Badass Report: 1st Lt. William Lawley Jr.

His men thanked him for decades afterward…

Another Badass Report! 1st Lt. William R Lawley Jr earned the Medal of Honor in 1944 while over the skies of Germany in a B17 bomber. Lt Lawley was pilot of the B17 and they were near the target when they were attacked by 20 German fighters. They suffered serious damage, the plane was severely crippled, and 8 of his 10 man crew were wounded. He lost use of his right arm, and his face was painfully wounded, and his copilot was killed by a 20mm shell. Add to this one engine was on fire, the controls partially destroyed, and the copilot’s body was laying on the stick pushing the plane into a steep dive.

Keeping his wits, Lt Lawley forced the copilot’s body off the controls, and brought the plane out of a steep dive, flying with his left hand only. Blood covered the windshield making visibility impossible. He tried to the drop the bomb load to make the plane easier to maneuver but the racks were frozen. He chose to give the order to bailout. One crew member bailed out, then a waist gunner informed him that 2 crew members were so severely wounded there was no way for them to bail out. Lt Lawley had to decide. England was 5 hours away, the fire in the engine was spreading, the danger of an explosion was imminent, and he was extremely weak. He chose to remain with the plane and try to bring his wounded crew to safety.

Then enemy fighters found them and again attacked but he managed to lose them in the clouds. Suddenly another engine caught fire. Wrestling the plane toward home, Lt Lawley then passed out from sheer exhaustion caused by loss of blood, and the extreme effort it took to keep control of his plane. The bombardier was able to reach the cockpit, revive him and he again took over the controls. As they finally reached the English coast they completely lost one engine. Then yet another engine started to burn. They were now down to one engine as they began looking for a field to crash in, when they spotted a small Canadian airfield. Lt Lawley was able to crash land the plane with one good hand, and all the wounded crew survived. He went on to fly 4 more missions over Germany before returning home. For the rest of his life he kept in touch with the men he saved through his valiant determination.

See more at http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/01/us/col-w-r-lawley-jr-78-world-war-ii-hero.html

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