Colonel William B. "Bill" Colgan, USAF (Ret), age 98 – Long-time resident of Fort Walton Beach -- 1996 inductee in Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame "Top Fighter-Bomber Pilot -- World War II, Korea and Vietnam Veteran -- died peacefully in the early morning hours Friday Oct 25, 2019 with family by his side.
Early life lived in St. Simons Island, GA. His father, John P., died in 1930. Mother Margie (Phillips) and four siblings moved to Waycross, GA. where he went to work to help support his family. With aspirations of becoming a doctor, the Great Depression delayed college. From jobs of professional baseball in minor leagues in summer and railroad locomotive fireman in winter, he volunteered to the U.S. Army (AC) Dec 1941following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In July 1943, now a fighter pilot and gunnery instructor, he married hometown sweetheart Anita Allen during a special short leave home. He was then off to combat; she became a home front heroine.
He was overseas from August 1943 to October 1945, Mediterranean and European Theaters, 79th and 86th Fighter Groups, Flight Leader 10 months, then Squadron Commander, rank Major -- flying first P-40s, then P-47s; in deadly action over Italy, France, Germany, Austria and at sea.
Official ETO news release after VE-Day in 1945: "Fighter Squadron Commanding Officer (525th Sq. 86th Gp.) Major Colgan, a top fighter pilot in this Theater and any others ... he accumulated more missions, results, decorations, narrow escapes and friends (ground forces) than the vast majority of American pilots."
His awards cover many actions -- air victories over Anzio, kills of ships off Yugoslavia, tanks at Siegfried Line, planes on German fields and more. He led three P-47s that found and strafed the spearhead of huge enemy column in France's Rhone Valley -- in which enemy ground fire on two passes downed two P-47s, with his damaged and on fire -- they set up an end result of 33 miles of wreckage and carnage of the German 19th Army left in the valley.
His 525th squadron WW II had a top record in strafing kills of enemy locomotives -- plus aircraft, armor, trucks, troops and more. With 208 combat missions, he was cited tops in enemy kills on the ground; also for flying often badly battle-damaged planes back to base. He was wounded once, crash landed twice and forced to bail out once; still in combat at the war's end.
In the Korean War, he commanded an F-84 fighter-bomber squadron (111th Sq, 136th Wing) in a combat tour. In 1953, the Air Force Operational Test Center, Eglin ABF, FL selected him to run and fly the test/tactics of first atomic bombs on fighter aircraft; then as Commander, Fighter Test Group, then Chief, Test Operations, testing the "Century Series" fighters and other new systems. Then the Industrial College of the Armed Forces graduating with honors. As Director of Operation Requirements, TAC, 1960s, he represented the use of commands and pilots in the birth and development of the F-15 (his personal project) plus other future needs -- and in Vietnam, he had service and flew combat missions. His final duty was Commander of the 326th Air Division, PACAF, 1970s, Vietnam and Cold War.
He flew almost every fighter in the USAAF and USAF during his 31-year career (P-36 to F-111) plus a few Navy planes, he was also an Army Parachutist.
Decorations include Silver Star, 2 Legion of Merits, 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Purple Heart, 15 Air Medals, 2 Presidential Unit Citations, French Croix de Guerre/with Silver Star and 35 campaign/service medals/stars.
In retirement, he consulted with AF Office of History and Air University. He authored three published books -- Fishing Scene in NW Florida -- World War II Fighter-Bomber Pilot, now in 3rd edition (the 2nd edition is a textbook at the U.S. Air Force Academy) -- Allied Strafing in World War II. Website
Above all, his life was full of treasured memories devoted to his love of his wife, family and cherished friends -- "Dad" to his family and many who knew him -- enjoying golf, fishing, boating, yard work, being outdoors and family time -- every minute spent together his most precious time of life.
A lifetime church member, also a member of the Daedalians, Caterpillars, AFA, MOAA, DAV, 31st, 58th, 79th, 86th Fighters, P-47 Pilots, others -- and local FWB Elks 1795, FWB River Rats, Eglin Yacht and Eglin Golf Eagles, others.
His beloved wife Anita, in a wonderful marriage of 68 years; and son William B. Colgan, Jr., preceded him in death.
He and his wife Anita will be laid to rest with family in Waycross, GA, the small town where they met and fell in love. In lieu of flowers, donations to charities that benefit children will be appreciated.
A celebration of life with Military Honors will be held at the Chapel of the Cross, 100 Jonquil Ave. NW, Ft Walton Beach, FL. On Tuesday, November 5, 2019 beginning at 4:00pm.
" No Longer With Us, But Never Forgotten "
" Lest We Forget"
To send flowers to William's family, please visit our floral section.