West Point graduate planned operations from the air | ParkRecord.com

West Point graduate planned operations from the air

by Tracie Fails, of the Record staff

Lieutenant General William (Bill) Martin, an Air Force commander whose career spanned from World War II through Vietnam, maintains the stature of a soldier even at the age of 92. His clean-cut appearance and straightforward manner suggest the character of an officer.

But Lt. Gen. Martin didn’t anticipate combat when he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1935. He went for the education. After his father died when he was 4 years old, his mother saw the military as her son’s only chance to earn a college degree. Martin also spent much of his youth in military boarding schools, having graduated from Augusta Military Academy in Fort Defiance, Virginia.

"I didn’t get out of uniform until I was 65," he joked during an interview at his Park City home.

After graduating from West Point in 1940, he joined the 7th Bomb Group in Salt Lake City, where he met his wife, Mary. The army promoted him to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in October of 1943 and he became the operations officer of the 3rd Air Division in England.

He remembers D-Day with clarity.

"To observe the landing I flew a P47 over the beaches to see the movement of all the troops, and also, to see the effectiveness of the B17 bombing, which was very important and critical to the success of the landing," he says in a DVD of his memories.

Martin’s mission was to plan the bombing operations for the day following D-Day after receiving the operations orders from the 8th Air Force to the 3rd Air Division. He planned the routing for 14 units, including how they would land on the coast of Europe, the initial point for the bomb run and how they would exit the targets.

Despite his officer status, Martin had a difficult time securing a place on a plane.

"I would have to go down to the commander and say I want to fly one of your missions. He said, ‘I’d have to take a pilot off and put you in place.’ So, it was a struggle to get a wing," Martin admitted.

After retirement, he moved to Park City to be near his three sons – two of whom followed him with military careers. One served a as captain in the Air Force, and another joined the infantry.

Bio Box:

Born Aug. 27, 1915

Was head cheerleader and quarterback of the football team at Augusta Military Academy

Met his wife, Mary, while stationed in Salt Lake City after West Point.

Won the Legion of Merit, French Croix de Guerre and Distinguished Service Medal

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