Lawley, William Robert, Jr., Col

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 1091-Pilot, B-17
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1943-1944, M 1091, 305th Bombardment Group, Heavy
Service Years
1942 - 1972
Foreign Language(s)

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Robert Bruce McClelland, Jr. to remember Lawley, William Robert, Jr., Col USAF(Ret).

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Contact Info
Home Town
Leeds(birth), Birmingham(home of record), Alabama
Last Address
Montgomery, Alabama

Date of Passing
May 29, 1999
Location of Interment
Greenwood Cemetery - Montgomery, Alabama
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Air Force Commander Air Force Retired

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Details of service
William Lawley graduated from high school in his hometown in 1938, enlisted in August 1942, for flying training, and got his wings and commission at Altus, Oklahoma, in April 1943. He went to Europe that November as a B-17 pilot with the 364th Bomb Squadron.
1st Lt. Lawley was on his 10th mission over Germany when the incident occurred wherein he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Flying a new B-17G (42-38109) with the 364th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 305th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, 1st Air Division, stationed at RAF Chelveston, Northamptonshire, England (USAAF Station 105). He flew 4 more missions over Germany.
He returned to the United States in September 1944, serving as a public relations officer at Hendricks Field, Florida.  Promoted to captain in January 1945, he completed the public relations course at Craig Field, Alabama and the Air Tactical School at Tyndall AFB, Florida, serving during part of this time as aide to Gen. Muir S. Fairchild at Maxwell Field Alabama.  He then went to HQ USAF in Washington as administrative assistant to Maj. Gen. David M. Schlatter in a special weapons assignment, with promotion to major in August 1949.
Major Lawley, in February 1950, held special assignments to the CG of ARDC, completing the Navy Language School at Fort Myer, Virginia, and the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington, D.C.. He then went to Brazil, with promotion to lieutenant colonel, as Assistant Air Attache. He served until 1954. Coming home, he attended the Air Command and Staff School at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and on graduation was assigned as commander of the 55th Air Refueling~ Squadron at Forbes AFB, Kansas.  He stayed at Forbes as Aircrew Maintenance Staff Officer for the 21st Air Division, as Deputy Base Commander, and as Deputy Vice Commander of the 815th Combat Support Group.
He was promoted to colonel March 27, 1959. In January 1963, he became Assistant Phase Chief. Director of Curricular, at the Air War College at Maxwell AFB.
He died from illness in 1999.
His MOH citation:

Awarded for actions during World War II

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty, 20 February 1944, while serving as pilot of a B-17 aircraft in the 364th Bombardment Squadron, 305th Bombardment Group (H), Eighth Air Force, on a heavy bombardment mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe. Coming off the target he was attacked by approximately 20 enemy fighters, shot out of formation, and his plane severely crippled. Eight crewmembers were wounded, the copilot was killed by a 20-mm shell. One engine was on fire, the controls shot away, and First Lieutenant Lawley seriously and painfully wounded about the face. Forcing the copilot's body off the controls, he brought the plane out of a steep dive, flying with his left hand only. Blood covered the instruments and windshield and visibility was impossible. With a full bomb load the plane was difficult to maneuver and bombs could not be released because the racks were frozen. After the order to bail out had been given, one of the waist gunners informed the pilot that two crewmembers were so severely wounded that it would be impossible for them to bail out. With the fire in the engine spreading, the danger of an explosion was imminent. Because of the helpless condition of his wounded crewmembers First Lieutenant Lawley elected to remain with the ship and bring them to safety if it was humanly possible, giving the other crewmembers the option of bailing out. Enemy fighters again attacked but by using masterful evasive action he managed to lose them. One engine again caught on fire and was extinguished by skillful flying. First Lieutenant Lawley remained at his post, refusing first aid until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion caused by loss of blood, shock, and the energy he had expended in keeping control of his plane. He was revived by the bombardier and again took over the controls. Coming over the English coast one engine ran out of gasoline and had to be feathered. Another engine started to burn and continued to do so until a successful crash landing was made on a small fighter base. Through his heroism and exceptional flying skill, First Lieutenant Lawley rendered outstanding distinguished and valorous service to our Nation.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 64, August 8, 1944

Action Date: February 20, 1944

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: First Lieutenant

Company: 364th Bombardment Squadron

Regiment: 305th Bombardment Group (H)

Division: 8th Air Force

Other Comments:
Book: "Masters of the Air" by Donald Miller, Simon & Schuster, 2006 (video about incident)
Profile originally created by Skip Kimbrow

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  1943-1944, M 1091, 305th Bombardment Group, Heavy

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305th Bombardment Group, Heavy Unit Page
First Lieutenant
M 1091-Pilot, B-17
RAF Chelveston
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 305th Bombardment Group, Heavy Details

305th Bombardment Group, Heavy

Constituted as 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 1 Mar 1942. Trained for duty overseas with B-17's. Moved to England, Aug-Oct 1942, and assigned to Eighth AF. Began combat on 17 Nov 1942 and operated chiefly as a strategic bombardment organization until Apr 1945. Until mid-1943, attacked such targets as submarine pens, docks, harbors, shipyards, motor works, and marshalling yards in France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Bombed the navy yards at Wilhelmshaven on 27 Jan 1943 when heavy bombers of Eighth AF made their first penetration into Germany. Received a DUC for a mission on 4 Apr 1943 when an industrial target in Paris was bombed with precision in spite of pressing enemy fighter attacks and heavy flak. During the second half of 1943, began deeper penetration into enemy territory to strike heavy industry. Significant objectives included aluminum, magnesium, and nitrate works in Norway, industries in Berlin, oil plants at Merseburg, aircraft factories at Anklam, shipping at Gdynia, and ball-bearing works at Schweinfurt. Received another DUC for withstanding severe opposition to bomb aircraft factories in central Germany on 11 Jan 1944. Participated in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944. 1st Lt William R Lawley Jr, and 1st Lt Edward S Michael, pilots, each received the Medal of Honor for similar performances on 20 Feb and 11 Apr 1944, respectively; in each case a B-17 was severely damaged by fighters after it had bombed a target in Germany, crew members were wounded, and the pilot himself was critically injured; recovering in time to pull his aircraft out of a steep dive, and realizing that the wounded men would be unable to bail out, each pilot flew his plane back to England and made a successful crash landing. In addition to bombardment of strategic targets, the group often flew interdictory missions and supported infantry units. Prior to the Normandy invasion in Jun 1944, it helped to neutralize enemy installations such as V-weapon sites, airfields, and repair shops; and on D-Day, 6 Jun, bombed enemy strongholds near the battle area. Attacked enemy positions in advance of ground forces at St Lo in Jul 1944. Struck antiaircraft batteries to cover the airborne invasion of Holland in Sep. Took part in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945, by bombing military installations in the battle zone. Supported the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945. Sometimes flew missions at night to bomb enemy installations or to drop propaganda leaflets. Flew its last combat mission on 25 Apr 1945. Remained in the theater as part of United States Air Forces in Europe after V-E Day; and, from stations in Belgium and Germany, engaged in photographic mapping missions over parts of Europe and North Africa. Inactivated in Germany on 25 Dec 1946.

She's A Honey 2

B-17G-80-VE 44-8796 KY-F "Laura" of the 305th Bomb Group.


Wing/Command Assignment

VIII BC, 1 BW Sep 1942�
VIII BC, 1 BW, 102 PCBW: Feb 1943�
VIII BC, 1 BD, 40 CBW: 13 Sep 1943�
1 BD, 40 CBW 8 Jan 1944�
1 AD, 40 CBW 1 Jan 1945�

Combat Aircraft:


GRAFTON UNDERWOOD 12 September 1942 to 11 December 1942�
CHELVESTON 6 December 1942 to 20 July 1945�

Group COs

Col. Curtis E. LeMay 4 June 1942 to 15 May 1943�
Lt. Col. Donald K. Fargo 18 May 1943 to late October 1943�
Col. Ernest H. Lawson November 1943 to 18 June 1944 - KIA
Col. Anthony Q. Mustoe 22 June 1944 to 22 October 1944�
Col. Henry G. MacDonald 23 October 1944 to 22 April 1946�

First Mission: 17 November 1942�
Last Mission: 25 Apr 1945�
Missions: 337�
Total Sorties: 9,231�
Total Bomb Tonnage: 22,363 Tons�
Aircraft MIA: 154�

Major Awards:

Distinguished Unit Citations:�
11 January 1944 to all 1 BD units�
4 April 1943: Paris
Two Medals of Honor�
1 LT. William R. Lawley Jr. 20 February 1944�
1 LT. Edward S. Michael 11 April 1944�

Under Col. LeMay the Group pioneered many formations and bombing procedures that became Standard Operating Procedures in the 8th AAF
The 422nd Bomb Squadron undertook the first night attacks by the 8th AF
Suffered heaviest loss of the 14th October 1943 Schweinfurt mission, and for this reason was given the Nazi flag found flying in the city when it was captured by the US troops

Activated 1 March 1942 at Salt Lake City AB, Utah. They trained there until the 2nd of March 1943. Then moved to Geiger Field, Washington on 11 June 1942 Intensive training at Muroc Lake AB, California from the 29t June to 20th August 1942. The ground unit went by train to at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The ground unit sailed on the Queen Mary on the 5th September 1942, and disembarked from Greenock on the 12th of September 1942. the Aircraft assembled at Syracuse, New York and spent six weeks in advance flight training. They received new B-17F bombers, and left for the United Kingdom in October 1942 via the presque Isle, and Gander to Prestwick.

Between 20-27 July 1945 the Group moved to St. Trond, Belgium, where it conducted photo-mapping flights which was called Project: Casey Jones over Europe and North Africa. On the 15th December 1945 moved to Lechfeld, Germany which they had bombed on the 18th March 1944. The 364th Bomb Squadron was inactivated on the 1st of July 1946. The 423 Bomb Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group was attached to the Group after this date but by the end of October 1946 the Group ceased all operations. Officially the unit was inactivated on the 25th of December 1946. On the Continent came under the 9th Air Force and on the 15th of November 1945 under USAFE. The unit was reactivated in 1951 as a Strategic Air Command B-29 unit and as the 305th Bomb Wing and converted to B-47s in 1953. Then became one of the USAF's two B-58 Hustler units.

Combat - Bomber Units
Parent Unit
Bombardment Units
Created/Owned By
Not Specified

Last Updated: Oct 17, 2014
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47 Members Also There at Same Time
305th Bombardment Group, Heavy

Aber, Earle Joseph, Lt Col, (1942-1945) M10 M 1091 Lieutenant Colonel
Kriegshauser, John Glennon, 1st Lt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1091 First Lieutenant
Michael, Edward Stanley, Lt Col, (1940-1971) M10 M 1091 First Lieutenant
Thomaides, Alex, 1st Lt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1091 First Lieutenant
Dix, Roy Arthur, Lt Col, (1943-1965) M10 M 1091 Second Lieutenant
Gerke, Wright E., 2nd Lt, (1941-1943) M10 M 1091 Second Lieutenant
Trost, Herbert, Maj, (1938-1954) M10 M 1024 First Lieutenant
Cox, David Carroll, 1st Lt, (1941-1945) M10 M 1054 Second Lieutenant
Curtis, Lyle J, 2nd Lt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1054 Second Lieutenant
Hernandez, Melchor, 2nd Lt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1035 Second Lieutenant
Humphrey, John Whicker, 2nd Lt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1034 Second Lieutenant
Littlefield, Thaddeus Gurney, 2nd Lt, (1942-1945) M10 M 1054 Second Lieutenant
Price, Vernon Lhreau, 2nd Lt, (1943-1944) M10 M 1034 Second Lieutenant
Rist, Richard L., 2nd Lt, (1943-1944) M10 M 1054 Second Lieutenant
Estabrooks, Harry W, SSgt, (1942-1944) M10 M 1028 Staff Sergeant
LeMay, Curtis Emerson, Gen, (1928-1965) M27 M 0273 Major
Anderson, Robert Moffat, 2nd Lt, (1941-1943) M27 M 0273 Second Lieutenant
Davis, Raymond D., 1st Lt, (1940-1944) M27 M 0273 Second Lieutenant
Grose, Arnold F., 1st Lt, (1941-1943) M27 M 0273 Second Lieutenant
Patterson, Harry A., 1st Lt, (1942-1944) M27 M 0273 Second Lieutenant
Williams, George Malcolm, MSgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Master Sergeant
Brackney, Richard Coll, TSgt, (1943-1945) M75 M 0755 Technical Sergeant
Creekmore, Thomas, TSgt, (1943-1945) M17 M 0177 Technical Sergeant
Burry, Robert L., SSgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Staff Sergeant
Cummings, Herbert B., TSgt, (1942-1944) M75 M 0755 Staff Sergeant
Jones, Erban Lloyd, SSgt, (1941-1943) M61 M 0612 Staff Sergeant
Kanetzky, Leroy H., TSgt, (1942-1943) M75 M 0755 Staff Sergeant
Mather, Elwood J., TSgt, (1942-1944) M74 M 0748 Staff Sergeant
Mayfield, Robert E, SSgt, (1942-1944) M17 M 0177 Staff Sergeant
Ambrosio, Vito R, Sgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Callaway, Melvin F., Sgt, (1943-1944) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Graham, Harold, Sgt, (1941-1943) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Gunson, Robert F., Sgt, (1942-1943) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Neighbors, Carl H., SSgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Robbins, Maurice Douglas, Sgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Tuttle, Charles Henj, Sgt, (1942-1944) M61 M 0611 Sergeant
Waldman, Benjamin, Cpl, (1941-1945) M74 M 0747 Corporal
McClellan, Walter Adell, TSgt, (1942-1945) [Other Service Rank]
Rodman, William Norman, 1st Lt, (1942-1945) [Other Service Rank]
Williams, Samuel H., Sgt, (1939-1945) [Other Service Rank]
Schleeh, Russell, Col, (1941-1962) Colonel
Harper, Maurice J., 2nd Lt, (1942-1945) Second Lieutenant
Rice, Robert A., 1st Lt, (1942-1945) Second Lieutenant
Goodman, Louis W., TSgt, (1942-1943) Staff Sergeant
Halliday, Fred Eugene, SSgt, (1942-1945) Staff Sergeant
Stallard, Samuel McClure, 1st Lt, (1942-1945) First Lieutenant
Mifsud, Philip R., Sgt, (1942-1944) Sergeant

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