WWII fighter pilot who flew THROUGH the Eiffel Tower dies in Virginia aged 92
- 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
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
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
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
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
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.
MOST WATCHED NEWS VIDEOS
MOST READ NEWS
Colorado NewsGet the latest Colorado news, sports, weather, entertainment, business & political news and more from Colorado Newsday.
Rate this article
|PHOTOS: Plastic Surgery Celebrity||Awkward family photos|
|UPDATED: Faces of Meth||PHOTOS: Celebrities all a-Twitter|
More students sarcastically say,'#THANKS Michelle Obama' and post photos of their 'healthy' school meals
Students in Wisconsin have taken to social media to blast Michelle Obama for their Thanksgiving themed lunches that feature a brown mystery mush'Had a very ...
- Ty Herndon comes out as gay and reveals he has a partner of five years
- Parents and three of their children killed after son, 16, 'fell asleep at wheel' on their way to Disney World
- Knee injury to sideline Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan 6-8 weeks
- Bill Cosby attacked Lou Ferrigno's wife Carla while wife Camille was in house
- Tiny parasitic tapeworm burrows its way through a man's brain for FOUR YEARS
- Emotional moment 100-year-old woman saw the ocean for the FIRST time: Grandmother who spent her life cotton-picking on Tennessee farm gets birthday wish to see the sea
- British jihadi killed in Kobane fighting for ISIS
- Can Salon Science AnaGain shampoo really give you longer, thicker hair in 3 months?
- The secret of how size two Food Network chef Giada de Laurentiis stays so slim: She spits her own food into a bucket while filming
- Drunk tractor driver decapitates three people in head-on crash
- Pregnant woman drives kids into ocean in Florida
- NHL's Jack Johnson declares bankruptcy after 'parents squander his $30m fortune'
- Bill Cosby returns to the stage and receives standing ovation at benefit for women's organization as new actress comes forward to say he forced her into oral sex
- Kim Kardashian denied access to Vanity Fair party
- Bill Cosby STILL a Temple University trustee despite continued sexual assault claims and getting nixed by NBC and TV Land
- Obesity costs the global economy as much as war and terrorism, totalling $2TRILLION a year
- Kansas City CVS customer takes a selfie after being accidentally LOCKED IN closed Missouri store
- Man is brutally stabbed NINE TIMES for kindly asking a man to stop catcalling his girlfriend
- Spoiled teen takes parents to court
- Bux app turns the stock market into a game to 'bring the fun back to finance'
- UC Berkeley students ignore Fox commentator waving ISIS flag but ATTACK him when he waves Israeli flag
- Modern hand dryers are 'much worse' at spreading germs around a room than paper towels, study claims
- Maryland Assistant Attorney General warn of $100 on car windshield scam
- Caught on camera: Moment two civilians confront police officer over littering sparking profanity-laced verbal spat
- Housekeeper Cara Simmons GIVEN the home she's sent to clean
- Couple stole little girl's iPod in Aurora
- BREAKING NEWS: Woman arrested with a gun outside White House minutes after Obama concluded immigration speech
- How the student sons of Chinas super rich show off their wealth
- Crystal meth before and after pictures of former beauty queen released
- Russian troops threaten to shoot Ukrainian soldiers in tense stand-off
- Former director of Breckenridge Film Festival Dawna Foxx given 5 years for embezzling $300K
- Terms of Service
- Boxer vows to fight on – after 51st defeat in row
- The most unhygeinic thing about your hotel room? The remote control
- 8 feet and thundersnow expected in Buffalo as winter storm weather continues
- Todd Chrisley's son claims his father is hiding his sexuality from the family
- Mississippi and West Virginia are the fattest states in the U.S. - but everyone is more overweight than they imagine
- Miracle On 34th Street comes alive as Macy's unveils its holiday windows with just over a month to go before Christmas
- Nestle developing exercise in a BOTTLE to create the ultimate diet drink
- Denver Man Michael McGinley threatened to kill wife in phone call at DA’s office
- The wartime love letters to a girl in rural North Carolina from THREE soldiers who all wanted to marry her on their return
- Russian boxer knocks out gang of thugs after they harassed his wife
- Daisy the Labrador has helped find disease in 551 patients
- Man in prison 19 years freed after claim recanted
- Iglesias, Calle 13 clean up at Latin Grammys
- A view from the bottom in America's poorest city: Captivating photo series gives an intimate glimpse of the faces men, women and children struggling to get by on the streets of Philadelphia
- Hayley Turner, 18, who faked her own abduction sparking multi-state search placed on three years probation and fined $15,200 for the search
- Forbes rich list names world’s youngest billionaires