Editor’s note: With the 75th anniversary of D-Day celebrated on June 6, Ann Rhyan, of Sidney, gathered some the records of her dad, Don Williamson, who served during World War II. He received a Jubilee Medal celebrrating the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.
SIDNEY — Don Williamson grew up on a farm at 2425 S. Greenlee Road, Troy. He graduated in 1935 from Milton-Union High School.He farmed with his father until a draft notice came in 1941.
Williamson, a World War II U.S. Army Air Force veteran, flew the B-24 flying fortresses during the war and was attached to the 577th Squadron, 392nd Bomb Group. He led 25 successful missions over Germany and participated in the D-Day liberation of France.
He worked in Sidney and in Vandalia as a pilot until he retired in 1979. He and his wife, Inez, moved to Dorothy Love Retirement Community from their Troy farm in 2002. He passed away in 2004.
On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Williamson wrote the following letter:
“I landed in Scotland August 19, 1943 and flew my first mission on September 5, 1043, over the English Channel. Our B-24 Bombers were based at Wendling, Scotland. We were up all night before D-Day preparing for our mission. In early morning we circled over northern England for a couple of hours and then headed for the English Channel. What a sight to behold — the Channel was filled with boats from coast to coast. It seemed you could almost walk across the Channel stepping from one boat to the next. There were three waves of B-24 Bombers that day. I was in the second wave — flew across the Channel and dropped the bombs.
“I flew 25 missions over Europe — bombing Berlin, Dusseldorf and Bremen, Germany. The worst mission was the second time over Bremen. When I landed back in England that DAY, discovered I had 827 holes in my plane and my flight jacket had been grazed with shrapnel. Someone was watching over me that DAY.
“Later they made me Operations Officer. This was a difficult assignment to send my buddies and friends on these missions over Europe knowing that some would never return. I lost 17 planes out of 18 crews in forty days.
“After Allied Forces occupied France, I flew temporarily repaired planes back to England to be repaired. On one such flight, all engines of the plane quite. I called to my engineer to hook up the fuel lines from tank to engine, and three engines took off and we landed safely at the sub-depot. This took place over the White Cliffs of Dover.
On June 5, 1845, I landed at Bradley Field in Connecticut, very thankful to be back in the United States of America — The Greatest Land.
Farming was my career, but while working in the fields and watching the planes overhead maneuvering into positions, the desire to fly was still there. I became Flight Instructor an Designated Flight Instructor at Skyways in Vandalia. I also instructed at Sidney Airport and then became pilot for The Coldway Food Express. In my flight instruction years I soloed 2,500 students, many of those whom were Daytonians and accumulated 17,000 flying hours. I retired in December 1979 and haven’t been in a plane since.”