Wilbourn I. McNutt
1st Lt
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 09/01/1939 - 12/07/1945
C-47 Pilot, 442 Troop Carrier Group

"In 1929 when I was eight years old, the big attraction at the Beauregard Parish Fair was two airplanes flown by some barn storming pilots who came out over the top of our house and landed at a field less than a mile." Will, as he was called, never forgot that day when he took his first airplane ride. "I was bitten by the flying bug," he says. He was born in DeRidder, Louisiana, the son of a small storeowner who sold hardware and repaired used furniture. Later that year the family moved to Beaumont, Texas where his mother ran a boarding house. "I saw my daddy actually selling apples on the streets trying to earn a few pennies," he says of the hard times. Will sold Liberty magazines door-to-door and worked a paper route, earning "four or five dollars a week." Unable to find employment after graduating from high school in 1939, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Field in San Antonio. At age eighteen he took his oath on September 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland to begin the war. Will describes the pre-war army as filled with lonely older men, many of them alcoholic. Many civilians, he remembers, either disdained or ignored men in uniform. Sent to March Field in Riverside, California, he was assigned to the Thirty-Second Bombardment Squadron, and ordered to the Pacirfic. Will was on a troop ship when a buddy shook him awake and announced, "Hey, Mack, do you know the Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor?" The ship returned to San Francisco. As trucks hauled them to Golden Gate Park, Will recalls, "People were on the streets waving to us. That was a new experience, because just days before a soldier in uniform was generally ignored or avoided as much as possible." The army finally approved Will's request for flight training. At Tarrant Field in Fort Worth, Texas he was assigned to B-24s, an aircraft he compares to a "flying boxcar." He was re-assigned after one flight to Brooks Field in San Antonio where he began training in a C-47, a troop carrier. By the spring of 1944 he was based in northern England, flying a C-47 named "Smoky City Express." He began training in parachute drops of troops of the Eight-Second and 101st Airborne Divisions and also towed British gliders. Will, however, missed flying troops into France on D-Day. He was assigned to the control tower because of some training he had missed while home on leave. A few days later he flew as co-pilot with a colonel and looked down on a vast D-Day armada. Later that year he transported paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to drops in Operation Market Garden in Holland. Will flew to Berlin when the war ended, saw General Dwight D. Eisenhower review Soviet troops, and attended a vodka-soaked banquet with many Russians and a lot of vodka. After his discharge at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio he attended junior college in Beaumont on the GI Bill, and then studied journalism at the University of Missouri. After graduation he worked on newspapers in Texas and then served as city editor of The Shreveport Times.