Lt. William Wheeler is a highly trained World War II combat
pilot, decorated veteran, successful businessman, and member
of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen."
War II broke out while William Wheeler was attending Howard
University in Washington DC. He volunteered as an Army
Air Corps pilot, and was inducted into the service in March
1943, during his Sophomore year.
After completing Basic Training at Keesler Field, MS, he was transferred
to Tuskegee Institute, AL, to begin Flight Training as an Aviation
Cadet. He quickly conquered the Piper Cub, the Stearman PT-17, the
Vultee Vibrator BT-13, and the North American AT-6 Texan. He earned
his wings as a fighter pilot in March 1944 and was commissioned a
began combat fighter training in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
and completed his training at Walterboro Army Air Corps
Base, SC, in the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. He was then sent to
Eglin Army Air Base, FL, where he completed bombing and
aerial gunnery training.
Lt. Wheeler was sent to Ramitelli,
Italy in August 1944, as a replacement pilot for the 332nd Fighter
Group. He qualified in the P-51D Mustang and flew combat missions
to Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Albania and Greece, escorting
allied bombers and strafing enemy troops, vehicles and airfields.
He was credited with destroying three bombers on strafing missions:
two Heinkel HE-111s and a Junkers JU-52.
On his last
mission, he became anoxic and lost consciousness at 36,000
feet over Germany. He spun out of control until he regained
consciousness and recovered at 8,000 feet. Miraculously,
he was able to return safely to his home base. This near-fatal
incident led to a medical inquiry which determined that
respiratory problems would render him vulnerable to repeated
anoxic attacks on missions requiring the use of oxygen.
He asked to be transferred to the Eighth Air Force which
was flying low-level missions, but his request was denied
because the Army Air Corps was still segregated at that
time. Lt. Wheeler was Honorably Discharged in August
After returning to the US in August 1945, Lt.
Wheeler worked for Data Digests, Inc., a major international financial
publishing company, eventually becoming Vice President
of Production and Distribution. In the 1970s, he worked
as a Methods and Procedures Analyst on the A-10 Warthog
and Space Shuttle projects at Fairchild Republic Company's
Farmingdale, NY, plant. In 1977, he joined National Bank
of North America and its successor, National Westminster
Bank, initially as a Purchasing Manager and eventually,
rising to Vice President/Director of Purchasing, Printing,
Central Supply and Distribution.
He retired from the
business world in 1991, and in 1999, began participating
in The Tuskegee Airmen’s
Speakers Bureau. He makes many presentations throughout the country
in many different venues each year on his favorite subject — The
Tuskegee Airmen story.
Awards & Decorations
- European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Campaign Medal
with one oak leaf cluster
- National Defense Service Medal
- Victory in Europe Commemorative Medal
- D-Day Commemorative Medal
- New York State Conspicuous Service Cross
- Village of Hempstead Medal of Honor