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How I got my appointment to West Point
I was still 16 years of age when the class of 1954 entered West Point in July ’50, and had to wait to compete for an appointment to enter in ’51. The “wait” had actually begun years earlier.
On 28 June 1951, my dad and I left The Big River Guest Ranch, where the main lodge was a former stage coach stop on the Rio Grande River one mile below the big city of Wagon Wheel Gap, Colorado. We were driving east toward Alamosa. Thirty miles parallel along the Rio Grande we passed through Del Norte, CO, (population 2,500) where I had been among 50 seniors graduating from high school in May 1950. Another thirty miles took us through Alamosa, where I had attended two quarters at Adams State College beginning the fall after graduating from high school. We were headed to Denver, where I boarded a train for New York, and finally to West Point.
I recall that Dick Auer, Wayne Smith and John Martling climbed aboard the train in Denver, and there were others whose names I don’t remember, who boarded along the way.
Wagon Wheel Gap, at that time, was in reality an old wood-frame train station and post office on the still-operating Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad to Creede, and was jokingly stated as having a population of 98, including cows, dogs, horses and chickens. Twelve miles below the much larger city of Creede, CO, population 500, sixty years after the town’s “roaring 90s” silver mining boom, Wagon Wheel Gap was to become famous in the mind of one classmate at least – at our first R-day meal, at noon in Washington Hall. Bob Miesenheimer.
After we took seats and were properly instructed on “etiquette” and posture, the table commandant asked the 7 new cadets of Fourth Company, beginning on his left, to introduce themselves by name and hometown. Bob was about number 3 in the sequence, and I was next to last, on the other side of the table. All went well until the Meis, the boy from Peoria, IL, heard me firmly blurt out my home town – Wagon Wheel Gap, CO. He had just taken a bite of food and burst out laughing, spiting food on the table.
There was a momentary silence while he struggled to regain self- control under the icy glares of the 3 first classmen at the table. Then all hell broke loose, and, as I recall, he “sat up” the rest of the meal, ate virtually nothing, and remained under withering supervision the rest of the days we sat at that table during First Beast. The intense, impromptu bracing included comments on his inability to control his emotions, laughing at his classmate’s response, the first classman’s question being ridiculed, and what the first classmen regarded as “looking down on his classmate’s smaller home town.” Naturally, he was given no chance to respond to their assumptions regarding his reasons for laughing. It was also an early lesson on “No excuse, Sir!” over and over. His enforced diet during First Beast was probably far worse than most.
He came to visit Ronnie and I one day a year or two after we moved to Las Vegas, NV in 1995 and the three of us sat on the back porch and recalled that event with another good laugh.
What motivated me to go after West Point? Not an unusual story. Family, World War II and the patriotism that swept the country after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the great captains of American history who graduated from West Point and became national heroes during the Civil War, World Wars I and II; Army football, and the cold hard family economic facts with respect to a college or university education.
My parents were both native Texans and school teachers in small towns in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado before I headed east to West Point – my dad, a coach in football, basketball and track, and twice doubled up as athletic director while coaching all three major sports. He started in small West Texas towns such as Spring Lake and Flomont – which no longer exist; Ralls, 30 miles east of Lubbock, and Mountainair, NM, which was in the “Bean Valley Conference” before the town almost disappeared in a post-World War II dust bowl.
He came off a small family farm (5 boys, 2 girls) near San Benito, TX and graduated from Texas Tech in 1932 after working his way through school, with a modest football scholarship to supplement his meager earnings in Lubbock, TX.
My mother, who grew up in a large family (7 girls and 2 boys) in Childress, TX, graduated from the Woman’s College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) in Denton, TX, in 1929, and taught in elementary and junior high school all her teaching career. After meeting on summer archeological trips between semesters, on 22 April 1932 they eloped and got married in Clovis, NM.
I was to learn the school teacher life I entered was little different from the military, although we had no professional military heritage in the family. We moved frequently from one small town to another, every two or three years, as they were always on the hunt for better salaries in better schools – and there were no teachers’ retirement systems anywhere – and few existed when I went off to West Point. During the depression they were often paid with IOUs from money- starved school districts in West Texas. Nevertheless, they loved the profession and derived great satisfaction from teaching and coaching athletics.
After coaching one year at El Paso High School, near Ft. Bliss and Biggs Army Airfield, my dad’s next three years of coaching during the war years was at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School, a tri-city in the lower Rio Grande Valley, about 30 miles from his parents’ family farm near San Benito. I “grew up” being influenced by Mountainair, NM (1941-42), El Paso, TX (1942-43), and PSJA (1943-46) by schools, school teaching parents, and small family farms.
My dad bought and we farmed 40 acres of vegetables, and fruit such as tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash – and I drove a Ford tractor - near Weslaco, TX. I assisted my dad’s farming efforts by manning a small trailer filled stand with our farm products, to sell to passersby on the highway.
The summer of ’43 I had picked cotton and ridden with my grandfather on a large horse-drawn trailer filled with cotton to the local gin, for bailing; helped my grandparents harvest citrus fruit, sugar cane, honey from their half-dozen bee stands, and vegetables; gathered eggs, milked cows, churned buttermilk and home made ice cream, and walked behind my paternal granddad as he guided a two-horse, one-row plow, then a disc, breaking and preparing the ground for planting; rode with him on a horse-drawn rake preparing to bail alfalfa. I learned what hard, sweaty, early morning to late evening work meant – along with the importance of thriftiness.
To top it off, I rode with grandmother in their 1936 Dodge four door sedan on her milk, butter and egg route, and went grocery shopping with her at the local Piggly Wiggly market.
My mother? She was the artist. Taught art to elementary and junior high students. Loved classical and religious music. Beautiful penmanship. The philosopher, religious and far more serious member of the family. She told me my maternal grandmother, who was from West Point, MS, used to march me around the family dinner table at age three or four, leading me to West Point – THE West Point.
It was also in those years that in my mind I was surrounded by family “war heroes.” Three uncles on my dad’s side, one who served in the Navy in the Pacific, and one of whom made 18 north Atlantic convoy crossings as an officer in charge of a Navy gun crew (Armed Guards) on Liberty and Victory Ships; another who was a crew chief on P-47s in the 493d Fighter Squadron in Europe; another who had been in the Navy before the war, and worked, “frozen” in shipbuilding yards as a copper welder during the war; another uncle on my mother’s side, who was a comptroller in the Army Air Force, and served in Europe; two first cousins, one in the Army Air Force, another in the Navy, and yet another first cousin who joined the Navy, then went into Aviation Cadets after the war – and gave me my first-ever airplane ride, in a tail-dragging Aeronca Chief – the summer of ’47, after my parents took me into high school at Los Alamos, NM, in 1946.
Los Alamos, the town that came from behind the “green door” and in the minds of many was responsible for ending World War II – in unconditional surrender. It was there my already strong interest in football got stronger, as did my interest in the great Army teams of the war years and afterward. (The football interest began at age five, when my dad’s Ralls High School Jack Rabbits adopted me as their mascot.) And it was at Los Alamos, in October 1946, where my only sibling and beautiful, thirteen year younger sister, Mary Kay was born. (She would later lose her life at age 18 in an automobile accident near Visalia, CA, seven months before I left Ronnie and our three children for Vietnam.)
I had the good fortune to play on my dad’s football, basketball and track teams at Los Alamos. Football was his favorite, and mine naturally, and he consistently produced winning teams. I played quarterback for three years for a coach who could best be described as having the on screen character of a “John Wayne.” He had a man’s man temperament and magnetic charisma, and was much admired by young people everywhere he coached and taught. He could draw the best from them and at Los Alamos his 1946 team, the first team the brand new, growing high school ever fielded in any New Mexico interscholastic competition, went 8-0. (I was a bench warming, freshman, 13-year old quarterback.) In three seasons his football teams went 19-2-2.
I liked playing on winning teams, so Army football interest was “a natural” for me. “Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside” and Arnold Tucker, my heroes. The fall of ’46 I vividly recall being in our four-plex, World War II tarpapered, second floor apartment listening on the radio to the “game of the century” 0-0 tie between Army and Notre Dame, in Yankee Stadium.
That first year at Los Alamos, we practiced and played on dirt fields, and I well remember the following season when we had a new, grass covered football field with a 440-yard cinder track around it, and watched in awe the day after we won our opening game on that field, as the Army’s battalion (Post) team, the Los Alamos Atomic Bombers, lost by a wide margin to a Roswell Air Base team, that boasted former West Point stars Bobbie Dodd (later head coach at Tulsa U.) and halfback John M. (Max) Minor. ’46, as team members.
By the time we left Los Alamos after my dad resigned in March 1949, I had firmly zeroed in on West Point, and was beginning to collect the documents and information needed to apply for an appointment. But my parents, now both going on 44 with no prospect of a decent retirement, knew they had to find a retirement nest egg they could grow each summer while teaching. They had saved the money for a down payment, while I was saving my mail “special delivery” earnings and allowances – such as they were at nine cents a letter - to add to my wartime savings stamps and bonds for the future.
I was certain when we left Los Alamos my West Point dreams were going up in smoke. We headed temporarily to Denver, where I finished my junior year in South High School, before we moved to Del Norte and Wagon Wheel Gap to begin improving the rustic Big River Guest Ranch, with it’s outdoor wood privies, no running water, stoves, heat or baths in its cabins. But all’s well that ends well.
I really lucked out. I graduated from Del Norte, tried to obtain appointments from the two senators from Colorado for entry in the summer of ‘51, Eugene Milliken and Edwin Johnson. Milliken's appointments were "purely political" and Johnson gave competitive civil service exams. Got a second alternate from Senator Johnson. Last stop was the 3rd Congressional District, and Congressman John H. Marsalis (Pueblo, CO area), where he too gave competitive exams. Landed the principal appointment, passed the entrance exams, and was totally shocked.
As mentioned at the beginning, had entered Adams State College the fall of '50 and played football that season, but didn’t mention I had to work three part time jobs to help defray books, tuition and dormitory living at Adams State.
Three part time jobs? Sweep hallway floors in the college administration building a couple of times a week; a one-night a week, grave-yard shift, clean-up of a nearby restaurant and student hang- out, and a once a week “gunk” wash down of airplanes at the nearby privately owned Kramer Airport.
My parents had had to commit all their hard earned savings to the new business and simply couldn’t foot the bill for a college education for me – certainly not then. As for me, I used all my savings for the $300-dollar contribution to the Academy for the first issue of uniforms. It was either West Point or bust….while in between times, my dad had forcibly turned thumbs down on my request he would sign for my enlistment in the Army as a 17-year old, “to go to Korea.”
Didn’t letter in football that season at Adams State. Although quick starting and fast off the ball, too small, too slow and blundered on the field when I attempted to field, then fumbled a kick-off, ran back and attempted to run the ball from the end zone – and was hammered on the 3-yard line. That event and my play as a defensive halfback, when I let an end get behind me about 10 yards – the opposing passer overthrew him - Coach decided I needed some B-team seasoning!
What did I cleverly do after my appointment came through in the early spring of ’51? Decided I needed a vacation before going to West Point. Went to work in Creede snaking telephone poles up a steep, canyon hillside with a block and tackle. Cold as the devil at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, but the pay was good. Academics faded into the distant past, along with good sense.
Brilliantly ignored the advice of a good, considerate retired Army lieutenant colonel and Academy graduate who came by the Ranch in May or June bearing the gift of a “Bugle Notes” copy, urging me to memorize its contents. “It will be helpful in getting through Beast Barracks and the rest of Plebe Year,” he counseled. Much too smart, and too cocky to follow his advice, I put it away – and Lord Help Me, didn’t even try to remember his name. It took me three years to dig myself out of the hole I dug the first semester of Plebe year.
To cap things off, the congressman from whom I obtained the appointment turned out to be a one-term congressman. He had been defeated in November of 1950 while I was at Adams State. Never did find out why. Fortunately, my principal appointment went through, but I almost didn’t.
Thank God for all the good people in my life that encouraged, recommended, and congratulated me for West Point, and stood by and encouraged me – or when my dad, one more time said firmly, after reminding me of an uncertain future, “No!” - when I faltered and attempted to resign in September 1951.
1 AUG 2010
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William Daniel (Bill) McWilliams III
(31 MAY 2011)
Birthplace and date – Brown'sville, TX; July 23, 1933
Parents – William D. (Bill) McWilliams, Jr. and Kathleen (Wood) McWilliams
Siblings – Sister, Mary Kay McWilliams, born 13 October 1946 at the Post Hospital in Los Alamos, NM. Killed in an automobile accident near Visalia, CA on 19 February 1965, eight months before I left Ronnie and our three small children behind, on 14 November 1965, and deployed with other squadron aircrews in a C-135 for Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, Vietnam, with the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron – among the entire 12th Tactical Fighter Wing in the overseas movement.
High school graduated from (plus info like class officer, etc.) – Graduated from Del Norte, CO, High School in May 1950, after attending more than 2 ½ years at Los Alamos High School, NM, and the balance of my junior year at South High School in Denver, CO. We moved to Del Norte the summer of 1949, after my parents, both school teachers, purchased what became "The Big River Guest Ranch," 30 miles west of Del Norte and one mile below Wagon Wheel Gap, on the Rio Grande River.They had taught school in South Texas during World War II, before relocating to Los Alamos in May 1946. In South Texas dad had been an athletic director, coach and teacher who farmed "on the side."
High school sports (what sport, position, team Captain, honors) – Sports were of great importance in my life. Participated in football (quarterback), basketball (guard) and track (broad jump, low hurdles, 440-yard and mile relay teams) all four years of high school. Had the privilege of playing varsity quarterback on my dad’s teams two of three years, when his teams represented Los Alamos in state interscholastic high school competition for the first time ever – after the entire town came out from behind the "green door" of the World War II Manhattan Project. He established a remarkable record of 8-0 his first football season when I was a freshman "bench warmer," and at the end of three seasons compiled a 19-2-2 record. (At Los Alamos is where I first went "kid wacky" over Army football, 1946, the final year of Blanchard, Davis, Tucker and the incredible 0-0 "Game of the Century" tie between Army and Notre Dame. The fall of 1947 whetted my football appetite even more when two former, well known Army football players from their great 1944 National Championship team, Bobby Dobbs and John "Max" Minor came to Los Alamos with the Roswell Air Base team to play the Los Alamos "Atomic Bombers" on the brand new, sod football field.) Was varsity "blocking back" on the Del Norte team my senior year. Lettered three years in football, was named Honorable Mention, All-Conference junior year at Los Alamos, and senior year at Del Norte. Though on the varsity basketball team three of four years, was never a starter and don’t recall if I lettered. (Football was always my favorite sport.) Did fair to mediocre in small high school track competition in both New Mexico and Colorado, but was never a first place winner. Big thrill when our 880-yard relay team went to the state track meet in Boulder, CO, especially since I anchored the team. Reality returned when we came in last in the first round of preliminaries. Although neither softball and baseball were school year sports for me in either town, I learned to "fast-pitch" softball in the Los Alamos summer leagues, a sport I continued participation in while on active duty in the Air Force. Pitched one summer of American Legion Baseball the year I graduated from high school in Del Norte.
Other High school activities (Band, Honor Society, etc.) – Played snare drums one year at Los Alamos, and sang in their chorus one year. Was in the lettermen’s club two years and on the Student Council my junior year. Was in the D Club (lettermen’s club), Future Farmers of America and "Dramatics Club" at Del Norte, and, while portraying the character of a detective in a one-act play competition at Adams State College in Alamosa famously froze on stage – forgot my lines.
Non-school activities (e.g., Scouts, Church etc.) - Was also in Boy Scouts and Civil Air Patrol at Los Alamos, but never got beyond 2nd class in scouts.
Civilian College and/or Military Academy Prep School – Entered Adams State College in Alamosa, CO, the fall of 1950, while continuing to work toward a West Point appointment. I’d been too young to enter in July that year. Continued at Adams State until middle of the third quarter, after receiving notification of the principle appointment in December 1950. Had to work three part time jobs simultaneously to help pay my own way as much as possible, and avoid spending any of the $300 needed to deposit on entering West Point.
Civilian College sports – Walked on to the Adams State football team, and, as a freshman received a small amount of varsity playing time at defensive halfback and kick-off returns – until I made a "freshman blunder" once in each position.
Prior military service, branch and rank – None, but heavily influenced by both my dad’s and mother’s families serving in World War II.
Type of appointment to USMA – Competitive appointment (Civil Service Exam to determine order of appointment), Third Congressional District, CO. Interesting fact. Congressman John H. Marsalis, of Pueblo, CO, who appointed me, turned out to be a one-term congressman.
USMA Roommates – Harvey (Mike) Garn and Al Bundren in Beast Barracks’ 4th New Cadet Company, plus one other whose name I can’t remember. He resigned fairly early Plebe year. Next, in K-1 (South Area), first semester, roomed with Harry Comiskey (turned back at Christmas), Wayne Smith, and Jim Napier – until Harry and I got into a squabble, which earned me a bloody nose just as I was leaving for class right after lunch, about three weeks before Christmas leave. The TAC, Major Robert Royem ‘44, and the cadet company commander, Bob Kelly ’52, decided to move me from the fourth floor, across the hall from an L-1 room, to the first floor, front room, the K-1 division next door to I-1. Roommates were Oscar Raynal, Karl Brunstein, and Dave Pettet, until after Christmas break, when Comiskey was turned back – and Oscar moved in with Smitty and Jim Napier. Karl Brunstein, Dave Pettet and I were roommates the remainder of our academic years. Don’t recall who my roommates were on the Second Beast Detail when we were Firsties.
Close friends at USMA - Karl Brunstein and Dave Pettet became my closest friends at USMA, but we went separate paths when I went into the Air Force and they went Army. Next closest were Oscar Raynal, who roomed with Wayne Smith and Jim Napier, then Ted Livesay, Ed Anderson, and Jim Torrence, who lived down the hall from us, in the company commander’s room overlooking the South Area, just above the first floor orderly room. Yearling summer Karl came to my parents’ place near Wagon Wheel Gap, we hitch hiked for a time, then had to take a bus from Albuquerque to El Paso and Ft. Bliss to rendezvous with Dave Pettet and drive to Chihuahua, Mexico, to visit Oscar Raynal and meet his family.
Wife info, including how you met and place of marriage – The first two pages of Chapter 15, "Bells of Love, Sounds of War," in my first book A Return to Glory, tells the story of how we met. I was a Yearling in April of 1953. The chapter’s primary purpose is to tell the three love stories of Pat Ryan, First Captain in the class of 1951, and Dick Shea and Dick Inman, class of 1952, and the ladies they eventually married after graduation. All three fought in Korea, Pat in B-29s flying out of Okinawa, and both Dick Shea and Dick Inman, who had been on the First Beast Detail in 4th Company, were killed in action on Pork Chop Hill in the same battle in July 1953. Dick Shea received the Medal of Honor posthumously, and Dick Inman received the Silver Star posthumously. Chapter 16 is the condensed version of the Pork Chop Hill battle Dick Shea and Dick Inman participated – and Pat Ryan was in a night radar bombing raid, in the weather at 3,000 feet, out front of Pork Chop early the morning of 4 July.
[Quote] Above the fireplace at the north end of Grant Hall was a large oil portrait of a faintly smiling General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. His pose was striking. He was standing, right hand on his hip, left hand resting lightly on the top of a wood chair back, bald head almost shining. He was wearing his famous waist length, dark, olive green "Ike" jacket with a small circle of five silver stars on each epaulet. Painted into the background of the portrait, behind him, was a picture hanging on a wall, the famed panoramic view of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in 1944, a few days after June 6, D-Day. The background picture, too, was striking.
There were hundreds of ships visible on the English Channel; landing ships unloading streams of men, vehicles and supplies across the beach; and numerous smaller landing craft ferrying fresh troops, wounded men, and supplies back and forth between cargo ships, troop ships, hospital ships, and the beach; and overhead, a few hundred feet above the ships, attached to cables, were dozens of gas-filled barrage balloons intended to keep low flying German aircraft from attacking the giant, anchored armada. A light mounted above the Eisenhower painting’s frame brightened and added cheerfulness to the large, somber Grant Hall reception room.
Sworn in as the thirty-fourth president of the United States in January, Eisenhower’s likeness, since November’s election, gained more frequent attention from admiring visitors who entered the building for the first time. While the painting added brightness to Grant Hall’s interior, it brought more formality to a formal reception room filled with trappings of tradition. Underneath the Eisenhower portrait wasn’t the most relaxed setting to meet a young lady for the first time, especially on a blind date.
Girls. I hardly remembered what they were – except this was spring, April 25, the last Saturday of the month, and Ronald Earl Button from the class of ’54 had asked me early in the week if I’d like a blind date for the weekend. "She’s my fiancée’s sister," he said, "Helen Collier’s sister. Her name is Ronnie, for Veronica." I thought, Veronica, I’ve never met a girl named Veronica. A lovely name. Helen and Ronnie were two of five surviving sisters from a family of six girls, and their home was southwest Philadelphia, not far from the University of Pennsylvania. Her mother was Irish, and immigrated from Ireland’s County Mayo in 1920. Her father was a Scotsman. He came to the United States from Edinburgh in 1923.
Ron Button introduced me to Ronnie Collier in Grant Hall shortly after the Saturday noon meal. She was standing beside Helen at the north end of the large reception room, her back to the fireplace and the soldierly gaze of Dwight Eisenhower. She wore a pale white and dark blue checkered, two-piece dress. The top had broad lapels, adding to the appearance of a fashionable suit. Bending forward slightly, she extended her right hand. I grasped it carefully, lightly. Her hand was small and delicate.
She smiled as she spoke. "Hello, Willy," she said, as we gently shook hands. To the mind of a small town boy, she possessed a young lady’s charming sophistication. She was beautiful. Her eyes were green, her shoulder-length hair dark brown, almost black, her skin fair, with traces of roses in her cheeks. I caught the soft scent of a lovely perfume. Her voice was equally soft, yet clear, and carried the sound of a gentle, tinkling bell. Her voice swept me up, and I was smitten. That was that. The beginning for me. The beginning for us. A moment frozen in time, a memory always warm and fresh in the years ahead.
Such was the beginning of love for us, but the story was never the same for any cadet and his future wife. [End Quote]
After one year and five months of an off and on courtship, I woke up first class year after Fred Knieriem told me when we were passing one another on Diagonal Walk during Second Beast Detail, "Mac, I saw your girlfriend at Buckner, with a flanker…" Ronnie and I got engaged in September 1954 (another interesting story Ed Anderson likely remembers, and so does Ronnie), and married at the Catholic Chapel at 1:30 p.m. on 8 June 1955, one day after graduation.
Children info – Three grown children, all living with their families, and working. Oldest daughter Kathleen Maureen Mendenhall, lives with her husband in Missoula, MT. They have three grown children, and she is volunteering in a local hospital in hopes of landing permanent employee status while he builds a house for the two of them, an hour south of Missoula. Our second daughter is living with her family in Boise, ID, and working in trophy shop. Our son and his wife who has a daughter from a prior marriage, and their nine year-old son, Daniel Allen McWilliams, also live in Boise, where our son has been working for Micron Technology for 24 years – now in the logistics side of the house.
Suggested and/or preferred author for TAPS article – Unknown at this time. May write it to save someone else the trouble.
Others who can fill in gaps about you – None that I can think of at the moment.
Classmates with whom you served – John Pickett at Mountain Home AFB, ID, when John was the Wing Commander, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, and I was the 366th Combat Support Group Commander (Base Commander) under John. Lot’s of hard work, but we had a fascinating, fun one and a half years with John and Mary.
Major military assignments (include DD-214 and DA-66 data) – Primary and Basic pilot training in Class 56T, Moore Air Base and Bryan AFB, TX, T-34, T-28, T-33, completed August 1956; Basic (Flight) Instructor Course, T-33, Craig AFB, AL, completed December 1956; T-33 Flight and Military Training Instructor at Bryan AFB and Reese AFB, TX, taught German and Iranian students along the way, completed assignment at Reese in July 1962, following Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, AL, which was completed in April 1962; assigned to MacDill AFB, FL, 12th Tactical Fighter Wing, in July 1962, operational training course in the T-33 transitioned into F-84F, one week Deep Sea Survival Training Course at Langley AFB, completed in September 1962; TDY to Stead AFB for three weeks Survival Training Course, completed March 1963; TDY to University of Southern California for Flying Safety Officer Course, completed December 1963; transitioned into F/RF-4C beginning March 1964, completed in June 1964; squadron, wing and division Flying Safety Officer, 836th Air Division, MacDill AFB; assigned to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, RVN, with 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 14 November 1965 -June 1966, flew 128 interdiction and close support missions; Air command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, completed June 1967 while obtaining a Masters in Business Administration from George Washington University; assigned to the Air Force Academy as Air Officer Commanding for Cadet Squadrons 28 (one year) and 16 (two years); took T-41 flight instructor training, completed in December 1967, and instructed cadets in the 40-hour flight orientation courses for cadets while also giving them flight orientations in the T-33 at Peterson Field in Colorado Springs; assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, in June 1970 after taking fighter commander course in May 1970; was executive officer for the Wing Commander, pending upgrade to F-4E and fighter training instructor, and then reassigned as operations officer in the 506th Tactical Fighter Squardron, which was functioning as a Replacement Training Unit for pilots destined for assignment to SEA; assigned to Army War College in June 1972 and completed the course in June 1973; assigned to Headquarters, USAF, in the Bases and Units Division, Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs and Resources until March 1976; assigned to 366tth Tactical Fighter Wing as Base Commander at Mountain Home AFB, ID, and then to 27th Tactical Fighter Wing as Wing Vice Commander, Cannon AFB, NM, where I trained into the F-111D: assigned to US Forces Korea/8th US Army J-3, as assistant deputy J-3, in May 1979; assigned as Center Vice Commander, Tactical Fighter Weapons Center, Nellis AFB, NV, arriving June 1981; went to Luke AFB, AZ and checked out in the F-15; retired at Nellis AFB 1 February 1983, and went into the Aerospace Industry.
Second career info - After leaving the Air Force I worked more than eight and one half years in systems engineering and management positions in industry, including a concept development study at Sanders Associates in Nashua, NH, for the integrated defense systems for the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Next, in August 1995, we moved to the Electro-optical and Data Systems Group at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, CA, to work as a systems engineering manager on the missile sight for the Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the ground mapping and navigation sensors for the Navy’s Tomahawk Cruise Missile. I then transferred to the Hughes Space and Communications Group in El Segundo and did management system evaluation and auditing, in various production programs, including Hughes Aircraft Company’s satellite production programs. I retired from Hughes Aircraft Company on 1 April 1992 and began a third career.
Broad experience in interview, investigative research, management system evaluation and improvement, process improvement and auditing work, including investigating and reporting causes of fourteen major, U.S. Air Force aircraft accidents and hundreds of incidents, convinced me to begin researching and writing history – mostly military and sports history.
Writing includes a major 1,144 page Korean War history and true story, A Return to Glory: The Untold Story of Honor, Dishonor, and Triumph at the United States Military Academy, 1950-53; numerous articles, columns, and letters published in: newspapers in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Thousand Oaks, CA; Los Alamos, NM; Elko, NV and Bryan, TX; Air Force Maintenance Magazine; VFW Magazine; base and company newspapers; a variety of Air Force safety publications; the United States Military Academy Association of Graduates magazine, Assembly; fraternal and professional organization newsletters.
In February 2000, before Warwick House Publishing’s August 2000 release of A Return to Glory, the US Military Academy, joint faculty-graduate, Bicentennial Planning Group unanimously selected the work as a Bicentennial Book, granting imprint of the Academy’s Bicentennial logo on the book jacket cover, book cover, and title page.
In March 2005, Los Angeles-based Orly Adelson Productions, Inc., under contract with ESPN Original Entertainment, purchased television film rights for A Return to Glory, with ESPN planning for a movie based on the book, and a related documentary, based in part on the book. ESPN aired the one-hour, Winnercomm, Inc. documentary, "Brave Old Army Team," on 6 December 2005, followed four days later with ESPN Original Entertainment’s highly successful, made-for-TV movie, "Code Breakers." ESPN subsequently released a "Code Breakers" DVD on 11 July 2006, which included the "Brave Old Army Team" documentary. I participated in an on-screen interview in the documentary and at the request of Winnercomm producers, voluntarily served as the "fact checker" for the documentary before it was released.
My second book, On Hallowed Ground, The Last Battle for Pork Chop Hill, published by the Naval Institute Press in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army was released in hardback October 2003, while I participated in an AUSA-sponsored Authors’ Forum in Washington, DC. The work is a detailed account of the 6-11 July 1953 final battle for the outpost, three weeks prior to the Korean War armistice. In October 2004, after purchasing subsidiary rights, Berkley Caliber Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, USA, published the work in trade paperback. A screenplay is in progress aiming for a feature film based on the book.
Additional Comments - Too many already! No more necessary.
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Veronica Eileen "Ronnie" McWilliams
At 10:20 p.m., Pacific time yesterday evening, November 1, 2015, the Nathan Adelson Hospice nurse who had been called to come to our home, informed us that the Inspiration and Love of My Life for more than sixty years, Veronica Eileen McWilliams, had passed into the Everlasting Arms of her Lord.
Her day to say “Until we meet again," was Sunday, All Saints Day, and that morning, while in a deep coma, she had received the last rites of our Catholic Faith, given by Fr. Shawn Dresden of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Her leaving came at the end of a long, difficult, and valiant struggle against Alzheimer’s Disease.
We will always and forever love her, and remember her beauty, cheerfulness, sense of humor and positive outlook on life, as seen everywhere in her home, her pride and joy - which she so lovingly decorated when we returned to Las Vegas and moved into it twenty years ago last August 25 - exactly 62 years and five months ago to the day we first met on a “blind date” at the US Military Academy in West Point, NY.
More information with regard to a funeral Mass will be forthcoming. A half page Memorial will appear in the Las Vegas Review-Journal preceding the funeral Mass, announcing the details.
Bill McWilliams and Family