Dad Piloted a B-17 for Grateful Nation

By Gail Fisher

November 10, 2006


Gail Fisher, a 2nd generation 398th Memorial Association member, wrote the following article that appeared in The Arizona Republic (a Phoenix-based newspaper) on November 10, 2006. She is the daughter of Bill Fisher, a former 398th 603 Squadron B-17 pilot. Gail is a community columnist and her column runs in the East Valley edition of The Arizona Republic covering the cities of Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe and Queen Creek, Arizona.


Dad Piloted a B-17 for Grateful Nation

By Gail Fisher

November 10, 2006

The Veterans Administration estimates that 1,025 World War II veterans die every day. Sadly, my dad is now part of that statistic. He died last September after a lengthy illness.

He was part of the Greatest Generation—those individuals who belonged to a special group whose membership has been closed for more than sixty years. He served his country, as many others have, with patriotism, sacrifice and dignity.  

My dad and mom met in Cleveland, Ohio where their families attended church together. He was 20 and she was 16. Mom knew immediately that they would get married, but Dad didn’t know it yet. Most of their courtship was conducted through letters since Dad was away at college and later he enlisted in the United States Army. In October 1942, he transferred into the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet.

He became a B-17 pilot and flew 33 missions over Europe with the 398th Air Force. He asked for pilot training knowing what the consequences might be and was lucky to be among the ones who always made it back. He never boasted about his service. Like so many WW II veterans, he preferred not to talk about the war.

Dad returned home and married my mom. They planned their wedding in two weeks. He was then assigned to Williams Air Force Base in Chandler, and both my parents fell in love with Arizona. Dad was discharged in September 1945 and returned to Cleveland. Our family moved to Phoenix 10 years later.  

After retirement, my parents moved from Phoenix to Mesa, not far from the old Williams Air Force Base. They enjoyed revisiting the base and eating hamburgers at the little restaurant located next to one of the runways.

Over a year ago they moved to Tempe when Dad’s health started failing. His subsequent illness and need for emergency care inspired a few columns on the state of ER care in the Southeast Valley.

His membership with the 398th Air Force Bomb Group Memorial Association and his WW II assignment to a base in Nuthampstead, England inspired another column. This column was about the American flag that flies every day in the middle of a barley field at the site of the old WW II control tower.

American flags are sent to Nuthampstead, located south of Cambridge, by widows and family from the military funerals of 398th veterans. The flags fly until they need to be replaced. Another flag from Tempe will be sent there soon.

When Dad was laid to rest in a Mesa cemetery, the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard provided a flag fold and a bugler played Taps. This special service is performed nearly 30 times a day in the Phoenix area.

The flag was presented to my mother with the words, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful Nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of your loved one.”

For anyone who has friends or relatives in the armed forces, the courage to serve is admirable. As we observe Veterans Day, we need to remember to thank and always honor our veterans.

Gail Fisher has lived in the Southeast Valley for over 40 years and is a Tempe resident. Reach her at The views expressed are those of the author. 


See also:
  1. Cambridge Connections by Gail Fisher - August 13, 2000
  2. Veterans Gather to Remember Nuthampstead by Gail Fisher - August 13, 2000
  3. Old Glory Flies at WW II airbase by Gail Fisher - June 12, 2004
  4. Link to Fisher's crew photo when available in Crew Photo Section.