68 years ago: the 4th FG’s Bill Gillette scores two

A few years ago, I gave a talk on my then-new book on the 4th Fighter Group at the Villages, a retirement community near San Jose, California. To my surprise, in the audience was Willard “Bill” Gillette, who flew with the 4th! I joked then – as I do now – that Bill and the others in the audience at this Aviation Club meeting should be the ones doing the talking, while I sat and listened!

Bill’s big day was 68 years ago. On 7 July, 1944, Lt. Shelton Monroe led an escort to Aschersleben/Benburg, and in the process the group engaged a mass of fighters preparing to attack the heavies near Nordhausen. Charging into a gaggle of about 70 single-engine fighters, Capt. Thomas Joyce and Lt. Gillette each shot down a Bf 109, while Lt. Monroe damaged an Fw 190.

Soon, about 75 twin-engined German fighters started lining up as if to attack the bombers but did not make a move against them. Capt. Joyce made a pass on them and felled his second German plane of the day, with Lt. Jack McFadden getting some shots into the same plane as the pilot was bailing out. Meanwhile, Lt. Charles Evans made an attack on an Me 410. from high and behind. “Another P-51 (piloted by Lt. John Scally) came in behind the twin-engined aircraft as I was going down,” said Evans. “His port wing hit the starboard wing of the enemy aircraft. The P-51 immediately began spinning with one wing gone, and the enemy aircraft started a flat spin to the starboard.” Lt. Scally became a POW.

Lt. Preston Hardy, climbing up from this engagement, bounced 14 Bf 109s and shot down two while damaging a third. Lt. Gillette jumped his own group of Bf 109s near Blankenburg, destroying one of them. Lt. Gerald Chapman destroyed an Fw 190 and Lt. John Goodwyn jumped 30 Me 410s preparing to attack the B-24s and downed one of them as well.



  1. My Grandpa is Thomas Joyce. I’d love to learn more info if you have any.

  2. Thank you!

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