Sep 11

Pebble Beach war pilot recalls surviving missions

By DENNIS TAYLOR, Herald Staff Writer, Posted: 09/05/2011

After flying his 50th bombing mission over Europe, Bill Fonda of the United States Army Air Force was rotated back to the U.S. to a base in Greenville, S.C. On the day he got those orders, he briefly considered asking for a transfer to a fighter plane squadron.

“I had always wanted to fly fighters, and if I had asked, they might have given me the transfer,” says Fonda, now 91 and living in Pebble Beach. “But I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer, so I came home.

“I’ve always wondered how my life might have turned out if I had pursued that option,” Fonda muses. “I might not have married the woman I married, might not have had the children and grandchildren I have. My whole life might have been very different — assuming I had survived.”

His survival, he believes, is the reason he was awarded the Silver Star, for “gallantry in action against the enemy,” along with nine other military medals, for his service in the European Theater during World War II.

“It’s not always true — there are exceptions — but my feeling about medals is that you get them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and managing to survive,” he says.

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