Dyersburg Army Air Base (1943)
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Name: William Frederick Gilliland Rank: Sergeant Service Number: 11105150 Service: 419th Squadron, United States Army Air Forces Date of Birth: September 13, 1920 Place of Birth: Greenfield, Franklin County, Massachusetts Date of Enlistment: October 2, 1942 Place of Enlistment: Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts Age at Enlistment: 22 Address at Enlistment: Worcester Co., Massachusetts Height: 5 feet, 7 inches Complexion: Light Hair color: Blonde Eye color: Blue Occupation: Unskilled occupations in fabrication of textile products Marital Status: Single Next of Kin: Ora Gilliland (Mother) Date of Death: January 18 or 19, 1944 Age of Death: 23 Cemetery: Green Bower Cemetery, Gardner, Worcester Co., Massachusetts William F. Gilliland was the son of Ralph DeWolf Gilliland (1884-1962) and Ora May (Thayer) Gilliland (1890- 1963). His father was born in Digby, Digby County, Nova Scotia, and his mother was born in Orange, Franklin County, Massachusetts. William’s siblings were Jessie May Gilliland Kimball (1912-1993), John D Gilliland (1914-1985), Eugene F Gilliland (1918-1977), Eugene F Gilliland (1918-1977), and James E Gilliland (1927-2001). Eugene was serving overseas as a Private with the US Army at the time of William’s death. William attended Gardner High School and he was a Boy Scout patrol leader with Troop 1. He lived in Gardner for eight years and worked for the Greenwood-Carlton Corporation before moving to Bolton Road in Westminster in 1941. He was employed at the Smith Box Company in Westminster just prior to entering military service on October 2, 1942. He graduated from the Harlingen flexible gunner school in Texas and earned the silver wings of a gunner- sergeant as an expert aerial triggerman. He began training as a gunner aboard B-17 bombers at Dyersburg Army Air Base in Halls, outside of Dreysburg, Lauderdale County, Tennessee. On January 19, 1944, his bomber was flying with another B-17 practising manoeuvres. The pilot of William's plane flew underneath the other and came up too close to the second plane. The tail of William's plane crashed into the nose of the other plane causing his plane to plummet and crash. Eight airmen and a civilian from the Dyersburg Base were killed and two were injured when the Flying Fortresses collided in flight. Only the Tail Gunner, Sgt. Clement J. Ost, survived. The members of the crew who perished: Waist Gunner Sgt. Gilliland Pilot, 1st Lt. George D. Penniman Co-Pilot, 2nd Lt. Joseph F. Kerber Bombardier, 2nd Lt. William L. O'Donnell Engineer, Master Sgt. Abraham E. Barnum Assistant Engineer, Sgt. Martin B. Johnston Radio Operator, Sgt. Richard J. Scott Waist Gunner, Sgt. Joseph P. Azevedo. The civilian, Thomas S. Kessler, was a representative of an instrument manufacturing company on duty with the air forces. The other bomber returned to the base safely. Sergeant William Frederick Gililland was returned to his home state for burial and is interred at the Green Bower Cemetery in Gardner, Worcester Co., Mass.
William Frederick Gilliland
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Sources: findagrave Fitchburg Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Monday, January 24, 1944 US National WWII Memorial Registry background photo: Dyersburg Army Air Base (1943)