|The Hot War |
POD: November, 1950
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||20th century|
|Date of Death:||1951|
|Cause of Death:||Plane shot down|
|Military Branch:||United States Army Air Force (World War II),|
United States Air Force (Korean War), (World War III)
William Gerald "Bill" Staley (d. May 1951) was a B-29 co-pilot in the Korean War before and after that conflict was folded into World War III. His wife, Marian and their daughter, Linda, resided in Everett, Washington. Bill himself had been born and raised in Nebraska before moving to Washington. He married Marian before the outbreak of World War II. He served during the war, received his discharge, and became a bookkeeper for Boeing until the outbreak of the Korean War.
Staley flew out of a U.S. Air Force base near Pusan, South Korea, co-piloting for Major Hank McCutcheon. By January, 1951, it was clear that Chinese intervention on the side of North Korea was halting the U.N. drive. Moreover, the B-29 wasn't nearly as effective against well-fortified positions in North Korea as it had been in World War II. And finally, for political reasons, U.S. forces would not pursue their enemy north of the Yalu River into China proper. However, in early January, pits for atomic weapons arrived at the base. General Matt Harrison, the base commander, informed Staley and his fellow pilots that President Harry Truman had decided to give authorization to allow atomic attacks against China.
A few weeks later, Harrison informed the base that Truman had transferred the final decision making to General Douglas MacArthur, authorizing MacArthur to use them if, in his view, their use was the only way to improve the situation. The Chinese had relentlessly marched south throughout December and into January, recapturing Seoul, the South Korean capital.
Harrison also informed the base that aerial reconnaissance showed that the Soviets were moving fighters and bombers onto airstrips in southeastern Siberia. Staley asked about the possibility that the Soviets might paint their Tu-4's to look like B-29s, the model the Soviet bombers were copies of. Harrison hoped that U.S. forces would be alert, but admitted they may not always be. Staley's question would prove prophetic.
MacArthur's orders finally came a few days later: the squadron was going to bomb Manchuria with atomic weapons, striking rail lines, barracks, and bases in China. McCutcheon, as pilot, collected the information on the target: Harbin. The orders confirmed that Staley's bomber would carry the actual bomb, something that privately chilled him. After dark, on January 23, 1951, the planes took off. Staley's crew was able to successfully bomb Harbin and return to base.
This attack set off a chain reaction of tit-for-tat bombing between with the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which led to the Soviets invading West Germany on February 17, 1951. On March 2, 1951, the Soviets launched a daring raid against the western United States. One of their bombs landed between Seattle and Everett. It was some time before Staley learned that Marian and Linda did survive. In the meantime, Staley and his crew were part of an attack on the town of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, part of a series of attacks in the Russian East.
Staley learned that Marian and Linda had survived in April 1951. This was the one bright spot in his life: more and more, the trauma of being directly responsible for atom bombing scores of people was beginning to take its toll in the form of nightmares. Hank McCutcheon claimed he didn't have this problem, which made Staley feel worse although he did wonder if McCutcheon just didn't want to admit he had them too.
In mid-April, Staley and his plane were part of a massive bombing raid against Pyongyang, in an effort to kill Kim Il-sung. The attack used conventional explosives, rather than atomic weapons. While Staley and his crew were able to survive the attack and drop their payload, they did so earlier than ordered when flack pierced the plane's outside. Upon approaching their home base, they learned it was under attack, and they were forced to divert to Japan.
The crew stayed at an airfield near Fukuoka for a time. Staley grew increasingly unnerved how close they'd come to dying over Pyongyang. While McCutcheon offered to allow Staley to sit out a few missions, Staley refused, promising to keep flying.
This decision proved fatal. In May, Staley and his crew were assigned to participate in the atomic bombing of the Soviet city of Blagoveshchensk. Unfortunately, their plane was met by Soviet planes. McCutcheon was hit in the face by a shell and killed instantly. The plane caught fire. While Staley ordered the crew to bail out, he was quickly consumed in flame, and the plane crashed in short order.
- Bombs Away, pgs. 8-12, ebook.
- Ibid., pg. 22.
- Ibid. pg. 325.
- Ibid., pg. 12.
- Ibid., pg. 22
- Ibid., pg. 50.
- Ibid., pg. 23-25.
- Ibid., pg. 38.
- Ibid., pgs. 40-41.
- Ibid., pg. 51.
- Ibid., pg. 52.
- Ibid., pgs. 53-54.
- Ibid., pgs. 151-155.
- Ibid., pg. 164.
- Ibid., pg. 165.
- Ibid., pgs. 238-243
- Ibid., pgs. 283-287.
- Ibid., pgs. 286-287.
- Ibib., pg. 321.
- Ibid., pgs. 321-324.
- Ibid., pg. 375.
- Ibid., pg. 376.