Daily Archives: February 20, 2021

19–20 February 1979

Professor Neil A. Armstrong in his classroom at the Iniversity of Cincinatti College of Engineering, 1974. (Peggy Palange, UC Public Informaton Office)
Professor Neil A. Armstrong in his classroom at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, 1974. (Peggy Palange, UC Public Information Office)

19–20 February 1979: Professor Neil Alden Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, a member of the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet Corporation, former United States Navy fighter pilot, NACA/NASA research test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and The First Man To Set Foot On The Moon, set five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and National Aeronautics Association class records for time to climb to an altitude and altitude while flying the prototype Learjet 28, serial number 28-001.

Professor Neil Armstrong and co-pilot Peter Reynolds in the cockpit of the record-setting Learjet 28, March 1979.
Professor Neil Armstrong and co-pilot Peter Reynolds in the cockpit of the record-setting Learjet 28.

Armstrong, with Learjet program test pilot Peter Reynolds as co-pilot, and with NAA observer Don Berliner aboard, flew the Learjet 28 to 15,000 meters (49,212.598 feet) in 12 minutes, 27 seconds over Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on 19 February.¹

On the same day, during a flight from Wichita, Kansas, to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Armstrong flew the Learjet to 15,584.6 meters (51,130.577 feet), setting records for altitude, and for sustained altitude in horizontal flight.²  ³

The following day, 20 February 1979, flying from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Florence, Kentucky, Armstrong again set altitude and sustained altitude in horizontal flight, in a different class, by taking the Learjet to 15,585 meters (51,131.89 feet).⁴ ⁵

Learjet 28, serial number 28-001
Learjet 28, serial number 28-001. (NASA)

The Learjet 28 was a development of the Learjet 25 twin-engine business jet. It is operated by two pilots and can carry 8 passengers. The Model 28 used a new wing design. It was the first civil aircraft to be certified with winglets. The prototype first flew 24 August 1977, and it received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration 29 July 1979.

The Learjet 28 is 47 feet, 7.5 inches (14.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 9½ inches (13.348 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). The wing area is 264.5 square feet (24.6 square meters) It has an empty weight of 7,895 pounds (3,581 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilograms).

Gates Learjet 28 three-view illustration. (FLIGHT International, No. 3647, Vol. 115, 10 February 1979, Page 402)

The Learjet 28 is powered by two General Electric CJ610-8A turbojet engines. This is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet, developed from the military J85. It has an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The CJ610-8A is rated at 2,850 pounds of thrust (12.68 kilonewtons) at 16,500 r.p.m., and 2,950 pounds (13.12 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, for takeoff (five minute limit).

The business jet has a cruise speed of 464 knots (534 miles per hour (859 kilometers per hour) at 51,000 feet (15,544.8 meters). The Learjet 28 has a maximum range of 1,370 nautical miles (1,577 statute miles/2,537 kilometers). The airplane’s maximum operating altitude is 51,000 feet (15,545 meters), the same as the record altitude. It can reach that altitude in less than 35 minutes.

The aircraft was limited by its older technology turbojet engines, and only five Learjet 28s were built.

gates Learjet 28 N128LR. (Business Aviation Online)

The first Learjet 28, serial number 28-001, has been re-registered several times. At the time of its FAI record-setting flights, it carried FAA registration N9RS. Later it was registered as N3AS. The most recent information shows it currently registered as N128LR.

Neil Alden Armstrong, one of America’s most loved heroes, passed away 25 August 2012.

A bronze statue of Neil Alden Armstrong in front of the Hall of Engineering.
A bronze statue of Neil Alden Armstrong in front of the Hall of Engineering.

¹ FAI Record File Number 2652

² FAI Record File Number 8670

³ FAI Record File Number 8657

⁴ FAI Record File Number 2653

⁵ FAI Record File Number 2654

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1972

20 February 1972: A United States Air Force Lockheed HC-130H Hercules, 65-0972, flew from Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Taiwan, Republic of China, to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, U.S.A., non-stop, in 21 hours, 12 minutes. This set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance, 14,052.95 kilometers (8,732.10 statute miles).¹ This broke the record set 21–22 January 1971, by a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion.² lSee TDiA 21 January–8 February 1971]

The crew were: LCOL Edgar L. Allison, Jr., Mission Commander, Chatanooga TN; CPT Richard J. Racette, Aircraft Commander, Niles IL; CPT David E. Gardner, Pilot, South Gate CA; MAJ Anthony Liparulo, Navigator, New London, CT; CPT Carl E. Bennett, Navigator, Hamilton TX; TSGT Morelle E. Larouche, Flight Engineer, Holyoke MA; TSGT William F. Litton, Flight Engineer, Pennington Gap PA; TSGT Theodore Trainer, Loadmaster, Wapabo WA; TSGT Robert Landry, Crew Chief, New Orleans, LA; Major Kenneth S. Wayne, Flight Surgeon, Oak Park IL; SSGT William L. Hippert, Radio Operator, Rahway NJ; SSGT Pat E. Carrothers, Radio Operator, Lake Charles LA.

The crew was assigned to the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service ARRS).

General Jack J. Catton, Military Airlift Command, presented Lieutenant Colonel Allison the Distinguished Flying Cross, while the other crewmembers received the Air Medal.

Lockheed HC-130H Hercules 65-0977, sister ship of the record-setting aircraft. (© Lewis Grant/AirHistory.net)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8062.  Ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code.

² FAI Record File Number 8582.

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1966

Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, 1968. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream.

A Boeing B-52F-65-BW Stratofortress, 57-0144, drops bombs during an Arc Light strike. (U.S. Air Force)

The aircraft commander was Captain Bob Amos, and co-pilot, Captain Lee Meyers. Other crew members were Captain Irby Terrell, radar navigator, Captain Kenny Rahn, navigator, and technical Sergeant Demp Johnson, gunner.

Brigadier General James M. ("Jimmy") Stewart, USAFR (center) with the crew of B-52F Stratofortress 57-149, at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, 20 February 1966. (U.S. Air Force)
Brigadier General James M. (“Jimmy”) Stewart, USAFR (center) with the crew of B-52F Stratofortress 57-149, at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, 20 February 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

Jimmy Stewart was a successful Hollywood actor. He had an interest in aviation since childhood, and he earned a private pilot license in 1935, then upgraded to a commercial license in 1938. He owned his own airplane, a Stinson 105, and frequently flew it across the country to visit his family.

Stewart enlisted as a private in the United States Army 22 March 1941, just three weeks after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “The Philadelphia Story.” Military records show that he had brown hair and blue eyes, was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and weighed 145 pounds (65.8 kilograms).

James M. Stewart enlists as a private in the United States Army, 22 March 1941. (Los Angeles Times)
James M. Stewart enlists as a private in the United States Army, 22 March 1941. (Los Angeles Times)

Because of his college education and experience as a pilot, Corporal Stewart was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, 19 January 1942. He was assigned as an instructor pilot at Mather Field, near Sacramento, California.

Corporal James M. Stewart was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, at Moffett Field, California, 19 January 1942. (AP)
Corporal James M. Stewart was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, at Moffett Field, California, 19 January 1942. (AP)

Stewart was promoted to first lieutenant 7 July 1942. Stewart was next assigned as a pilot at the Bombardier School at Kirtland Army Air Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

First Lieutenant James M. Stewart, USAAF, (third from left) as a pilot at the Training Command Bombardier School, Kirkland AAF, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1942. (U.S. Air Force)
First Lieutenant James M. Stewart, USAAF, (third from left) as a pilot at the Training Command Bombardier School, Kirtland AAF, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1942. (U.S. Air Force) Update: The first student on the left has been identified as John M. “Jack” Drenan. 1st Lieutenant Drenan, a B-24 bombardier, was listed as Missing in Action on a mission to the Marshall Islands, 2 January 1944. Thanks to Mr. Patrick E. Freudenthal for the information.

After transition training in the B-17 Flying Fortress, Lieutenant Stewart was assigned as as an instructor at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho. On 9 July 1943, Stewart was promoted to captain and given command of a training squadron.

Concerned that his celebrity status would keep him in “safe” assignments, Jimmy Stewart had repeatedly requested a combat assignment. His request was finally approved and he was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe. Three weeks later, he was promoted to commanding officer of the 703rd.

Captain James M. Stewart, USAAF, (standing, fourth from left) commanding officer, 703rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy), with his squadron officers and a B-24 Liberator long-range heavy bomber, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain James M. Stewart, USAAF, (standing, fourth from left) commanding officer, 703rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy), with his squadron officers and a B-24 Liberator long-range heavy bomber, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The 445th Bombardment Group arrived in England on 23 November 1943, and after initial operational training, was stationed at RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. The unit flew its first combat mission on 13 December 1943, with Captain Stewart leading the high squadron of the group formation in an attack against enemy submarine pens at Kiel, Germany. On his second mission, Jimmy Stewart led the entire 445th Group.

Ford B-24H-1-FO Liberator 42-7563, “Hell’s Warrior,” 701st Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Captain James M. Stewart, 8th Air Force, circa December 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

On 20 January 1944, Stewart was promoted to major, and served as deputy commander of the 2nd Bombardment Wing during a series of missions known as “Big Week.” He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Major James M. Stewart, USAAF, Group Operations Officer, 453rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Old Buckenham, 1944.
Major James M. Stewart, USAAF, Group Operations Officer, 453rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Old Buckenham, 1944.

Major Stewart was next assigned as Group Operations Officer of the 453rd Bombardment Wing at RAF Old Buckenham. He assigned himself to fly the lead B-24 in the group’s missions against Germany until he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, 3 June 1944, and assigned as executive officer of the 2nd Bombardment Wing. In this position he flew missions with the 445th, 453rd, 389th Bomb Groups, and with units of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing.

After being promoted to the rank of Colonel on 29 March 1945, he was given command of the 2nd Bombardment Wing. He had risen from Private to Colonel in four years. He received a second Distinguished Flying Cross and was presented the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France.

Lieutenant Colonel James M. Stewart, USAAF, executive officer, 2nd Bombardment Wing, post mission, 23 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel James M. Stewart, USAAF, executive officer, 2nd Bombardment Wing, post mission, 23 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant General Henri Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix de Guerre avec Palme to Colonel James M. Stewart, USAAF, 1945. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant General Henri Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix de Guerre avec Palme to Colonel James M. Stewart, USAAF, 29 January 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

Following World War II, Jimmy Stewart remained in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a Reserve Officer, and with the United States Air Force after it became a separate service in 1947. Colonel Stewart commanded Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia. In 1953, his wartime rank of colonel was made permanent, and on 23 July 1959, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General.

During his active duty periods, Colonel Stewart remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command.

"Actor James Stewart, (right), a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, arrives at Loring Air Force Base, here on July 8th, for his annual two-week tour of active duty. Stewart is being greeted by Brigadier General William K. Martin, (center), Commander of the 45th Air Division. While at Loring, the actor will be given a pilot refresher course in flying the B-52 heavy bomber." (©Bettman/CORBIS)
“Actor James Stewart, (right), a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, arrives at Loring Air Force Base, here on July 8th, for his annual two-week tour of active duty. Stewart is being greeted by Brigadier General William K. Martin, (center), Commander of the 45th Air Division. While at Loring, the actor will be given a pilot refresher course in flying the B-52 heavy bomber.” (Bettman/CORBIS)

James Stewart was one of America’s most successful film actors. He made a number of aviation films , such as “No Highway in the Sky,” “Strategic Air Command,” “The Spirit of St. Louis”and “The Flight of the Phoenix.”

James Stewart on te set of "Strategic Air Command" at Carswell AFB, Texas, 1955. Stewart, a colonel in teh U.S. Air Force Reserve, portrayed "Colonel Dutch Holland" a reserve officer recalled to active duty with SAC during the Cold War.
James Stewart on the set of “Strategic Air Command” at Carswell AFB, Texas, 1955. Stewart, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, portrayed “Colonel Dutch Holland,” a reserve officer recalled to active duty with SAC during the Cold War.

During his military service, Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; the Distinguished Service Medal; and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

General Stewart retired from the U.S. Air Force on 1 June 1968 after 27 years of service.

Arc Light. (United States Air Force 110310-F-XN622-001)

Jimmy Stewart died of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills, 2 July 1997, at the age of 89 years. He is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC

Launch of Friendship 7 from Launch Complex 14, Kennedy Space Center, 14:47:39 UTC, 20 February 1962. (NASA)

20 February 1962: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the third launch of a manned Mercury spacecraft, and the first time that an Atlas rocket had been used.

Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., NASA Project Mercury Astronaut. (Ralph Morse/LIFE Magazine)

In his post-flight mission report, Glenn wrote,

When the countdown reached zero, I could feel the engines start. The spacecraft shook, not violently but very solidly. There was no doubt when lift off occurred, When the Atlas was released there was an immediate gentle surge to let you know you were on your way.

Results of the First United States Orbital Space Flight (NASA-TM-108606), Manned Spacecraft Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at Page 120, Column 1

2 minutes, 9.6 seconds after liftoff, the booster engines cut of and were jettisoned. 23 seconds later, the escape tower, no longer needed, was also jettisoned. The Atlas sustainer engine continued to burn until T+00:05:01.4. The spacecraft had now reached 17,544 miles per hour (28,234 kilometers per hour) and was in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. At T+00:05:03.6 the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Atlas booster. During the climb to orbit, John Glenn experienced a maximum acceleration of 7.7 gs.

Glenn’s orbit had an apogee of 162.2 statute miles (261 kilometers) and perigee of 100 miles (161 kilometers). The orbit was inclined 32.54° relative to Earth’s orbital plane. Friendship 7 completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 29 seconds.

Analysis showed that the Atlas had placed Friendship 7 in orbit at a velocity with 7 feet per second (2.1 meters per second) less than nominal. However, computer analysis showed that the orbital trajectory was good enough for nearly 100 orbits.

This photograph of Friendship 7’s cockpit was taken in orbit around the Earth, 20 February 1962. Astronaut John Glenn’s hands and legs are visible at the lower edge of the image. (Ohio State University)

During the 4 hour, 55 minute, 23 second flight, the Mercury capsule orbited the Earth three times. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.  (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth 12 April 1961.)

Friendship 7 is hoisted aboard USS Noa (DD-841). (U.S. Navy)

After re-entry, the capsule parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, only six miles from the recovery ship, USS Noa (DD-841).

Mercury spacecraft profile with dimensions. (NASA)

The Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 13th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by steam thrusters fueled by hydrogen peroxide. The Mercury was 7 feet, 2.83 inches (2.206 meters) long, not including its retro rocket pack. The spacecraft was generally conical, and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.885 meters). It weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 kilograms) at launch.

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B (Space Launch Report)

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (118,000 kilograms) and could place a 3,000 pound (1,360 kilogram) payload into low Earth orbit.

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Friendship 7 is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

John Glenn's Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)
John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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Medal of Honor, 1st Lieutenant William Robert Lawley, Jr., Air Corps, Army of the United States

First Lieutenant William Robert Lawley, Jr., Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force 160510-D-LN615-006)

MEDAL OF HONOR

FIRST LIEUTENANT WILLIAM ROBERT LAWLEY, JR.

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: United States Army Air Forces

Rank: First Lieutenant

Company: 364th Bombardment Squadron

Regiment: 305th Bombardment Group (H)

Division: 8th Air Force

First Lieutenant William R. Lawley, Jr., is congratulated by Lieutenant General Carl A. Spaatz on the award of the Medal of Honor, 8 August 1944. (Signal Corps, United States Army)

William Robert Lawley, Jr., was born 23 August 1920 at Leeds, Alabama. He was the fourth child of William Robert Lawley, a retired lieutenant colonel and a Baptist minister, and Emma Elizabeth Hazelwood Lawley.

“W.R.” Lawley attended Leeds High School, where he was considered an average student. He played the position of pitcher on the school’s baseball team. He graduated in 1938, and although he wanted to go on to college, he needed to work to support his family. Lawley drove a truck for the Sinclair Oil Company. His supervisor said, “W.R. drove an oil truck for me in 1941. He was extremely quiet and always very friendly. The most I ever saw him do was to work. He’s worked at something just about all of his life, I reckon.”

Lawley enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), at Birmingham, Alabama, 9 April 1942. The young man was 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 meters) tall, weighed 168 pounds (76.2 kilograms), and had brown hair and hazel eyes.

On 25 August 1942, Private Lawley was appointed an aviation cadet and sent to Altus Army Air Field, Oklahoma, for flight training. On completion of training, 21 April 1943, Aviation Cadet Lawley married Miss Amelia Dodd of Dennison, Texas, in the base chapel at Altus A.A.F. The ceremony was performed by a U.S. Army chaplain. The following day, 22 April 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps, A.U.S.

2nd Lieutenant Lawley trained as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. In November 1943 he was sent to England with the 364th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Chelveston (Air Force Station 105). He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, A.U.S., 6 February 1944.

(Left to right) Front row, Sgt. Alfred Wendt, tail gunner; TSgt.Joseph Kobierecki, ball turret gunner; Sgt. Ralph Braswell, waist gunner; Sgt Spears; SSgt Carrol Rowley, top turret gunner; SSgt Thomas Dempsey, radio operator. Back row, 1st Lt. William R. Lawley, Jr., aircraft commander; Lt. Paul Murphy, co-pilot; Lt. Harry Seraphine, navigator; Lt. Harry Mason, bombardier. (Home of the Heroes)

1st Lieutenant Lawley was on his tenth combat mission 20 February 1944. He and his crew were flying a new Douglas-built B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress, 42-38109, named Cabin in the Sky, after a popular musical of the time.  This was the bombers very first combat mission. It carried the identification letters WF P on its fuselage.

42-38109 had built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at its Long Beach, California, plant. The new airplane was sent to the modification center at Denver, Colorado, 15 December 1943 where the latest combat modifications were installed. It was then sent to the heavy bomber training squadrons at Mitchell Army Air Field, Mitchell, South Dakota, 20 January 1944. Flown across the North Atlantic Ocean, 42-38109 arrived at Chelveston 10 February 1944.

Following the 20 February 1944 mission, 42-38109 never flew again. Damaged beyond repair, it was salvaged by the 2nd Strategic Air Depot, 23 February 1944.

Wreck of Lieutenant Lawley’s Douglas-built B-17G Flying Fortress 42-38109, “Cabin in the Sky,” at RAF Redhill, Surrey, England. (U.S. Air Force, 53958 A.C.)

Lieutenant Lawley flew 14 additional combat missions, He was returned to the United States in September 1944. On 9 January 1945, he was promoted to captain, A.U.S.

Following the end of the War, Captain Lawley remained in the Air Corps. On 5 July 1946, he was appointed to the permanent rank of 1st lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army (U.S.A.). His rank was retroactive to 22 April 1946.

Captain Lawley was promoted to major in August 1949.

Lawley’s official United States Air Force biography reads:

He returned to the United States in September 1944, serving as a public relations officer at Hendricks Field, Fla. Promoted to captain in January 1945, he completed the public relations course at Craig Field, Ala. and the Air Tactical School at Tyndall AFB, Fla., serving during part of this time as aide to Gen. Muir S. Fairchild at Maxwell Field Ala. 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, Va., and the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington, D.C. He then went to Brazil, with promotion to lieutenant colonel, as Asst. Air Attache. He served until 1954. Coming home, he attended the Air Command and Staff School at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala., and on graduation was assigned as commander of the 55th Air Refueling Squadron at Forbes AFB, Kan. 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.

—Air Force Historical Support Division, Fact Sheets, Lawley—1st Lt William R. Lawley Jr

Colonel William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Air Force, died  29 May 1999 at Montgomery, Alabama. He remains were interred at Greenwood Serenity memorial Gardens, in Montgomery.

Colonel William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Air Force. (U.S. Air force)

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

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