Medal of Honor, Second Lieutenant William Edward Metzger, Jr., United States Army Air Corps

2nd Lieutenant William Edward Metzger, Jr., United States Army Air Corps



The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant (Air Corps) William Edward Metzger, Jr. (ASN: 0-558834), United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 729th Bombardment Squadron, 452d Bombardment Group (H), Eighth Air Force. On a bombing run upon the marshaling yards at Saarbrucken, Germany, on 9 November 1944, a B-17 aircraft on which Second Lieutenant Metzger was serving as copilot was seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Three of the aircraft’s engines were damaged beyond control and on fire; dangerous flames from the No. 4 engine were leaping back as far as the tail assembly. Flares in the cockpit were ignited and a fire roared therein which was further increased by free-flowing fluid from damaged hydraulic lines. The interphone system was rendered useless. In addition to these serious mechanical difficulties the engineer was wounded in the leg and the radio operator’s arm was severed below the elbow. Suffering from intense pain, despite the application of a tourniquet, the radio operator fell unconscious. Faced with the imminent explosion of his aircraft and death to his entire crew, mere seconds before bombs away on the target, Second Lieutenant Metzger and his pilot conferred. Something had to be done immediately to save the life of the wounded radio operator. The lack of a static line and the thought that his unconscious body striking the ground in unknown territory would not bring immediate medical attention forced a quick decision. Second Lieutenant Metzger and his pilot decided to fly the flaming aircraft to friendly territory and then attempt to crash land. Bombs were released on the target and the crippled aircraft proceeded along to Allied-controlled territory. When that had been reached Second Lieutenant Metzger personally informed all crewmembers to bail out upon the suggestion of the pilot. Second Lieutenant Metzger chose to remain with the pilot for the crash landing in order to assist him in this emergency. With only one normally functioning engine and with the danger of explosion much greater, the aircraft banked into an open field, and when it was at an altitude of 100 feet it exploded, crashed, exploded again, and then disintegrated. All three crewmembers were instantly killed. Second Lieutenant Metzger’s loyalty to his crew, his determination to accomplish the task set forth to him, and his deed of knowingly performing what may have been his last service to his country was an example of valor at its highest.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 38 (May 16, 1945)

Action Date: November 9, 1944

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Company: 729th Bombardment Squadron

Regiment: 452d Bombardment Group (H)


Lockheed Vega B-17G-35-VE Flying Fortress 42-97904, Lady Jeanette. (American Air Museum in Britain, FRE 001822)
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