Name:  Dyess, William Edwin "Ed"
Date of birth: August 9th, 1916 (Albany/Texas, United States)
Date of death:  December 22nd, 1943 (Burbank/California, United States)
Nationality:  American
Service number O-22526
William Edwin Dyess was born in Albany, Texas on August 9th, 1916, the son of Richard T. Dyess and Hallie Graham-Duess. After graduation from Albany High School he went to John Tarleton Agricultural College in Stephenville, Texas and graduated in 1936.
After he had joined the US Army, he was trained as a pilot on Kelly Field and Randolph Field, both in San Antonio, Texas. October 1937 he was posted to the US Army Air Corps at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he was posted as Commanding Officer to 21st Pursuit Squadron at Hamilton Field, San Francisco with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. In October 1941, the unit was transferred to the Philippines and based on Nichols Field near Manilla.
The unit suffered a high number of casualties during the Japanese attack on the Philippines. In the course of the battle, he was made Commanding Officer of all air units in Bataan. At the conclusion of the battle, Dyes refused to leave the men behind who could not be evacuated. He gave his own aircraft to Lieutenant I.B. “Jack” Donaldson who managed to escape to Australia in it. During the battle in the Philippines, Dyess downed five enemy airplanes but was not credited with any of them. He was credited however for the sinking of a Japanese vessel. As a result of a shortage of airplanes, he led and trained his men as riflemen and converted the unit to a temporary company of the 71st Infantry Division.
William E. Dyess was taken prisoner by the Japanese on April 9th, 1942 and he took part in the infamous Death March of Bataan. Initially he was interned in Camp O’Donnell but from June to October 1942 he was in the POW camp of Cabanatuan. Subsequently he was transferred aboard the vessel Erie Maru to the Davao Penitentiary Unit on Mindanao. Here, on April 4th, 1943, he managed to escape along with nine other American POW’s and two Philippine internees. After having eluded their captors for weeks, they managed to join up with guerilla fighters. July 1943, Dyess was evacuated from Mindanao and taken to Australia aboard the U.S.S. Trout.
After debriefing in the United States and a stay in Greenbrier Resort hospital, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia he was pulled back into active service in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was selected for conversion training on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. While on a training flight on December 22nd, 1943, his plane caught fire over a populated area of Burbank, California. In order to prevent his plane crashing on citizens, he continued flying his plane to an uninhibited area where it crashed, killing William E. Dyess. He was buried in Albany.
December 1956, Abilene Army Airfield was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in his honor.
Rank: Captain
Unit: 21st Pursuit Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group, Far East Air Force
Awarded on: 1942
Action: Place and date action: Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, 2nd March 1942.

"For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-40 Fighter Airplane in the 21st Pursuit Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group, FAR EAST Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission against enemy Japanese surface vessels on 2 March 1942, over Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. On this date Captain Dyess hung a 500-pound bomb with a jury-rigged bomb release on a P-40 and, with three other pilots, bombed and strafed Japanese shipping in Subic Bay. Three times that day he braved heavy flak, destroying or damaging several small vessels, warehouses, and supply dumps. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Dyess on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces."
Details: Headquarters: U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, General Orders No. 39 (1942).
Rank: Major
Unit: G-3 110th Guerrilla Division, Philippine Guerilla Forces
Awarded on: 1943
Action: Place and date action: Philippines, 4th April - 20th July 1943.

"For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Philippine Guerilla Forces during the period 4 April 1943 through 20 July 1934. Major Dyess was one of ten men including two Naval Officers, three Air Corps Officers, and two Marine Corps Officers who escaped after nearly a year in captivity after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. The ten men evaded their captors for days until connecting with Filipino Guerillas under Wendell Fertig. The officers remained with the guerillas for weeks, obtaining vital information which they carried with them when they were subsequently evacuated by American submarines. Their escape was the only mass escape from a Japanese prison camp during the war. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Major Dyess during this period have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Prisoner of War, and the United States Army Air Forces."
Details: Second DSC awarded as a bronze oak leaf cluster to be worn in the ribbon of the first DSC.
Headquarters: U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, General Orders No. 46 (1943).
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Awarded on: February 7th, 1944
Action: Place and date action: Burbank, Caligornia, 22nd December 1943.

"For heroism involving voluntary risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy, at Burbank, California, on 22 December 1943, by crash landing his airplane in a small vacant lot in order to avoid hitting civilians traveling on a broad road where a comparatively save landing could have been made. This act of self-sacrifice resulted in the death of Colonel Dyess."
Details: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 11, (February 7, 1944).
Awarded posthumously.
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Picture source:   - Bill Gonyo
Information source(s):   - The handbook of Texas online
- Home of Heroes
- Military Times Hall of Valor
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