This World War II veteran loved flying all airplanes, but especially the Mustang.
- By Diane Tedeschi
- Air & Space magazine, August 2007
Courtesy Bill Holloman
William Holloman, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and a Tuskegee-trained pilot now living in Kent, Washington, flew P-51 Mustangs with the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe during World War II. Holloman, who later became the Air Force’s first black helicopter pilot, plans to attend theColumbus, Ohio in September. He spoke with Air & Space associate editor Diane Tedeschi in July.
A&S: What did you like about flying the P-51?
Holloman: It was easy to fly. It wasn’t as much work as others I’d flown up to that time. I’d flown the P-40 and the P-47—they were harder than the -51. I used to tell people that my old-maid aunt could fly the P-51 because it was such an easy airplane.
A&S: How long did it take you to get trained in the P-51?
Holloman: They gave us the book to read, and we took two or three flights, then we went on a mission. I think I had probably seven, eight hours [of flight training]. If you could get if off the ground, they needed a warm body to fly it. They didn’t have the luxury of giving you a lot of training time.
A&S: Did you get your P-51 training at the Lockbourne base in Ohio?
Holloman: Oh, no. We did our training in the P-51 at Ramitelli, Italy, after we got overseas. [After that] we were flying into Germany and Austria and eastern Europe. We had three types of missions. Escort missions, to protect the bombers from enemy fighters. Strafing missions over ground targets such as trains and trucks. And search and destroy missions, which I guess we liked the best because we were able to attack targets of opportunity wherever they presented themselves.
A&S: Since the U.S. military services were still segregated during the war, you probably didn’t have much contact with the white U.S. bomber crews that you were escorting?