North Carolina Air National Guard Celebrates U.S. Air Force's 68th Birthday


World War II Air Force Colonel Durwood B. Williams, a Raleigh native, was the guest speaker at the North Carolina National Guard’s celebration of the United States Air Force’s 68th birthday at Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh Sept. 18.

Major General Gregory A. Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard talked about the Guard’s connection to the Army Air Force and Air Corps during World War II.

“It was the air power and the air cover that allowed them (the Air Force) to actually accomplish that mission and bring World War II to an end as well as in Korea and Viet Nam,” Lusk said. “We have some of the most expert people in the air, space and cyber world and, yes, they (the Air Guard) do have a higher IQ. They are the ones who get the big brain jobs – electronic warfare missions and ballistic missions. They do everything it takes to keep an airplane flying.

“We are 12,000 strong in our state, and always ready because of our mutual support.”

Six years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers donated an airplane to the U.S. Army. Planes were first used during World War I to cover ground forces. Air support was again used in World War II along strongholds such as the Siegfried Line and the Maginot Line as well as in the Pacific against the Japanese.

Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in introducing Williams, “His duties contributed to the Air Force’s transition from a propeller-powered air fleet to a jet-powered force, from analog command and control to digital command and control, and the Air Force’s entry in to the missile and space age.”

Col. Williams, who enlisted in the Army as an aviation cadet in 1942, was commissioned as a fighter pilot and assigned to the Pacific Theater, 7th Air Force, 318th Fighter Group. After Pearl Harbor, the 318th joined the Marianas and Okinawa campaigns via carrier launch.

“Our mission was to stop the wave of kamikazes coming from Japan and crashing down on the ships in the harbor and the cargo supplies and equipment on shore,” Williams said.

The 318th flew close air support and air defense as the 27th Infantry Division and 4th Marine Division captured Saipan, Tinian and Guam. In Saipan, Williams recalled how the Japanese retreated to an enclave near a 300-foot bluff. Nagumo, the Japanese Commander of Saipan, committed Hara Kari while the remaining Japanese soldiers and their families jumped over the bluff and died on the rocks and beach below.

Col. Williams in the cockpit of his plane, Cheek Baby.

His next mission took Williams on flights over Japan proper.

“We flew escort missions for reconnaissance airplanes taking pictures of beaches on the south shore of Kyushu. As those pictures were being made, a large, large task force lay anchor at Ulithi Lagoon waiting for orders to land on those beaches.”

Those orders never came. Two atomic bombs were dropped instead.

“Many people have condemned President Truman for ordering those bombs dropped, but I applaud him,” Williams said. “Had that force landed on those beaches and continued toward Tokyo, every soldier and every civilian would have fought to the death with pitchforks, guns, sticks and stones. The Japanese culture did not allow surrender. For one to surrender disgraced himself and his family.”

Williams described the World War II monument in Washington D.C. and how the memorial has 4,048 gold stars, and each star represents 100 war dead.

“If Truman hadn’t dropped the bomb, another 4,000 stars or more would be on that wall.”

Williams feels his best contribution to the defense of the nation was what he calls his small participation in the development and deployment of the warning system that provides a 15 minute warning for any potential ballistic missile impact and giving a fleet the opportunity to become airborne.

“That warning system gave credence to our own national policy of Mutual Assured Destruction and made a major contribution to the end of the Cold War without a nuclear exchange,” Williams said.

In the early 1970’s, Williams was in Iran and witnessed from his hotel balcony a day-long parade of men and boys marching and chanting in unison as they beat themselves bloody with chains and lashes.

Williams told a colleague, “This culture can also produce a kamikaze, and this culture can also produce a bonanza suicide attack.”

In 2001, Williams’ prediction came true when Al Qaeda operatives flew four planes, two into the twin towers in New York, one into the Pentagon and one crashing in Pennsylvania.

“Today, we can see on the news suicide bombers exploding themselves in public squares and beheadings,” Williams said. “I think our nation faces a threat equal to or greater than what we faced in 1939.

“I trust, I believe, and I am confident that a generation younger than mine will hear the call, face that threat and defend the freedoms we have today.

“I would say to that generation: Remember the first principle of war – know your enemy. Read a history of the Middle East, read a history of the Muslim community, read the Koran, visit a website,

, the Middle East Media Research Institute – it presents daily news that is presented to the Muslim community – translated speeches of leadership of the countries of that world. Know your enemy.

“I see among you young robust soldiers doing your duty. You give me uplift; you add to my confidence that the freedoms we enjoy today will be here tomorrow for my great grandchildren. Thank you for your service.”

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