Iowa History Daily: William Butler Howard of Indianola died when his plane crashed while serving with the 16th Fighter Squadron of the 14th Air Force while serving in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The mechanically-minded farm kid turned Iowa State Cyclone finds remembrance in the school’s Gold Star Hall of the Memorial Union.
Born on a diverse farm in Warren County, Howard spent a childhood helping on the family livestock farm which featured cattle, hogs, and horses. An alumni of Iowa’s one-room school house system, Howard showed a knack for academic ability when he tested out of eighth grade and enrolled ahead of schedule at Indianola High School.
A relatively quiet person by his own admission (the Indianola yearbook quotes him as saying: “Because a man doesn’t talk is no sign he hasn’t something to say), Howard played the trombone and excelled in the classroom at Indianola. After a year working back on the farm following graduation, Howard enrolled at Iowa State to study Agricultural Engineering in 1940.
Howard served in the Iowa State ROTC before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Force in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sent to Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona, the young Iowan again excelled to graduate in the top 10 percent of his flight school class while earning his wings. Sent almost immediately to the South Pacific, Howard joined the effort to turn the tide while flying 76 missions in locations including the Solomon Islands and New Guinea.
Howard returned stateside to work as a flight instructor in George during 1944, but not before winning the Air Force Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight.” Sent back into action during November 1944, Howard arrived at Chengkung Airfield in China to serve with the 16th Fighter Squadron. The following year he perished when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff. In 1948 his remains returned to Warren County where he was put to rest with full military honors. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar