William Clay “Bill’’ Toombs

861st Bomb Squadron, 493rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force

William Clay Toombs was born on May 8, 1924 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

At age 18, he enlisted into the Army Air Corps on October 31, 1942 and trained at gunnery school in Texas. He then went on to Salt Lake City to train on the B-24 Liberator. In December 1943, Bill joined the 493rd Bomb Group and flew to Debach, Suffolk, England.

Bill’s first mission on D-Day, June 6, 1944 was not a productive one. They failed to find the target near Caen and returned with a full load of bombs. He flew twenty missions with the B-24 before being transferred to the B-17. On his 4th B-17 mission over Germany, the number three engine was shot out by a fighter. He and the pilot decided not to bail out, instead setting course for Brussels, ditching all the guns and heavy gear as they lost altitude. Landing in a turnip field, they met Canadian troops and were transferred back to England. Soon after, Bill joined on four missions again over Germany at the end of which they were summoned to Squadron HQ and told they were being sent home. In October 1944, he set sail on the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ a luxurious Dutch liner, for the USA and five weeks home leave. Then on to a first class hotel in Santa Anna, California for R&R for physical and psychological assessments.

Bill was discharged on October 6, 1945 at Scott Air Force Base.