On August 15th, 1944, as the end of the German occupation was impending, Major William Coleman, was killed in action when his P 47 crashed in Landisacq (Normandy, Orne), in a spot named Les Champs Masson.
William Coleman, from Mississippi, left the high school in 1939 after his father's death in order to manage the family farm. His was only 20. In September 1940, he left his family, mother, three brothers and five sisters, for enlistment in the USAAF. In April 1941, he received his wings and then was first assigned to Clark airbase, in the Philippines where he still was when the Japanese attacked on December 7th 1941.
During the campaign, William Coleman was particularly efficient and he was credited with several aerial victories. He was the one to pilot the last undamaged aircraft of his squadron before being shot down and forced to parachute. Then he fought as an Infantryman at Bataan in terrible battles. On April 8th 1942, with some other comrades, he found a way to escape from the Philippines using an old amphibian airplane. As they were taking off, Japanese soldiers fired at them. The team finally reached Mindinao Island safely.
On May 1st 1942, lieutenant Coleman was promoted to Captain and he spent a long time of convalescence in Brisbane, Australia. On October 27th 1942, he was sent back to the States. During one year, he acted as an instructor in Florida, and took his young wife Mildred with him on the East Cost.
In late 1943, captain Coleman insisted on being sent back to combat and he was eventually transferred to UK. In early 1944, he was promoted to Major. Assigned to the 405th fighter group, Major Coleman took part in the Battle of Normandy. On July 28th, he was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest award in the nation, for his bravery in wartime. He was reportedly in line for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.
On August 15th, the three squadrons of the 405th FG supported the allied armoured divisions, flying a total of 119 sorties. Major Coleman, newly appointed deputy group commander, flew with the 511th Sq in late afternoon, he took off from the airbase of Picauville (Normandy, Manche). The purpose of the mission was to support a British armoured column progressing from Tinchebray to Flers. As he was flying at 7000 feet altitude, a direct Flak burst hit his aircraft. Major Coleman managed to parachute but too late. His body was to be recovered later not very far from the wreckage of his plane. He now rests in Saint-James cemetery.
Remembered by Major General Robert L Delashaw, San Antonio, TX.
Units served with
The 405th Fighter Group was a fighter bomber unit of the United States Army Air Force in World War II. They group flew P-47 Thunderbolts in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) starting with the buildup to the Invasion of Normandy ("D-Day") through...