This day in Texas History: Escaped POW William Dyess Resumes Flying and Dies in Plane Crash
This day in Texas History:
(from the Texas State Historical Association archives)
Escaped POW William Dyess Resumes Flying and Dies in Plane Crash
December 22, 1943
On this day in 1943, war hero and escaped prisoner of war William Dyess resumed his flying career and was killed while attempting an emergency landing in Burbank, California.
Dyess, born in Albany, Texas, in 1916, was sent to the Philippines in October 1941. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and began assaults on Bataan and Corregidor, Dyess was thrust into combat as commander of all flying squadrons on Bataan. In March 1942 he sank a Japanese ship and damaged shore installations in Subic Bay.
When American forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese in April 1942, Dyess became a prisoner of war. He survived the horror of the Bataan Death March and imprisonment at camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan and the Davao Penal Colony. In April 1943 Dyess and several other prisoners escaped from Davao and contacted Filipino guerillas, who led them to an American submarine.
After evacuation to Australia and a hero’s welcome in the United States, Dyess briefed the War Department on Japanese warfare and confirmed the enemy’s brutality to POWs. After staying in an army hospital in Virginia to regain his health, Dyess was promoted to lieutenant colonel and resumed flying, with fatal consequences.
During his life he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, and the Silver Star. He was posthumously awarded the Soldier’s Medal. Abilene Air Force Base was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in his honor in 1956.