1st Lt William Franklyn Williams, Jr.
August 8, 1919- July 21, 1944
Class: 43-F-SE
Graduation Date: July 6, 1943
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron
Service # O-80711

William was born in 1919 to William Williams and Lottie Pittman, in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents had moved to Cleveland from Alabama, and his father was employed as a laborer in a foundry. The family lived on East 8th Street in Cleveland, and the 1930 census shows his father employed as a concrete worker. In 1940, the family was living on Keyes Avenue.

Later that year, William was living with his family on 121st Street but he was attending Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. He registered with the war office on 16 Oct 1940 in Gallodaga, Alabama. He then enrolled in flight training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, completing his training on 30 Jun 1943. In late December of that year, he was deployed to Italy where he became part of the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. His first combat mission was on 4 Feb. 1944.

The group was stationed at Ramitelli Air Field, in Italy, and it was from there that he would take his final flight, on 24 July, 1944. During a bomber escort mission to an oil refinery near Linz, Austria, on July 24, mechanical trouble forced part of the 332nd Fighter Group to return to Ramitelli Air Field in Italy. Flight leader Williams and his wingman moved to join another part of the group when they ran into thick clouds and were separated from the rest of the flight. “Some five minutes later I was abreast of Lt. Williams on his right wing,” 2nd Lt. Robert H. Daniels Jr. wrote in a military report. “We were flying on instruments, climbing about 1,000 feet per minute to get over the overcast. At approximately 11:40 (a.m.), Lt. Williams told me to bear to the right, which place him on my left rear quarter, still within sight. He called again and told me to watch out for three ships, which suddenly appeared overhead and just to our left front quarter. I acknowledged his call, advising him that I saw the three ships. I got on the right wing of the ship furthest to the right. I identified the three ships as 99th Fighter Squadron ships, and when I did not see Lt. Williams on either wing to my rear, I called him and reported that I was flying with a (99th) flight of three. I received no reply to my call.”

The dense clouds forced Daniels and the other three pilots to return to base; Williams was not seen again.

An investigation that was underway in 1953 indicated that a Major Wood had been informed that Williams’ plane had been shot down by enemy fire, and he not parachuted to survive the crash. Paperwork indicated that Major Wood had attended the funeral. But a letter from 1954 from Wood states that Williams was to be buried with full military honors in the vicinity of Loqua, Yugoslavia. Wood had fully intended to go to this funeral, but German operations that commenced between 19 July and 11 Aug of 1944 prevented him from attending. As a result, he did not have the exact location of the burial, and any field investigations pursued later failed to produce the place of Williams’ burial.

As a result, 2lt. Williams continues to be listed as MIA. William F Williams Jr is buried or memorialized at American Cemetery – Epinal, France, tablets of the missing. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location.

St Louis Post Dispatch


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