Hometown Banner Program Biographies

  1. Lieutenant W.R. (Bill) Lunt

Date of Record: 2015-06-11

Lieutenant WR. (Bill) Lunt
Army Air Corps

By Coronado Scribe, Jerry Greenspan, May 2015

Former First Lieutenant (Lt), Willis (Bill) Lunt, was a member of the United States Army Air Corps. He is the personification of what Tom Brokaw, in his 1998 book, "The Greatest Generation" was describing. He is a decorated officer who saw action in the European theater in World War II. He has called Coronado home since 1989.

Born January 7, 1921, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in Ohio, as a youngster Bill brought a model GB Racer aircraft to the hotel room of Amelia Earhart for her autograph. She signed it, and needless to say, it was a very proud moment! Shortly after graduation from Cuyahoga High School, Bill was awarded a scholarship by the CAP (Civil Air Patrol) and earned a private pilot's license.

When America entered WW11, Bill joined the Army Air Corps as a volunteer, on June 12, 1942, and was initially sent to Nashville, Tennessee (TN). Bill had further training in Helena, Arkansas (AR), and Gunter Field, Alabama, before graduating and earning his 'wings' as a Second Lt., at Blythville Airbase, AR, in August 1943.

Next came 12-weeks of training on B-24's, and Pilot In Command (PIC), at Smyrna, TN. In November of that same year, Bill was transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he received advanced training on a B-24 Bomber. It was in Salt Lake City that Bill met his crew; three other officers and six sergeants. Since there was concern that lower graded military were not treated as well as officers and non-commissioned officers upon capture, no American flying crew on a warplane carried a rank under Sergeant. These nine men were his team through 51 credited missions.

Bill's team was assigned their aircraft at Mitchell Field New York, on April 1, 1944. They named their Bomber "Sleepy Time Gal." On April 7, 1944, "Sleepy Time Gal" was assigned to the 15th Army Air Corps, 456th Bomb Group, 744th Bomb Squadron, in Foggia Field, Stornara, Italy. Lt. Lunt's first combat mission occurred on April 12, 1944. It was an attack on enemy positions in Budapest, Hungary.

The group received a Presidential Unit Citation, initially named a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). In this case the mission was to bomb the Shell Oil Refinery, again in Budapest, Hungary. On July 2, 1944, the 456th Group pounded this previously untouched target. Three minutes after bomb release, and before the Group could reform into a protective formation, they were attacked by no less than fifty Me-109's and, ten FW-190's, of the Luftwaffe Gruppe. These were JG 302 fighters and the Hungarian Air Force 101 puma Group, in all, sixty enemy aircraft.

Of the 31 B-24 bombers involved in the attack on the refinery, Lt. Lunt's formation bore the brunt of the enemy counter offense, losing six bombers and a seventh damaged beyond repair. There had been nine bombers in the Formation. Thirty-six American airmen were killed, and 24 captured. That was largest single-day loss for Group 456 during the war. Bill and only one other bomber made it back to base without a loss of crew or craft. It was also a day in which those attacking American bombers destroyed twenty-six enemy aircraft, possibly eight more, and damaged nine others.

There was other near death missions for Lt. Lunt. One occurred when returning to base with one engine out, and running low on fuel. The Number 1 and Number 4 engines were OK, but in addition to having lost engine Number 3 to enemy fire, there was a mistake made in transferring fuel, resulting in engine Number 2 being just about out of fuel. That put more of a burden on the remaining two working engines. Approaching the small dirt runway, Sleepy Time Gal encountered another American B-24, approaching from the opposite direction. The tower fired a red flare, not knowing that Sleepy Time Gal was flying on fumes. The flash signaled Lt. Lunt to circle behind the other B-24. That cost time and precious fuel. Most of his crew had gone to the rear of the plane, in the hope of bailing out, only to realize they were too low for a chute to open. As they were completing the 180-degree turn, and closing in on the runway, on nothing but fumes, a B-17 taxiing into position just shy of the runway, sighted the distressed Sleepy Time Gal and heard the increasing noise of its engines under severe strain, and, thinking it was likely to crash into their plane, ran for their very lives. That Bill is here to tell the tale speaks of great piloting. No doubt Bill would humbly add, "He was just lucky."

Lt. Lunt had been promoted to First Lieutenant before he was transferred stateside, having completed 35 sorties (deployments) and 51 mission points. The difference between missions flown, and mission points earned, was a result of reviews, wherein his Group, the 456th Bomber Group, was deemed to have performed especially well under very difficult conditions, thereby earning a second mission point. Lt. Lunt was the third replacement pilot added to this Group, arriving two months after the 456th had started flying missions, but only the second pilot to complete his 50 missions target sheet. Amazingly, all of this was accomplished in a four-month period.

Lt. Lunt received numerous commendations, including The Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 4 Oak-leaf Cluster.

Bill was considered both an excellent pilot, and a lucky one. In 1990, Bill met his one time radioman, Robert M. (Bob) Rogers. Bob had been hospitalized during their assignment together in the war, when he was a member of Bill's crew. When Bob recovered he was no longer assigned to Sleepy Time Gal. By this time, Lt. Lunt had flown his 50th mission on July 16, 1944, and he would be heading stateside. Unfortunately, Bob's second mission, not under the leadership of Lt. Lunt, with his new bomber crew, ended badly. Bob's B-24 was hit on July 17, 1944. He parachuted and was taken prisoner.

Upon greeting Bill 46-years later, Bob said, "I would fly with you anytime, anywhere." In 2015, when Bill related the incident to this author, he seemed to be quietly reflecting on his team-mate and friend, from their times together in both, 1944,`a 1990, Bob Rogers.

Bill met an Army Air Corps 1st Lt., named Dorothy Marie Chadwick, at a bus stop heading off-base at Westover Field, Mass. They must have found something they liked about one another. On April 16, 2015, they celebrated their 70th anniversary. At age 94, family, friends, and this author, consider Lieutenant WR. (Bill) Lunt, articulate, modest, and funny.

*Note, Lunt's "Avenue of Heroes" Banner is displayed on Third Street and E Avenue, the first on approach to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) in Coronado California, May 18, 2015.

  1. Hospital Corpsman First Class (HM1) Jeff "JT" Taylor
  1. Admiral Raymond Spruance
  1. Commander Theodore “Spuds” Ellyson
  1. Admiral Edward H. Martin
  1. Colonel Theodore H. Runyon
  1. Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Richard Engel
  1. Colonel Richard F. Kenney
  1. SOC Bradley S. Cavner
  1. Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale