at their stadium.



  • Jack Belk

    Military | Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 303rd Bomb Group
    1-May-42 Assigned as an Aerial Gunner to 303BG/427BS at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, with the rank of Sergeant. 303BG personnel record does not indicate that he was assigned to any particular crew at that time and does not indicate when he arrived at...

  • Waldo Brandt

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 303rd Bomb Group

  • Milton Conver

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 303rd Bomb Group

  • John Dillinger

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 303rd Bomb Group
    Trained to fly initially at 63rd Army Air Forces Contract Pilot School Douglas, GA. Member of class 42F (July 42). then went to Shaw Field, Sumter, SC for the next level of flying training. Graduated with the class of 42F at the pilot school in Dothan,...

  • William Fleming

    Military | Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 303rd Bomb Group
    Assigned to 427BS, 303BG, 8AF USAAF. Awards: AM (OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Ward Kirkpatrick

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 303rd Bomb Group
    Assigned to 427BS, 303BG, 8AF USAAF. Shot down 15-May-43 in B-17 42-29481. Plane crashed into North Sea. Killed in Action (KIA). Awards: AM (2OLC), PH.

  • Lucian Means

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Engineer | 303rd Bomb Group
    1-May-42 Assigned as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner on B-17F 41-24587 [GN-P] "Bad Check", 303BG/427BS at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho. 25-Oct-42 Arrived at Molesworth, UK aboard "Bad Check". Mission Participations (UNDER CONSTRUCTION) See Biography events.

  • Jon Schueler

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 303rd Bomb Group
    Schueler was an original member of the 303rd Bomb Group, arriving in the UK with the unit in November 1942. He completed 8 combat missions, all with Captain Billy Southworth flying as pilot. Schueler was grounded on 16 February 1943 and hospitalised...

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Units served with

  • 303rd Bomb Group

    303rd Bomb Group

    The 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on 3-Feb-1942 at Pendleton Field, Oregon. They assembled at Gowen Field, Idaho on 11-February 1942 where it conducted flight training until 12-Jun-1942. The Group then moved to Alamogordo Field, New...

  • 427th Bomb Squadron


  • 41-24587 Bad Check

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 427BS/303BG [GN-P] Bangor 5/10/42; Molesworth 25/10/42; Missing in Action 45m Oschersleben 11/1/44 with George McClellan, Co-pilot: Bill Fisher, ex B-26 pilot on his 1st mission, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Dave Tempesta, Radio Operator...

  • 41-24619 S-for-Sugar

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 427BS/303BG [GN-S] Bangor 5-Oct-42; Molesworth 25-Oct-42; 52m Missing in Action Oschersleben 11-Jan- 44 with Tom Simmons, Co-pilot: Fred Reichel, Navigator: Bill Clyatt, Bombardier: Dick Vaughan, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Wallace...

  • 42-2966

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 427BS/303BG [GN-U] Bangor 16/9/42; Molesworth 28/10/42; 1 CCRC Bovingdon 4/7/43 as trainer. Salvaged in the UK after the war, date not recorded.

  • 42-29944 Buzzing Bronco, Winning Run

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 17/3/43; Gore 28/3/43; Metropolitan 13/4/43; Presque Is 29/4/43; Assigned 427BS/303BG [GN-E] Molesworth 9/6/43; secret mission to North Africa 16/8/43 ret 23/8/43; battle damaged T/Ops 6/9/43 with Jake James, Co-pilot: Howard Ness,...

Associated Place

  • Molesworth

    Military site : airfield
    Molesworth was one of the early stations used by the Eighth Air Force in the UK, first occupied by the 15th Bomb Squadron’s Douglas Bostons in June 1942. Built in 1940 and extended and improved in 1942, Molesworth is most associated with the 303rd...


Event Location Date
Born Portland, Oregon 20 June 1917
Lived in Columbus, OH, USA 1941
Based Molesworth October 1942 – August 1943
Died Flushing Bay 15 February 1945


Date Contributor Update
01 January 2022 20:00:28 decwriter Changes to service number and awards

NARA files verified DFC and AM with three Oak Leaf Clusters. He earned at least one bronze service star on the EAME Campaign Medal. His officer number reflects 0-424792 and Southworth, Billy B., Jr. on the files.

Date Contributor Update
14 December 2021 13:37:54 Emily Changes to middlename, firstname, nickname, biography, events and place associations

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

Date Contributor Update
09 March 2017 14:16:13 Al_Skiff Changes to service number, events and aircraft associations

Key Image ID from FRE 997.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:04:39 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia /