Retired April 1, 1966. Died July 29, 1996.
William John Bell was born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1908. He graduated from South Park High School and entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1927, receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery June 10, 1931. Lieutenant Bell then attended flight school at Randolph Field, Texas, and later took advanced flight training in pursuit aviation at Kelly Field, Texas. He received his pilot's rating in October 1932 and transferred to the Army Air Corps.
After leaving flight school, Lieutenant Bell was assigned to the 24th Pursuit Squadron, Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone. In December 1934, he was reassigned to Selfridge Field, Mich., as flight leader and operations officer with the 17th Pursuit Squadron. Here he was promoted to first lieutenant and in February 1937, was assigned to the 15th Observation Squadron at Scott Field, Ill. Lieutenant Bell attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., and received his captaincy before leaving Scott in November 1940.
Captain Bell was next assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., where he became air officer of the 1st Armored Division. In June 1942, he became air officer at the Army Amphibious Training Center, Camp Edwards, Mass. In January 1943, he attended the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., and remained until the following June when he was assigned as chief of the Troop Carrier and Glider Branch, Requirements Division, OC&R, at the Pentagon.
Colonel Bell received his first command in May 1944 when he activated the 2d Combat Cargo Group at Syracuse, N.Y. He took the group overseas to the Southwest Pacific in October 1944. Movement of the group introduced the C-46 airplane to the Southwest Pacific Theater and involved a flight of 80 C-46s from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Biak, New Guinea, by way of Hawaii, without aircraft loss or serious incident. He remained as commander of the group until its inactivation in December 1945, seeing action at New Guinea, Leyte, Okinawa, and Japan. When the group moved to Japan in September 1945, it occupied Yokota Air Base where Colonel Bell also acted as base commander until December 1945.
From Yokota, Colonel Bell assumed the command of Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, and in June 1946 became executive officer of the 317th Troop Carrier Wing. He served there until May 1947 when he returned to the United States. In July 1947, Colonel Bell became a team captain in the Inspection Division of the Field Office, Inspector General, U.S. Air Force, at Langley Air Force Base, Va. He was appointed air inspector for the unit in July 1948. On departing Langley, he attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., graduating in June 1950.
From the Air War College, Colonel Bell was reassigned to Policy Division, of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Plans Directorate, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, where he remained until May 14, 1954, serving in order as chief of the Domestic Branch, chief of the International Branch, assistant chief of the division, and from Feb. 16, 1952, chief of the division.
Transferred to Europe in May 1954, he became the assistant deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Wiesbaden, Germany. In June 1956, Colonel Bell was assigned as chief of staff, 12th Air Force, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and subsequently promoted to brigadier general.
On Sept. 1, 1957, General Bell assumed duty as vice commandant of Air Force ROTC. On May 29, 1959, he was assigned commandant of the Air Force ROTC program with headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He received promotion to major general, effective March 7, 1961, with date of rank retroactive to July 1, 1956.
Major General Bell was reassigned from Maxwell to duty as commander, Lackland Military Training Center and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, assuming command Sept. 16, 1961. Lackland's missions include the operation of 3720th Basic Military School U.S. Air Force, Officer Military Schools U.S. Air Force (Officer Candidate School U.S. Air Force, Officer Training School U.S. Air Force, Chaplain School U.S. Air Force, and Language School U.S. Air Force) and the 3275th Technical School U.S. Air Force.
General Bell has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Commendation Ribbon and Southwest Pacific Theater Ribbon with seven battle stars.