Home | National | WWII fighter pilot who flew THROUGH the Eiffel Tower dies in Virginia aged 92

WWII fighter pilot who flew THROUGH the Eiffel Tower dies in Virginia aged 92

By
Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
  • William Overstreet Jr. passed away on Sunday at a hospital in Roanoke
  • He famously flew his plane beneath the Eiffel Tower in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, lifting the spirits of French troops on the ground
  • In 2009, he was presented France's Legion of Honor

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 13:35 EST, 3 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:17 EST, 3 January 2014

1

View
comments

A World War II fighter pilot who gained fame for dramatically flying beneath the Eiffel Tower's arches to take down a German aircraft has died aged 92.

William Overstreet Jr. died on Sunday at a hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, according to his obituary, but there was no indication of the cause of his death.

Overstreet's famously flew his P-51C 'Berlin Express' beneath the Eiffel Tower in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, which has been credited with lifting the spirits of French Resistance troops on the ground.

For his valiant service, the French ambassador to the United States presented Overstreet with France's Legion of Honor at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford in 2009.

Hero: World War II Aviator Bill Overstreet Jr., best known for flying beneath the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of a German plane, is pictured in his military days. He passed away in Virginia on Sunday, aged 92

Hero: World War II Aviator Bill Overstreet Jr., best known for flying beneath the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of a German plane, is pictured in his military days. He passed away in Virginia on Sunday, aged 92

Before the ceremony, Overstreet had previously said that, if he lived long enough to receive the Legion of Honor, he would be accepting it in memory of his fallen brothers.

In particular, he wanted to pay tribute to a friend, Eddy Simpson, who died fighting the Nazis on the ground so his comrades, including Overstreet, could escape.

After the award was pinned to his lapel, Overstreet said: 'If I said, "Thank you," it wouldn’t be enough,' before adding: 'What more than "thank you" do you need?'

Overstreet was also awarded hundreds of other medals for his service in the 357th squadron of the U.S. Army Air Forces, his obituary said.

He was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1921 and after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Air Corps as a fighter pilot.

By February 1942, he was a private and sent to California for flight training; here, his instructors prepared him for the unexpected mid-flight by cutting the engine as he landed.

Remembered: Overstreet was presented with France's Legion of Honour in 2009

Remembered: Overstreet was presented with France's Legion of Honour in 2009

Aircraft: Overstreet is pictured by his P-51 'Berlin Express', the plane he flew beneath the Eiffel Tower

Aircraft: Overstreet is pictured by his P-51 'Berlin Express', the plane he flew beneath the Eiffel Tower

Overstreet credited this extreme training method with preparing him for the unexpected in war, War Bird News reported.

During training in 1943, he suffered a near-death crash when his plane, a Bell P-39 Airacobra, began spinning as he practiced maneuvers, and he was unable to control it.

He eventually forced his way out through the doors and found himself standing amid the wreckage.

When he flew in World War II, he suffered another freak accident when his oxygen line cut out as he flew 25,000 feet over France.

He passed out but snapped awake and controlled the plane and dodged trees in front of him to figure out where he was and land safely. Newspapers at the time reported that he could not remember a whole 90 minutes of the flight.

In the spring of 1944, he was following a German aircraft over Paris, with the two planes firing at each other. Overstreet eventually hit the other pilot's engine.

Proud: Overstreet is pictured in 1943 with his cherished 1938 Buick in California, where he trained

Proud: Overstreet is pictured in 1943 with his cherished 1938 Buick in California, where he trained

Close call: The wreckage of his Bell P-39 Airacobra which spun out of control mid-air as he completed combat training in 1943. He managed to force his way out of the craft and walked away unhurt

Close call: The wreckage of his Bell P-39 Airacobra which spun out of control mid-air as he completed combat training in 1943. He managed to force his way out of the craft and walked away unhurt

As the German pilot desperately sought to out-maneuver Overstreet, he flew beneath the Eiffel Tower - but the brave American flew directly beneath it and continued to fire.

The German plane crashed and Overstreet was able to escape the city.

The astounding show of skill and bravery lifted the spirits of the French, french dignitary, Bernard Marie, told the Roanoke Times.

He said he only fully understood the importance of Overstreet's feat when he spoke with his father about it.

'My father began shouting out me - "I have to meet this man",' Marie said. 'This guy has done even more than what people are thinking. He lifted the spirit of the French.'

After flying further missions, including a top secret escort mission, his tour of duty ended in October 1944 and he returned to the U.S.

Loss: Bill Overstreet is pictured at an event, Warbirds Over the Beach, in 2013. After finishing his service, he returned to the U.S. and became an accountant - but he continued to attend veterans events

Loss: Bill Overstreet is pictured at an event, Warbirds Over the Beach, in 2013. After finishing his service, he returned to the U.S. and became an accountant - but he continued to attend veterans events

He went on to teach at a gunnery school in Pinellas, Florida and when he was released from active duty, he remained on the Reserves.

He went on to work as General Manager of Charleston Aviation in West Virginia before moving to Roanoke in 1950, where he worked as an accountant until he was 65.

Before his death, he also worked with numerous charities and veterans groups, appearing at air shows and gatherings with fellow veterans. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nita.

Anne Mason Keller, Overstreet's niece, said of her uncle: 'He was a fighter, he was always a perfect gentleman. He was concise, focused with a delightful sense of humor and a twinkle in his eyes.

'He was always humble. Whenever the press interviewed him, he said, "I didn't do anything, we were a team".'

His family has asked that those attending his memorial service on Saturday those wear something either or both red and yellow, his squadron's colors.

Read more:

MOST WATCHED NEWS VIDEOS

MOST READ NEWS

 

 
 

Colorado News

Get the latest Colorado news, sports, weather, entertainment, business & political news and more from Colorado Newsday.
 
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Rate this article

0
 
 
 
 
  1. Drunk tractor driver decapitates three people in head-on crash (1.50)

  2. Spoiled’ teen takes parents to court (1.00)

  3. Terms of Service (0)

  4. Colorado Newsday Privacy Policy (0)

  5. Kim Kardashian denied access to Vanity Fair party (0)

  6. Russian troops threaten to shoot Ukrainian soldiers in tense stand-off (0)

  7. Boxer vows to fight on – after 51st defeat in row (0)

  8. Forbes rich list names world’s youngest billionaires (0)

  9. Jackie Chan's cameraman drowns in Hong Kong filming Skiptrace (0)

  10. One dead and 11 injured as female driver ploughs into crowd leaving church Christmas concert in California (0)

  11. Inside the secretive world of Bureau 121: Is North Korea's state-sponsored cell of cyber warriors behind the Sony hack? (0)

  12. From poisoned cigars to an exploding seashells: How half a century of crackpot CIA plans to overthrow Fidel Castro were born when JFK invited James Bond author Ian Fleming to dinner  (0)

  13. Santa 'robbed bank' during SantaCon (0)

  14. 'Big Lebowski,' 'Saving Private Ryan' added to the National Film Registry (0)

  15. Innocents massacred as they studied: Utterly heartbreaking pictures of the children cut down by Taliban madmen who slaughtered 132 pupils at military school (0)

  16. J.K. Rowling says yes, there was a Jewish student at Hogwarts (0)

  17. Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations (0)

  18. Zoe Saldana, husband Marco Perego welcome twin boys (0)

  19. Wife of KCEN's Patrick Crawford who was shot tells how quick-thinking saved him (0)

  20. Super typhoon Haiyan was so powerful it hurled a boulder bigger than a BLUE WHALE up a beach, scientists claim (0)

  21. 'I did something terribly wrong': Shamed 7th Heaven actor Stephen Collins pens confession detailing the multple times he exposed himself to underage women (0)

  22. Nick Jonas plays on 'Big' FAO Schwarz piano (0)

  23. Artist Amit Shimoni imagines former world leaders as HIPSTERS in Hipstory series (0)

  24. NYC premiere of 'The Interview' canceled amid threats from Sony hackers (0)

  25. North Koreans bow to mark the 'official' start of Kim Jong Un's rule - as mystery hackers use terror threats to get movie that shows his 'assassination' pulled from US theaters  (0)

  26. Selena Gomez cries ahead of AMAs performance in new video diary (0)

  27. How Sony execs cut Angelina Jolie out of group email exchange so they could attack her (0)

  28. Library of Congress names Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Big Lebowski among cinematic treasures picked for long-term preservation (0)

  29. Releasing Cuban spies was a 'slap in the face' says families of Florida pilots shot down by Cuban MiGs (0)

  30. Is Snapchat developing its own Google Glass? (0)

  31. The mystery of the 'magical' superstrong Viking sword (0)

  32. Personal 'ski butler', cigar library and even a walk-in cheese humidor: Inside Andermatt's first five-star hotel in the Swiss Alps (0)

  33. Bearded 'Boston bomber' Dzhokhar Tsarnaev smiles as he appears in court wearing a gray sweater for pre-trial hearing  (0)

  34. Military father from Texas jumps out of present for surprise homecoming to his daughter (0)

  35. Cruise passengers warned to take 'quality condoms' on board as rate of STI's rises (0)

  36. Oprah Winfrey joins Jimmy Fallon for auto-tuned soap opera spoof (0)

  37. Footage shows rescue of Hawaii's infamous Banzai Pipeline (0)

  38. Do these clay seals prove that biblical accounts of King David and Solomon are correct? Bullae found in Israel hint at political activity in 10th century BC (0)

  39. Bill Cosby accuser hits out at his defenders and says she pities comic's wife Camille (0)

  40. Tourist suffers lacerations to leg after being hit by speedboat blades in Phuket (0)

  41. 'Stalker' cop, 32, 'breaks into ex-girlfriend's house, shoots her dead and wounds her daughter, 15, just hours after she was granted protection order' (0)

  42. Pennsylvania Police chief's daughter and two men face up to 30 years in jail for attack on gay couple (0)

  43. Giant New Year's Eve numbers delivered to Times Square (0)

  44. Grandmother, 75, killed by mentally unstable man who walked into grocery store with the intent to 'shop or kill somebody' and slit her store in random attack (0)

  45. 'Anthony Goldenstein, Ravenclaw':  J.K. Rowling reveals a Jewish wizard character in Harry Potter  (0)

  46. Drunken Congressman flirted with women, talked about a threesome and said an aide could show her nipples whenever she wanted to,' claims ex-staffer in lawsuit (0)

  47. Man has treadmill fall after ogling girl then pretends to do push ups in video (0)

  48. Nordstrom fires black Mormon worker for Facebook comment about killing cops (0)

  49. Eric Williams' wife felt 'happy after helping him kill the DA, his wife, and a senior prosecutor' (0)

  50. Sydney siege hostage Louisa Hope's ex-husband tells how she was used as a 'human shield' for Sheikh Man Haron Monis (0)