Col. William B. Colgan

Col. William B.Colgan (1920 - )

A native of Waycross, Georgia, Bill Colgan, like many of his generation, graduated from high school and went to work to help support his family. At 21, he was a professional baseball player and locomotive fireman. Volunteering for service in the US Army Air Corps when America entered World War II. He completed fighter pilot training in P-40s in 1943, and by August of that year was flying and fighting the enemy from a base in Sicily. After 20 missions, Colgan became a flight leader, flying support for the Anzio invasion in January, 1944; he went to the aid of his wingman who was under attack from four enemy fighter planes. Colgan shot down one Me.109 and drove off three others, saving his comrade's life. On return to base, he made a lone attack on six enemy fighter-bombers, damaging one. Colgan became commander of the 525th Fighter Squadron and by war's end, had flown 208 combat missions in P-40s and P-47s, most of which were bombing and strafing. His squadron inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, destroying troop and supply trains, ships, vehicles, barges, large gun emplacements, personnel and airplanes in support of allied campaigns in Italy, Southern and Northern France, Austria and Germany. He was wounded once, crash-landed twice and was forced to bailout once. After World War II, Colgan received a regular commission. During the Korean War, he commanded the 111th Fighter Bomber Squadron where he flew 72 combat missions. Following the Korean War, Colgan was Chief of Tactical Fighters, Eglin AFB, Florida, where he flew many early tests of the Low Altitude Delivery System with live weapons. As Chief of Test Operations at Eglin, he oversaw introduction of the Century Series fighters and directed and flew in the famous "Fire Power Demonstration." Colonel Colgan attended the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, graduating in 1963. While director of Operational Requirements, he flew 12 combat missions while on requirements business in Vietnam and played a key part in the birth of the F -15. Colonel Colgan retired in 1972 as Commander of the 326th Air Division, having served his country for more than 30 years. For his bravery and valor he was awarded 26 medals. Among those are the Silver Star, two Legion of Merits, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 15 Air Medals and the Purple Heart. He and Anita, his wife since 1945, reside in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. He authored the book World War II Fighter Bomber Pilot.

Colonel William B. "Bill" Colgan was enshrined in the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, May 18, 1996.