Part 2 of 2 parts. You can read Part 1 here
Bill Crump reenlisted in the Air Force in early 1948, and in May enrolled in Supply Officer School at Lowry Air Force Base, located six miles southeast of Denver.
In 1948, tensions in Europe were rising between the Soviet Union and other Allied countries after World War II. Areas of Germany were being divided up and control/ownership of the areas became a point of strong contention. A major crisis started on June 24, 1948 when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road and access to Allied-controlled areas of West Berlin. The United States and The United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in West Germany.
In October, after the birth of Terry — June and Bill’s first son — Bill was sent to the British Zone in West Germany as a pilot and supply officer to help in the airlift. For the next seven months, Bill participated in the Berlin Airlift by flying a DC-4 carrying food, fuel and supplies into West Berlin.
Author’s Note: In late 1948, Bill was chosen to fly Bob Hope and the Les Brown band — who were entertaining U.S troops in Europe — from Frankfurt to Berlin Germany on Christmas Eve 1948.
June, along with their young son, was able to join Bill in Germany in early 1949. They were housed, however, in the American Zone, and Bill was only able to travel to see them on the weekends during the airlift.
The crisis ended on May 12, 1949 when Soviet forces lifted the blockade on land access to Berlin. When the airlift ended, Bill was assigned to an airbase in Munich, Germany. His tour of duty ended there in 1952.
Stationed back at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma in 1952, Bill and June’s second son (Bob) was born. Bill’s squadron was shortly thereafter assigned to Larson Air Force base in Moses Lake, Washington. There, June and Bill’s third and fourth sons — Eric and Dave — were born in 1953 and 1955.
At the Larson base, Bill became a pilot of the Douglas C-124 Globemaster, which was the largest troop and equipment carrier in the world. As a cargo hauler, it could transport tanks, trucks, artillery, and heavy equipment including bull dozers. As a passenger carrier it could carry 200 full equipped troops or 127 litter patients and their attendants.
In 1954, Bill led a squadron of 9 C-124 Cargo Globemasters to France, where they assisted the French in transporting 500 paratroopers/commandos to Indochina, while landing at the Da Nang Tourane Airfield. After leaving Vienam, the plane continued eastward across the Pacific to their home base, completing an around-the-world flight.
While stationed in Moses Lake, June and Bill had a home built back in Edmonds on 94th Avenue West, which they rented out. During Bill’s final overseas assignment to Turkey in 1963, June and the boys moved to their home in Edmonds. Bill joined them soon after. During Bill’s tenure at Larson Air Base he was first promoted to major, and later retired as a lieutenant colonel.
After retiring from the military, Bill continued to fly while working for Boeing, Safeco Insurance and for Dave Crow at Crow Hardware and Marine. Bill also gave flying lessons as well as free rides to a wide variety of people. In addition, he performed as a stunt pilot for the Miss America Airshow flying P-51s, and the Damn Yankees Precision Flight team, performing a wide variety of aerobatics.
When I asked Bill’s family members and others who had flown with him if they had remembrances or anecdotes of people’s experiences in being with him, I received numerous responses. Here are just three of them.
- I was privileged enough to have an aerobatic ride with Bill back in 1986 (or so) when I was a teenager. He had a part in inspiring my career in aviation. I went on to solo the very next year (in a Cessna 150 Aerobat, oddly enough) and served in the Air Force for 21 years, mostly flying C 130s. I will never forget that ride with Wild Bill. — Dave Anderson
- Bill taught me aerobatic flying and during my instrumental studies and development in the Civic Air Patrol (KPAE). Also, thanks to Bill I was able to fly in the opening festivities of the world’s fair when it was in Vancouver and numerous DC-3s did a fly over. Today I am part of a small cadre of pilots flying the latest and greatest Boeing 787 Dream Liner. I wish I could tell him that, but maybe he already knows. — David Chinick
- In the early 1970s, I purchased a fundraising raffle ticket from a fellow Rotarian. There were several winners in the multi-prize drawing and I won a flight over Puget Sound with Bill Crump. I had been informed that Bill was an excellent pilot but had not flown with him prior to that occasion. I expected a nice casual flight around the area in his Cessna 150, but that changed when Bill discovered that I was an Air Force vet. It appeared that his goal was to reach my sickness level. He proceeded to exhaust his flight maneuvers with loops, a horizontal roll, a spin and finally a tail slide called a “hammerhead”. He almost got me sick with that one. Afterwards, as we departed Paine Field, I promised myself that purchasing another raffle ticket was off my list. — Gary Nelson
As time went by, Bill became even more involved with Edmonds, the town that he loved.
In 1973, when Dave Crow sold Crow Hardware and Marine to Edmonds Lumber, Bill started his own hardware and marine business, aptly named Bill’s Hardware. Bill successfully operated the hardware store for over a decade.
Despite all of the things he was already involved in, Bill was also extremely active civically. He was the president of the 1980 Edmonds Rotary, and was instrumental in rebuilding the large gazebo in Edmonds City Park.
Bill was also responsible for the establishment of four lending lockers that provided convalescent equipment to those in need, free of charge. Additionally, Bill for numerous years represented the Edmonds Rotary as one of the key organizers each year for Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations in Edmonds.
As the commander of both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bill almost single- handedly saved the original Veteran’s Memorial Monument that had largely been forgotten and abandoned. He helped restore it and had it proudly displayed in front of the Edmonds Historical Museum for years. You can learn more about the Veteran’s Memorial Monument and its current location and history here.
As commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bill was also instrumental in getting headstones put on the unmarked graves of veterans that were buried in the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.
Bill also supported numerous other worthy causes in Edmonds and as a result was awarded the Douglas MacArthur Award in 1988 for his dedication to his community.
The later years
In 1989, Bill and June decided to retire and move to Sequim to enjoy the “sun belt.” But Bill did not slow down. He still gave flying lessons and continued to be involved in Rotary, the American Legion and VFW. As a result of his community service in Sequim, he was chosen to carry the Olympic torch for six-tenths of a mile on its journey from Los Angeles to Atlanta in 1996.
In 2003, Bill started to have some health issues, and he and June decided they needed to move. Unfortunately with the escalated price of homes in Edmonds, they ended up moving to Bellingham, which was another city that they liked, and where their oldest son lived. They found a comfortable individual home within a condo association and resided there for the reminder of Bill’s life.
Lt. Colonel John W. “Wild Bill” Crump passed away on Feb. 8, 2008. It is easy to envision that Bill is still giving aerobatic lessons to some of the angels above.
As a part of a Memorial Day celebration this year (2023), Bill’s four sons — along with Bob’s wife Trisha, and Eric’s wife Karen — flew to England in remembrance of their father’s and other soldiers’ sacrifices during World War II.
Bill’s sons were able to visit Playford Hall, and see where their father had been billeted 80 years ago.
The boys were also able to visit the gravesite of Jeep in the courtyard area of Playford Hall.
Author’s Note: Bill Crump had previously returned to the mansion and visited Jeep’s grave.
The family members were also able to visit the Cambridge America Cemetery, which contains the graves of 3,811 American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. At the cemetery there is also a memorial that honors the 5,127 Americans that are still missing in action from World War II.
The Crump family members were able to lay a wreath, symbolizing their respect, love and honor for all that fought to protect this country, including their father and the members of the 356th Fighter Group.
Author’s final notes: This project has opened my eyes to how young many of the American pilots were in World War II, and the tremendous debt we owe to all the men and women who fought and died to protect our way of life. A huge thank you goes out to the Crump family for providing so much information about their father and husband. June Crump, now a vibrant 98 years young, offered valuable insight into those early days of marriage, and what the family went through when Bill was in the military.
To Terry who lives in Bellingham (and who was also awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam), Bob (a pilot) and Eric who live in Edmonds, plus Dave who lives in Brier, thank you for your patience, as I kept coming up with so many questions along the way.
Thanks go to the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society for their assistance in my research efforts as well.
Additional information about Bill’s storied life can be found at the www.wildbillcrump.com website dedicated to Bill Crump, developed by Bob Crump and the Crump family members.
The following video includes Bill Crump providing narrative over a backdrop of photos including one where Charles Lindbergh flies as Bill’s wingman during a mission, while testing the readiness of the aircraft. You will have to listen to Bill’s commentary regarding Charles Lindbergh’s flying abilities.
This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes.