Colonel William B. Colgan, USAF (Ret)
Colonel Bill Colgan, a native of Waycross, Georgia, had a remarkable career as a fighter pilot -- and a
strafer. High school graduate in the Great Depression, he passed up college scholarship to help support their
family of a widow mother and four children. He volunteered in U.S. Army (Air Corps) immediately after Pearl
Harbor from civilian jobs of professional baseball in summer and railroad locomotive fireman in winter.
A fighter pilot, gunnery instructor, he then was in combat almost two years, 1943-45; 10 months as Flight
Leader (79th Ftr Gp) and a year as Commanding Officer of the 525th Fighter Squadron (86th Ftr Gp);
serving in Sicily, Italy and Southern France of the MTO, then in Northern France and Germany of the ETO;
with rank of Major. He flew 208 missions (normal tours were 70 - 100) in P-40s and P-47s. He was in the news
back home for air dogfights, but he and his squadron's main work was deadly air ground fighting, especially
strafing, where they inflicted heavy destruction and casualties on enemy ground, air and sea forces.
Colgan was noted for strafing "victories" -- destroying locomotives, planes, armor, guns, more -- and killing
enemy troops. Fellow pilots figured he made a record 1.000 trigger pulls or more in firing his aircraft guns
during strafing runs in the war. Also noted for flying battle-damaged aircraft home, he was wounded once,
crash landed twice and forced to bailout once, but still in action at the war's end. His combat spanned the
entire American ground war on the European Continent, a firm basis for a definitive story of fighter-bomber
and strafing operations.
In the Korean War, He commanded the 111th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in combat, flying 72 missions in
F-84s -- and more strafing. With the Air Force Operational Test Center, Eglin AFB, FL, he ran the test of
atomic weapons on fighter aircraft, and was commander of the fighter test group and chief of test operations
during test of the "Century Series" fighters. He graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in
addition to prior Air University courses. As Director of Operational Requirements, Tactical Air Command, he
played a key role in birth of the F-15 and other weapon systems. He also covered needs in Vietnam with duty
there and participation in combat missions. He retired in 1972 from position, Commander, 326th Air Division,
Pacific Air Forces.
His decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit (1 OLC), Distinguished Flying Cross (3 OLC), Air
Medal (14 OLC), Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation (2 OLC), French Croix de Guerre (w silver star) and
some 35 campaign/battle/service medals. Colonel Colgan was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame
in 1996, "Top Fighter-Bomber Pilot," and is a nominee for the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He is author of
two books. One is WW II Fighter-Bomber Pilot, now in 3rd edition; praised as definitive, "tells our story" and a
military "staple." It has been used as a textbook at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The other is newly published
Allied Strafing in World War II, immediately recognized as much needed due to heretofore unsung strafing
He and Anita Allen, hometown sweethearts, were married in July 1943. Anita worked on the home front
during the war. At age 20 she replaced a man manager of a Western Union serving a county and an Army Air
Field. Her picture was on the World War II Memorial Calendar and she has been honored in several "Rosie
the Riveter" memorials. They now live in Florida -- family life foremost as always.
William B, Colgan's FIRST CONTACT WITH FLYING. Living on St. Simons Island, Georgia, at the time,
six year old Billy Colgan went with his father in 1927 to the beach on adjacent Sea Island to admire the
airplane and visit with its pilot -- the pilot planning probably the most daring attempt in that era of record
setting frenzy. This was the plane Brunswick to Brazil, shown here, in which pilot Paul Redfern took off from the
beach on a nonstop flight to Rio de Janeiro. That he failed to make it all the way, and was never found, has
not dimmed young visions of bravery for a pilot who tried a flight far longer, more demanding and more
dangerous than Lindbergh's.
Lt. Bill Colgan, 87th Fighter
Squadron, 79th Fighter Group.
P-40L, Sicily, MTO. August 1943.
Lt. Col. Bill Colgan, Commander,
111th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 136th
Fighter-Bomber Wing, F-84E, Korea.
Colonel Bill Colgan, Chief of Test
Operations, Air Force Operational Test
Center, Eglin AFB, FL, F-104, 1950s.
Life / About the Author