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William Thomas Whittaker


William T Whittaker was a pilot with the 509th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group. He flew 41 missions between 17 October 1944 and 26 March 1945.

His cousin Betty: "I have one of his stories I got a kick out of. Bill was shot down twice, the first time over Belgium. Bill was terrified of heights so he rode the plane down both times. A group of Belgium farmers found them. A member of Bill's crew could speak French so they were able to communicate a little. They were taken to a nearby Inn where they were hidden in the attic for 10 days."

"On the 10th day the Inn Keeper stuck his head up into the attic saying "British coming, British coming". Bill ran down to the middle of the road and flagged them down. When he was taken to the leader he explained who he was, what had happened, asked for a ride into Brussels and offered identification to prove who he was. The leader told him he didn't need any identification "only a crazy American would flag down an invading army and ask for a ride". It was a Canadian Army, not British as the Inn Keeper thought, so they were quite familiar with Americans. Sorry, I don't know what mission this happened on. Just remember how upset everyone was when Bill was reported MIA."

Bill stayed in the Air Force after the war ended until he retired in 1962. He then went back to school and after receiving his degree, he worked for NASA for a short time. He later returned to Texas and the air force base where he had completed his 20 years.

In his cousin Betty's words: "Bill was so proud of his service. Many years ago he was able to return to his old airbase for a reunion and it was the highlight of his life."

From a letter written by Colonel William H. Van Marter on 11 June 1963:
"Major William T Whittaker, USAF, AO-757350, served under my direct supervision from 15 December 1960 to 31 May 1963. I rate him among the top three percent of all officers I have known during twenty-two years of service."

"I found his character to be above reproach in all respects. He demonstrated a high degree of educability. He absorbs complex information quickly and possesses a remarkably retentive mind."


Units served with

  • 351st Bomb Group

    351st Bomb Group

    The 351st Bomb Group flew strategic bombing missions from their base at Polebrook, Northamptonshire from April 1943 to June 1945. The Group's most famous member was Hollywood actor Clark Gable, who flew four/ five missions with them as an observer...

  • 509th Bomb Squadron


  • 42-31384 Buckeye Babe

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 20/10/43; Gr Island 12/11/43; Romulus 4/12/43; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-T] Polebrook 20/1/44; Missing in Action 103m Paderborn 17/1/45 with Marius Della-Cieppe, Co-pilot: Dell Harvey, Navigator: Spurgeon Clark, Bombardier: Walt...

  • 42-97193 Star Duster

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 5/2/44; Kearney 24/2/44; Grenier 8/3/44; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-P] Polebrook 24/3/44; on Ludwighafen mission 8/9/44 with Jim Barker, ship had two engines damaged and force landed in France, crew OK then returned to Polebrook base;...

  • 43-37696 Transit Belle

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 12/5/44; Kearney 23/5/44; Dow Fd 1/6/44; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-Z] Polebrook 28/6/44; 510BS [TO-Z]; 105m Returned to the USA Bradley 25/5/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 28/5/45; Reconstruction Finance Corporation (sold for...

  • 43-37705 The Little One

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 13/5/44; Kearney 23/5/44; Dow Fd 30/5/44; Assigned 510BS/351BG [TU-T] Polebrook 1/6/44; 511BS [DS-F]; ...

  • 43-38116 Classy Chassis

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 28/6/44; Hunter 16/7/44; Grenier 23/7/44; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-Q] Polebrook 15/8/44; 50m battle damaged Chemnitz 2/3/45 with ?; crash landed base, Salvaged 4/3/45. CLASSY CHASSIS.

  • 43-38277

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 15/7/44; Hunter 16/7/44; Dow Fd 9/8/44; Assigned 508BS/351BG [YB-O] Polebrook 21/8/44; 509BS [RQ-O]; in base taxi accident with Ed Ashton 20/1/45; 59m Returned to the USA Bradley 12/6/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 15/6/45;...

  • 43-38591

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 22/8/44; Hunter 31/9/44; Grenier 15/9/44; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-U] Polebrook 28/9/44; {54m} transferred 384BG Grafton Underwood 23/5/45; Salvaged 9AF Germany 10/12/45. MYASSIS DRAGGIN.

  • 43-38592

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 22/8/44; Lincoln 7/9/44; Grenier 17/9/44; Assigned 303BG Molesworth 20/9/44; transferred 511BS/351BG [DS-N] Polebrook 18/10/44; 509BS [RQ-B]; 64m Returned to the USA Bradley 23/5/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 26/5/45;...

  • 43-38640 Annie Marie

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 28/8/44; Lincoln 13/9/44; Grenier 30/9/44; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-C] Polebrook 16/10/44; 75m Returned to the USA Bradley 3/7/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 5/7/45; Reconstruction Finance Corporation (sold for scrap metal...

  • 43-38920 Canvas Back IV, Mort's Orphans

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Lincoln 10/10/44; Grenier 18/10/44; Assigned 92BG Podington 20/10/44 CANVAS BACK IV; transferred 509BS/351BG [RQ-O] Polebrook 9/2/45; 37m Returned to the USA Bradley 23/5/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 28/5/45; Reconstruction Finance...

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  • 681

    17 October 1944

  • 683

    19 October 1944

  • 685

    22 October 1944

  • 688

    25 October 1944

  • 689

    26 October 1944

  • 693

    30 October 1944

  • 702

    5 November 1944

  • 704

    6 November 1944

  • 720

    21 November 1944

  • 746

    11 December 1944

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Associated Place

  • Polebrook

    Military site : airfield
    Polebrook was laid down for RAF Bomber Command use in 1940-1941. Built by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, it had short runways which were lengthened for USAAF heavy bomber use. The RAF used the base for operational trials - including of B-17 Flying...


Event Location Date
Born Ottawa, IL, USA 22 December 1923
Lived in East Lincoln Street, Seneca, IL 61360, USA 1942
Graduated from Seneca High School Seneca High School, 307 West Scott Street, Seneca, IL 61360, USA May 1942
Enlisted Chicago, IL, USA 19 May 1942
Promoted to First Lieutenant 1 October 1943
Based Polebrook October 1944 – March 1945
Lived in Fort Worth, TX, USA June 1963 – 1966
Graduated from Texas Wesleyan College Texas Wesleyan University, 1201 Wesleyan Street, Fort Worth, TX 76105, USA January 1966

Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management

Died New Braunfels, TX, USA 25 April 2003


Date Contributor Update
21 January 2015 11:32:25 Lucy May Changes to middlename, service number, biography, events and media associations

Enlistment record:

Documents sent through to the museum by William Whittaker's nephew, Gary Whittaker.

Date Contributor Update
26 November 2014 12:11:00 Lucy May Changes to biography

Story sent through to the museum by Bill's cousin, Betty.

Date Contributor Update
14 November 2014 12:20:59 Lucy May Changes to nickname, service number, role, biography, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations

Information sent through to the museum by Gary Whittaker, Bill's nephew. He received the loading list information from the 351st Bomb Group website:

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:28:49 AAM AAM ingest

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