Personal Stories
Commanding Officers of the 57th FG:
Colonel William J. Yates

"Every time I am reminded of the great accomplishments of the 57th Fighter Group during World War Two, my thoughts turn, not only to the pilots who were so young (I believe they were all under 30) and who fought so valiantly, and about whom so much has been said and written, but mostly to those who did so much in making things happen, the men not privileged to serve in a cockpit.

I think of Sergeant Black who walked those many miles to the airport at Accra in a leg cast after landing in a flying boat on a lake in the jungle - he just would not be left behind. I think of Sergeant Rivers hammering Duke Ellington's prop straight 3 or 4 times on our flights from Accra to Khartoum. His only tools were a sledge hammer and an ebony log. I think of our arrival in Palestine to find that all of our vehicles and many of our tools had been turned over to the bomb outfits. That "gang" as General Dorsey called us, through persuasion, innovation, creation, and sometimes chicanery, put together a fleet of vehicles that carried us 1200 miles to Tripoli and tools to support the aircraft. I think of Beck and Sergeant Price and their gang changing and building up engines in seven hours without a hoist. The engine was man handled onto 4 gasoline barrels and then the tail of the aircraft lifted by hand to align the mounts with the engine. (Average engine life - Packard Merlin 70 hrs/Allison 35 hrs.) I think of George Fincknor creating the first napalm bombs out of clusters of beer bottles (I also think of the time he accidentally blew up the German ammunition dump). I think of Maury Dyer mounting that tremendous effort toward the end of the war when we were averaging over 200 sorties per day with 90 aircraft. I think of Jerry (Jere?) Chase who somehow put it all together.

After the war in Europe was over, the 57th was the only unit to be requested to go to the far east directly without going through the U.S. for remanning. I was given the pick of manpower in the theatre. More than 70% of our men, who had not been home in 3 years, volunteered to go.

I doubt if there has ever been, or ever will be, a more patriotic, loyal, energetic, and talented group of men put together to accomplish so much. I only wish I had space for an anecdote about all of them but perhaps this illustrates what a special breed they were and are."

--William J. Yates
Col. USAF (Ret.)

COLONEL WILLIAM J. YATES was one of the initial members of the Group, successfully negotiated the carrier take-off and the crossing of the African jungle. He became Squadron 66 C.O. form February 21, 1943 until May 14, 1943 when he was reassigned to the U.S. Returning to the 57th, he became Deputy Group Commander on April 22, 1944. On May 25, 1945 he became Group C.O. The 57th was specifically requested by the Command of the Pacific Theater to be assigned there and to proceed there directly, and the C.O. was told to pick the team he wanted. V.J. day arrived while on the way so he had the pleasant, though tedious and nostalgic, task of deactivating the Group.