Skip to comments.WWII fighter pilot who flew THROUGH the Eiffel Tower to take down a German plane dies in Virginia
Posted on 01/04/2014 9:03:39 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
A World War II fighter pilot who gained fame for dramatically flying beneath the Eiffel Tower's arches to take down a German aircraft has died aged 92. William Overstreet Jr. died on Sunday at a hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, according to his obituary, but there was no indication of the cause of his death.
Overstreet's famously flew his P-51C 'Berlin Express' beneath the Eiffel Tower in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, which has been credited with lifting the spirits of French Resistance troops on the ground.
For his valiant service, the French ambassador to the United States presented Overstreet with France's Legion of Honor at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford in 2009.
Before the ceremony, Overstreet had previously said that, if he lived long enough to receive the Legion of Honor, he would be accepting it in memory of his fallen brothers.
In particular, he wanted to pay tribute to a friend, Eddy Simpson, who died fighting the Nazis on the ground so his comrades, including Overstreet, could escape.
After the award was pinned to his lapel, Overstreet said: 'If I said, "Thank you," it wouldnt be enough,' before adding: 'What more than "thank you" do you need?'
Overstreet was also awarded hundreds of other medals for his service in the 357th squadron of the U.S. Army Air Forces, his obituary said.
He was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1921 and after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Air Corps as a fighter pilot.
By February 1942, he was a private and sent to California for flight training; here, his instructors prepared him for the unexpected mid-flight by cutting the engine as he landed.
(Excerpt) Read more at dailymail.co.uk ...
Action: An artist's depiction of the dramatic moment shows Overstreet in his P51 Mustang chasing an ME 109 under the Eiffel Tower in Spring 1944. He was able to shoot the plane down
not sure if they make ‘em like that anymore. RIP
Are you kidding me? I had never heard of this one. Love it!
Neither had I. That’s why I posted it!
"The plane ended its six-minute flight at 3:31 pm with an unpowered ditching while heading south at about 130 knots (150 mph; 240 km/h) in the middle of the North River section of the Hudson River roughly abeam West 50th Street (near the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum) in Manhattan and Port Imperial in Weehawken, New Jersey. Sullenberger said in an interview on CBS television that his training prompted him to choose a ditching location near operating boats so as to maximize the chance of rescue. The location was near three boat terminals: two used by ferry operator NY Waterway on either side of the Hudson River and a third used by tour boat operator Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. The ditching location was approximately 40.769498°N 74.004636°W. After coming to a stop in the river, the plane began drifting southward with the current.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Board Member Kitty Higgins, the principal spokesperson for the on-scene investigation, said at a press conference the day after the accident that it "has to go down [as] the most successful ditching in aviation history." "These people knew what they were supposed to do and they did it and as a result, no lives were lost."
point taken, but I’m speaking more about our younger generation.
Great story, thanks
Good discussion with some additional pics here:
WWII veteran William Overstreet Jr. celebrated for flight in France (under Eiffel Tower in dogfight)
Also detailed article of WWII experiences here:
WWII Veteran Aviator Bill Overstreet and His P-51 Mustang, Berlin Express
Thanks. What an awesome story. Regardless of what Barry and his crowd would have us believe, Americans are a special people.
Only old folks, though, according to the replies on this thread.
The gentleman that just died was from Clifton Forge, VA, a small rural town.
Historical moment, ping!
Thank you for the ping.
The German pilot was pretty good too. Just not good enough.
Hadn’t heard of it?
Probably because he was the 2nd plane to fly through the Eiffel Tower that day, not the first.
Clifton Forge was formerly a bustling railroad town. I was born at the C&O Hospital. Being raised “over the mountain,” having to bathe and put on my “good clothes” to go to the stores in C.F., I never thought of it as a “rural town.” ‘Course we only traveled to the big city of Roanoke a few times a year...
Interment is in 15 minutes. His memorial service is this afternoon at 2:00 pm in Roanoke according to the funeral home obit. - http://www.memorialsolutions.com/sitemaker/sites/Oakeys1/memsol.cgi?user_id=1204221
You can sign and read the funeral home guestbook online (only 19 entries so far) - http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/Batesville/guestbook.aspx?n=william-overstreet&pid=168842356
It’s all yours, Freepers. Go for it.
Gotta run. Got a memorial service to attend at 2:00 pm. Will provide after action later today.
And then he had to fly back to England.
Fortunately we had almost complete air superiority over France by that time.
I don’t think they do make em like this any more. When I was training for my license in ‘80 spins had been a requirement before but because so many students had frozen at the controls taking themselves and their instructor spinning into the ground the requirement had been lifted. My first flight my instructor tested me to see if I had a set by putting us into a spin, I said now what, he told me how to pull out of it and that was that. He also would cut the engine in flight at 5000 feet and say where you going to land? Never had to land but he would let me get pretty close to the ground before kicking in the power.
Half way thru my 4th lesson, I had been greasing each landing and so he told me to pull onto the apron. I did he unstrapped and opened the door. I said where are you going, he said I’m going to the flight shack you’re going to do touch and goes. I said you sure? He said, you’ll be fine.
The one thing when you are first alone in a plane is you realize that if you crash the thing it is your fault. No one else you can point at, no one else you can depend on to save your bacon, you realize that you have your life in your hands. Wakes you up in a lot of ways.
My instructor tried to teach others how to pull out of a spin and many would kiss the ground when they landed and you would never see them again. Sorta separated the men from the boys. I asked once why he made them spin and ran off so much business, he told me, he wasn’t going to put a coward behind the yoke and read about his death and feel responsible. His name was Dwight Ensley and was from western Ky., I would like to get back in touch.
He taught me many things those little high wing planes are not supposed to do and I was not supposed to know how to do. Those skills have come in handy and I owe him a great debt.
When that pilot flew under the Tower, America still produced men, not often the case anymore. I would like to think I could have done it too.
WOW! Thanks for the post :)
At age 92?
So much for the old chestnut - “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But there is no such thing as old, bold pilots!”
He’s flying with the angels now!
It should be noted that Mr. Overstreet was actually the second person to ever fly under the tower, but the only one who lived to tell about it........
RIP, American hero.
P51C is the early model before the “bubble” canope. This is also the first time I have seen whitewall tires on a P51 or any airplane for that matter.
The ‘D’ model w/ the bubble canoy arrived in Europe just about the same time as the Eiffel Tower exploit, but were initially assigned only to bomber escort until their production #s increased.
For some reason whitewall tires had fewer blowouts and didn’t accumulate static charge. IIRC.
The second person that day, anyway...
That is one of my current PC desktop pictures. I just had no clue it was based on a historcal event.
That’s wonderful to know. Now I have a name and event to go with the picture.
Well Done,Good and Faithful Servant.
Thanks for posting.
Thanks for the ping. May he rest in peace.
Grandpa use to own a rubber company in Detroit and made a fortune grinding tires for people on the side. They would buy blackwalls, and for the right price Grandpa would grind them to however wide a white strip they wanted, I think 4” was max on some tires.
I am skeptical on the strength part of the white rubber though, why most rubber is black is because the carbon black put in it makes it stronger, white rubber just isn't as good as black usually.
His story. "I made only one mistake. Instead of doing the flight on the 31st of March, I should have waited one more day."
And here's some flight simulator fun, flying a bigger plane through a bigger arch:
and Rest In Peace Mr. Overstreet...from one Virginia native to another...
awesome story !
My dad was USAAF ETO
I don’t get it...what does it mean?
Internet saying “Pics or it didn’t happen” < /sarcastically >
Okay, I get it now...:)
IMO that sums up everyone who fought then...Army,Army Air Corps,Navy and Marines
I took ground classes at our (then) local JC. (No license; eyes flunked me out of the physical; same result when I tried for a CDL.) One of my instructors was the 5'-4" wife of my high school principal. During a bull session, we asked her what she thought was her most necessary piece of safety equipment while doing flight instruction. She quickly answer,"my fire extinguisher."
Thinking that was odd, we asked why; were there really that many cockpit fires?!?
She told us that no, she had never experienced a cockpit fire, and proceeded to explain. The extinguisher was attached to the back of the student pilot's seat; and, because of her size, she had to use it to hit a 'frozen' student over the head with it, so she could take control back during their first stall & spin! She added that in those cases, it was almost always their last trip up.
Joe Dashiell, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 05:03 PM EST Jan 04, 2014 UPDATED: 05:05 PM EST Jan 04, 2014
ROANOKE, Va. - Two P-51 Mustangs flew overhead Saturday afternoon as family and friends of Bill Overstreet gathered for his memorial service in Roanoke.
Saturday afternoon, two P-51 Mustangs made a wide pass near Roanoke's Second Presbyterian Church, where Overstreet's memorial service was held. And then the two planes flew over Evergreen Burial Park, where Overstreet was buried earlier in the day.
Sorry I was not there to see it. It must have been a beautiful sight!
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