Last Known Activity
William M. Hawkins was born in Louisiana on July 28, 1918. His parents were Charles and Susie B. Hawkins. The US Census 1920 shows the family in Catahoula while the US Census 1940 is the same, except Susie is listed as "widowed." According to records, Charles died in 1928.
Hawkins enlisted on July 3, 1940 as a private in the Army Air Forces. His enlistment papers state he had completed 4 years of high school, and was a semiskilled worker in the bakery products occupation.
He was trained as an aerial gunner, and then assigned to a combat crew on a B-17. It is not known when he joined the Godwin crew, but records indicate he flew at least 10 missions. On April 18, 1943, this crew was assigned to bomb the railway yard in Palermo, Sicily. Before they reached the target, the aircraft was shot down by German fighters, and crashed into the sea.
No remains were recovered, and Sgt Hawkins is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunisia. There is also a memory stone for him located in the Alexandria Cemetery in Manifest, Louisiana. This stone has an incorrect service number and date of death on it. (Service number 14002113, not 115. Stone states death occurred on April 4, 1943.)
US Census 1920
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
Sgt William M. Hawkins was acting as tail gunner on B-17F #41024371, named "Devils from Hell," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 16508 was issued. Mission loading lists state the crew was:
1 Lt Bobby M. Godwin p
1 Lt John W. Houck c-p
2 Lt John H. Person nav
1 Lt Virgil E. Hope bomb
Sgt Robert B. Imler eng/tt gun
Sgt Robert S. Littrel r/o
Sgt Arthur L. Nilges btg
Sgt Frank Spatafore wg
Sgt William M. Hawkins tail gunner
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
NOTE: On October 5, 2015, the wreckage of the aircraft was found in 75 feet of water by a dive team, located about 4 miles off Palermo, Sicily. Nothing will be recovered as it has been designated a "war grave."