Retired Nov. 1, 1968.
A captain who commanded a squadron of B-25 Mitchell twin-engine light attack bombers that raided Nazi General Erwin Rommel's famed Afrika Korps in World War II desert fighting today commands an air division of the Strategic Air Command's long-range B-52 heavy bombers. He is William W. Wilcox, now a brigadier general.
As a colonel, Wilcox assumed command July 6, 1963 of the 4th Air Division with its three wings of B-52 jet bombers, part of the manned weapon system SAC employs in around-the-clock watch as a deterrent to a nuclear holocaust. A little more than six months later, the new air division commander received star rank.
In the spring of 1942 and then not two years out of West Point, Captain Wilcox was commander of the 81st Bombardment Squadron (Light) at McChord Field, near Tacoma, Wash. Before the end of July that same year, he had been promoted to major and was leading his squadron in combat in the Middle East. The 81st was among the first aerial bombardment units to hit the Germans in their African advance upon Egypt and the vital Suez Canal. Major Wilcox's 81st Squadron, as part of the Ninth Air Force, bombed the Germans back westward into Algeria and then east again into Tunisia.
On one of his air raids on Rommel's Afrika Korps, Major Wilcox was accompanied by the late General Hoyt D. Vandenberg, then commander of the Ninth Air Force and later U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. Their bomber, full of holes from German antiaircraft, limped home from the mission on one engine.
As combat commander of the 81st Bombardment Squadron, Major Wilcox was decorated with the Silver Star in May 1943 for his sustained leadership in combat in Africa. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for combat in the Libyan campaign in the desert warfare. Then in July 1943, he was commanding the 12th Bombardment Group (Light) and was wearing the silver leaf of a lieutenant colonel. His group, now a part of the Twelfth Air Force, participated in campaigns in Italy, and the 12th Bombardment Group received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its outstanding combat record.
Before the end of his combat tour in October 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Wilcox and his 12th Bombardment Group saw action with the Tenth Air Force against the Japanese in the China-India-Burma Theater. In all, he had flown 73 combat missions in World War II.
Back in the States, Lieutenant Colonel Wilcox went to the Air Training Command, where his assignments included training pilots at LaJunta, Colo. A tour with the Joint Chiefs of Staff was followed by his return to the U.S. Military Academy as an instructor in the academy's Department of Mathematics.
A few days after the start of the Korean War in the summer of 1950, while Colonel Wilcox was on duty with the Directorate of Intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, he was promoted to full colonel. He remained in Headquarters U.S. Air Force Intelligence until August 1953 when he was enrolled in the Air War College. After this school, his next assignment was with the Far East Air Force. He commanded the 581st Air Resupply Group on Okinawa Island and then the 322nd Troop Carrier Squadron, at Kadena Air Force Base on the island.
His initial assignment in Strategic Air Command was early in 1957 as deputy commander of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, at Forbes Air Force Base, Kan. Subsequently, he was commander of the 90th Bombardment Wing, Forbes Air Force Base; the 4080th Reconnaissance Wing, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and the 4130th Strategic Wing, at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas. These assignments were followed by his assignment as chief, Operations and Training Division, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
After World War II, Colonel Wilcox flew C-118 cargo aircraft, SA-16 air rescue aircraft, B-29 bombers, B-47 and B-52 jet bombers and U-2 reconnaissance planes. He is a command pilot with more than 4,400 hours of flying time.