- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Major William Riley Johnson (as told by Shannon Vavich — Granddaughter)
- Location of story:
- Nazi occupied Belgium
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 December 2005
Major William Riley Johnson in the P-47 Thunderbolt. His call sign was Mr Completely, which came from the time he missed a plane completely — Missed Her Completely.
William Riley Johnson, an American from Dayton, Ohio, was a Major in the US Army air Corp. He piloted the P-47 Thunderbolt. He was shot down three times, behind enemy lines. This is one of his stories of his survival, after being shot down in German Occupied Belgium, near the time of the Battle of the Bulge. After he had escorted the B17s to bomb Berlin, he was strafing a column of German troops, along with horses and supplies, on the road. He was flying so low they shot him down by their small arms fire. He crash landed in an apple orchard, and he can remember the wings of his plane slicing through the trees as he crashed. He was able to free himself from the wreckage. He fled and hid in the roots of a tree, in an undercut bank of a river. There he stayed for an entire three days — he didn’t come out at all, as he could hear the German soldiers searching for him. After three days, starvation got the better of him and he went in search of food. He went to one of the horses he had shot down three days prior, cut a large chunk from the haunches of one of them and ate it straight away. He said he immediately felt the strength returning to his body. While he was eating, a young a local boy saw him and then turned and ran. William was frightened by this because he didn’t know who was friend and who was foe. About an hour later, a half dozen or so, French-speaking farmers turned up and it turned out that they were part of the underground resistance movement. They took him in and he stayed with them for about two weeks — long enough to grow a moustache. They walked him out of Belgium, across the Nazi lines, while played the part of a deaf-mute. It helped that he looked European; he, unusually, had an affliction that meant he couldn’t stick his tongue out, which made his role-playing more convincing. He went to fly over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and was highly decorated; earning among other awards, the Silver Star — which is the second highest Military Award an American can achieve.
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