1st Lieutenant William Frost, Jr., U.S.A.A.F.

1st Lieutenant William Frost, Jr., U.S.A.A.F. of 506th Fighter Squadron, 404th Fighter Group. Who lost his life on Apr. 13, 1944.

I have been asked to write a biography of my brother 1st. Lt  William Frost Jr. whose name is on a British memorial for pilots of the 404th fighter group in Holmsley South, England. I found some commonalities that apply to most of the people of all wars memorialized anywhere.They were almost all young, and their lives were short. In the case of aircrew they were volunteers responding to a threat to the entire world. No aircrew was drafted to fly. They were chosen from a select few who had the intelligence, motor skills, and courage for the task of facing a very capable and experienced enemy in the sky. They were motivated by both an urge to fly and a responsibility to defend humanity. Although many did not understand the causes that generated the threat, they understood the result if not opposed. 

Writing the specific biography of my brother was easy in some respects but difficult in others. I knew him intensely for my entire 14 years of contact, but that was only a part of his life. The brevity of his life limited the volume of his accomplishments, but intensified the quality. His skill level in many areas was excellent. He was a very creative and precise craftsman in a great variety of materials and use of tools. He no doubt would have been an excellent engineer, the course of study he was pursuing before volunteering as an Air Force cadet. He graduated first in his fighter pilot class. His skill level as a pilot was well above average.

Several accomplishments recorded in his logbook indicated that he was able to recover a P-39 from a flat spin. There were only three recoveries of flat spins recorded in U.S. Air Force records. The only other known way to survive a flat spin of a P-39 was to bail out and abandon the aircraft before it smashed into the ground. He also soloed after one and a half hours in multi engine aircraft. This now requires a minimum of ten hours of instruction. The last half hour was in the aircraft he soloed, a Curtiss AT-9, considered the most difficult of all U.S. aircraft to fly. It was withdrawn from multi-engine training as being too dangerous. He was also chosen to instruct others to fly fighters from the group he was training with because of his skill level.

I knew him intensely for my entire 14 years with him. He was well above average as a big brother especially as compared with older brothers of friends. He was always involved in some creative project which I was drawn to. Rather than urging me not to bother him he would involve me at what ever level I was capable of contributing. I learned many lifelong skills and technologies through his patience and mentoring. He also helped me understand the adult world and how to react productively to things I would normally have only found threatening as a child. He was extremely sensitive, understanding, and definitely kind.

I was the last one of our family to see him and converse with him when he left for England from New York. The bus to New York left from a corner just down the street from our home. He said goodbye to the rest of our family at our house as he knew that would be difficult for all involved. Goodbyes of this type are the most heart wrenching of all. He let me walk with him to the bus stop. On the short walk to the bus stop in a few brief words, he conveyed to me his feeling about what he was about to do.

Our paternal grandparents were German immigrants and he grew up conversing with them in fluent German. They were dearly loved so it was difficult for him to think of Germans only as inhuman enemy. He knew that he would be inflicting great damage on fellow humans who, unfortunately were causing intense grief for much of the world. He had volunteered because of his concern and was now about to act on his concerns. He said to me, regarding that, " this is a terrible, messy business and the only reason I can think of that I am doing this, is so that you won't have to ". In spite of my youth I totally understood his feelings. Ironically, if not for ineligibility for military service as sole surviving son because of his death, I probably would have been in combat in Korea.

Shortly after his group reached England we received the devastating telegram from the War Department announcing his death, a half ounce piece of yellow paper that hit families with more devastating impact than a 500 hundred pound bomb and enduring as time. The telegram said he had been killed in a landing accident. We never received any more information than that. In wartime there was no time for more. We understood that other tasks were much more imperative. For years that remained all we ever knew until my father died and I discovered the 404th Fighter Group history among his possessions. It aroused my curiosity and started me on a search that terminated 57 years after my brother's death with the most likely scenario of the accident.
The search took me in many directions, locating many Air Force records, and people who contributed important facts and observations. This was aided greatly by an invitation to a reunion of his fighter group. The reason for the search was that his accident seemed to be caused by lack of skill. My personal knowledge of him made me intensely doubt that. After input from squadron members and an English air traffic controller it seemed most likely that his aircraft had a fuel leak. A P-47 fuel leak could result in the aircraft exploding. The usual remedy was to bail out before that happened. He was too low to bail out and the only other option was to land as quickly as possible.
The town of Winkton was right under the normal landing pattern and an explosion there would likely have killed many people. The accident site indicated he had shortened that pattern to avoid the town which put him in a much more difficult position for landing. He had to make a short field landing, slowing the aircraft close to stall speed and then adding power at exactly the right time. At the 404th reunion I was told by a crew chief, who knew that P-47, that it had an unreliable carburetor, which could delay throttle inputs. A stall and spin into the ground would have resulted from late application of power. I believe the evidence strongly suggests that he died in an effort to save people rather than killing them. There may be people in Winkton who would not be alive today had his P-47 exploded in the normal landing pattern.
I saw an inscription on the grave marker of a soldier in a British Military Cemetery at Monte Casino, Italy.  It stated succinctly how those whose names are on memorials are missed. It said " to the world he was one, to us he was the world. "
-George Frost 2014

Page published May 3, 2014