Maj. Bill Schilly - Pilot
323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group
A Distinguished Veteran
Born and raised on a farm in upstate New York, Major Willis "Bill" Schilly had completed a year and a half at Syracuse University with plans to enter the dental school there. As the War raged on, he decided to serve his country in the way he could choose, so rather than be drafted he enlisted in the Aviation Cadets on October 7, 1942 at the age of 20. He spent the next 3 months of his life taking an intense course in navigation with the College training detachment at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he flew Piper Cubs.
Next stop was in Nashville, Tennessee for classification to determine whether he would qualify as pilot, bombardier, or navigator. He was classified as a pilot and went from there to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama for preflight training, and then on to Avon Park, Florida for primary training to fly B-17s. During his primary training he found time to marry his sweetheart Ann. (They eloped and were married on Christmas Eve!) Another interesting note was that Bill's flight instructor during primary training had also worked in the film industry as a stand-in for dancer Fred Astaire.
Basic flight training took place in Macon, Georgia at Cochran Field. Following that Bill received advanced twin-engine training in Columbus, Mississippi, and he graduated on the 23rd of May 1944 as a flight officer. He was assigned to Tyndall Field, Panama City, Florida and served as co-pilot of a B-17 being used to instruct soldiers in aerial gunnery. Shortly thereafter, he transferred to Hendricks Field for first pilot's training for B-17s. After graduating from that he traveled to Tampa, Florida to pick up his crew, then went off with them to Avon Park for combat training as a crew.
It was in January of '45 that he flew a newly minted B-17 from Savannah, Georgia to England to join the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn. Once there, he flew 13 missions, the first three of which were as co-pilot of Out House Mouse. During the 3rd mission to Berlin, they were hit with flak on the return over the front lines. They lost an engine and radio navigation equipment and were forced to make an emergency landing at a small fighter base in Melun, France. After a tense day-and-a-half having the aircraft repaired, they all returned safely to Bassingbourn. He then flew an additional 10 missions as pilot of assorted B-17 aircraft, including Judy's Little Ass and Nine-O-Nine.
The last mission Bill flew was described as a "particularly hairy one". The mission was to Pilsner, Czechoslovakia during which he, his navigator and co-pilot were on different frequencies. They heard over the BBC an announcement of their approach, warning the Germans not to go to work that day. They didn't know what to expect and could only imagine the worst, but again they returned safely with no casualties. At the end of the war, Bill's career ended much like it had begun. The recipient of an Air Medal, he flew another brand new B-17 back to the States from Bassingbourn and landed at the same depot from which he had started 3 years before.
|Bill Schilly signing "Full House - Aces High"|
|Air National Guard|
Once he was discharged from active duty he joined the reserves and worked as a flight instructor for the next five years. Bill loved flying so much he remained a member of the Air National Guard for 25 years, flying L-19s and artillery aircraft. He attended helicopter school in Texas in the 1960s and flew Hueys for the National Guard. Once in a while he would land one in the neighbor's front yard, much to the delight of his seven children! After 33 years of service, Bill retired as a major.
He never did become a dentist, but worked as a manufacturing jeweler in Syracuse, New York, and with Ann, his wife of 66 years, raised seven successful children, who have given him 23 wonderful grandchildren and 6 beautiful great-grandchildren. Bill and Ann currently live on the family farm on Schilly Road in Central Square, New York.
|Bill Schilly is one of our Rogue's Gallery members.|
|(Thanks are due Bill for providing photos and stories)|
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