William M. Palmer
U. S. A. F.
Crew Chief, 5th Air Commando Squadron

William was born in Baltimore, Maryland to William Nelson Palmer and Lilly Mae Palmer, as the oldest of four brothers. He would also have two stepbrothers. William was raised by his stepfather, Bonsal Brice Sparks, who worked for General Electric. While a teenager, William worked in a shoe shop on Eastern Avenue where he sold shoes. He attended Patterson High School in Baltimore until the 11th grade when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in January of 1964. He took basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, meanwhile earning his GED. At Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, he trained in aircraft maintenance. Sent to Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts he served as an aircraft crew chief. He recalls working seven days a week, including 16-hour days. About a year later he was placed in 5th Air Commando Squadron that was supplied with U-10 aircraft, and was sent to Kansas to train for Vietnam. There he underwent small arms and combat training, as well as working on the aircraft and flying in them as crew chief. The U-10 was a small aircraft equipped with loudspeakers to broadcast messages to civilians or personnel on the ground. From it, crewmembers also dropped leaflets and transported personnel, including Green Berets into mountain camps. William arrived by commercial airliner in Vietnam in fall of 1965. He was stationed for a few months at Nha Trang then at Bien Hoa. His job, he says was to "keep the aircraft loaded, keep the aircraft flying, keep it gassed up...and just make sure it's in shape to fly." William "flew all over the country" on missions lasting from a day or two to a month and a half, with each flight about an hour to three hours in length. Often he worked out of Green Beret camps. Occasionally, he says, pilots' wives taped Christmas songs that U-10 pilots would play for the soldiers below. "I've seen army grunts down in these little pup tents that they put together, get up and listen to the music," he recalls. He remained at Bien Hoa about seven months. While in Vietnam William caught a Bob Hope show, and saw other celebrities such as John Wayne and Eddie Fisher, who were entertaining troops. He left Vietnam after 13 months, returning to the States in late December of 1966. He was sent to Texas, where he served as a flying crew chief on C-124 Globemasters, which he calls "the largest aircraft at that time in the air force". "We flew all over the world moving nuclear missiles around," he recalls. William left the service in 1967, and worked in a shipyard. He returned to the air force after about seven months, and was given his former rank of staff sergeant. He served in Florida for a year as a flight engineer of C-54s, then for four years in Panama at Howard Air Force Base working in transit alert. He helped maintain and flew aboard C-118s. In 1973 William returned to Southeast Asia and was stationed at Nakhon Phanom, an airbase in Thailand where he served as crew chief/flight engineer on C-118s. He was there when Saigon fell. He returned to America after "about nine or ten months." At Sheppard Air Force Base, he was re-trained as an x-ray technician, and completed the training at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He later would become chief of the x-ray department at Eaker Air Force Base near Blytheville, Arkansas. During his air force career, William completed his college degree in business and economics at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. In 1984 he married Stephanie Medigovich, an air force major. (They would have two children and one grandchild.) William retired as a tech sergeant in 1985. The family moved to Italy where Stephanie was based at Aviano Air Base. William taught a Department of Defense school and worked for the post office. He also was assistant manager at Aviano Golf Course. The family returned to the States where Stephanie was posted to Barksdale Air Force Base. There she retired. The family remained in Shreveport.