In Memory of Wilhelm (Bill) Herbert Peterson; 458th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group

The 506th Fighter Group lost another pilot when 1st Lt. Bill Peterson passed away on July 3, 2021. Wilhelm (Bill) Herbert Peterson was born on June 27, 1923, in Gary, Indiana. Bill’s family moved to Sebring, Florida early in his childhood, and Bill left high school after the 11th grade and enrolled in the University of Florida. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Force Reserve and was in his last year of college when he was called up.

He started his basic flight training at Americus, Georgia, flying Boeing’s primary trainer, the PT-17 Stearman biplane, and then went to Greenwood, Mississippi, flying the Vultee BT-13 basic trainer. Bill continued his training at Dothan, Alabama, flying the North American AT-6 advanced trainer, and completed his flight training at Montgomery, Alabama, flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk where he received his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

2nd Lieutenant Wilhelm H. Peterson (via Robert Grant)

2nd Lt. Peterson was assigned to the 458th Fighter Squadron shortly after the 506th Fighter Group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Force base in October, 1944. The 506th was trained solely for very long range missions.

Below are two pictures of 2nd Lt. Peterson during tour of duty on Iwo Jima. The first is of 2nd Lt. F.H. Wheeler (front), 2nd Lt. Robert “Andy” Anderstrom (back left), and 2nd Lt. Wilhelm Peterson (back right).

(Myndret S. Starin via Dr. John Benbow)

The second is of C Flight of the 458th Fighter Squadron. 2nd Lt. Peterson is in the back row, fifth from the left.

C Flight of the 458th FS (back row, left to right – Myndret Starin, Robert Anderstrom, F.H. Wheeler, Jack Westbrook, Wilhelm Peterson & Paul Ewalt; front row, left to right – Edward Kuhn, William Lockney, Goldie Marcott, Donald Harris & Francis Pilecki) (Ralph Coleman via Dr. John Benbow)

1st Lieutenant Myndret S. Starin and 2nd Lieutenant Wilhelm W. Peterson were assigned to fly 580 “Shirley III/Augusta Wind” a P-51D-25-NA (Serial No. 44-72890). 1st Lt. Starin named the plane Shirley III, which appeared on the port side of the nose, and 2nd Lt. Peterson named the plane Augusta Wind after his wife, Augusta, which appeared on the starboard side of the nose.

580 “Shirley III/Augusta Wind” (Myndret S. Starin via Dr. John Benbow)

Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of 580 showing the name Augusta Wind on nose. Below is the only photo of starboard side of 580. Because the cowl panels have been removed for maintenance, we are unable to see the name Augusta Wind.

580 “Shirley III/Augusta Wind” (via Dr. John Benbow)

Bill flew many VLR missions to Japan and back during his tour of duty, and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. Bill returned to the United States in early January of 1946, just in time to enroll for his final semester at the University of Florida.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Bill worked in the life insurance industry for 19 years, and then had a very successful practice as a certified public accountant. On July 3, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.

On July 10, 2013, Bill gave an interview as part of the University of Central Florida Veterans’ History Project recounting his life and service to his country as part of the 506th Fighter Group. Bill’s interview can be found here: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/veteransoralhistories/172/

In Memory of Jack H. Folsom; 457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; December 7, 1922 – January 16, 2021

The 506th Fighter Group lost another fighter pilot when Jack H. Folsom went west on January 16, 2021. Jack Folsom was born on December 7, 1922 in Des Moines, Iowa. He showed an affinity for airplanes and flying at an early age winning several awards at the Iowa State Fair for model building and distance flying as a teenager.

He graduated from Des Moines Lincoln High School in January of 1941, and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jack was awarded his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona as part of Class 43-D.

2nd Lieutenant Jack H. Folsom

Like many 506th FG fighter pilots, Jack was a pilot instructor at Page Field in Fort Meyers, Florida, when he was assigned to the 457th FS shortly after the 506th FG was organized in October of 1944 at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG pilots were trained specifically to fly very long range missions, and Jack flew over 10 VLR missions to Japan and back from Iwo Jima. During his tour on Iwo Jima, Jack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of Jack while he was on Iwo Jima flying VLR missions. During his return to the United States after the cessation of hostilities, the contents of Jack’s foot locker were stolen depriving us all of a glimpse of that part of his life.

Jack H. Folsom

Upon his discharge after the end of World War II, Jack enrolled in Iowa State’s Aeronautical Engineering program and graduated in three and one half years. Jack worked for Boeing for 36 years, and retired in 1985 as the Chief Engineer at Boeing’s Renton plant.

Jack Folsom with 457th TFS Captain Eric “Gator” Maurer at the 2005 506th FG Reunion in Dayton, Ohio (Dr. John Benbow)

After his retirement, Jack, and his wife Dorothy, built homes in Port Townsend, Green Valley, Arizona, and in Buhl, Idaho, where their home overlooked the Snake River and Kanaka Rapids. Jack was a very accomplished wood worker in his retirement; a craft which he shared with others.

Jack Folsom with Ed Milner at the 2006 506th FG Reunion in Fort Worth, Texas (Ed Milner via Dr. John Benbow)

Jack’s obituary stated that “[h]is life of integrity, honesty, a strong handshake, his commitment to Jesus Christ, and love for his family were his hallmarks.” On January 16, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.

Decal Review: Exito Decals’ “Pacific Warriors” Vol. 1 (ED48011 & ED72011)

Exito is a Polish company which was started in 2008 as an internet hobby shop, and expanded in 2010 by establishing a brick and mortar store in 2010 in Cracow, Poland. In November of 2018, they launched their own line of high quality decals in 1/72nd, 1/48th and 1/32nd scales.

They recently released their 11th decal sheet entitled “Pacific Warriors” vol. 1, which includes decals for “501”, a 457th FS/506th FG P-51D-25-NA (44-72640) flown by Captain Evelyn Neff.

Exito Decals

Their decal sheets appear to very well researched. The decal sheet comes with a separate decal placement guide for each plane. On one side is the decal placement guide with photos, aircraft profiles showing decal placements, and color call-outs.

Exito Decals/Janusz Swaitlon

On the other side are larger aircraft profiles. All of the aircraft profiles are the work of Polish aircraft illustrator, Janusz Swaitlon. They are printed on thick glossy paper suitable for framing. Very nice touch on the part of Exito.

Exito Decals/Janusz Swaitlon

The decals are in register and printed by Cartograf in Italy.

Exito Decals – 1/48th Sheet
Exito Decals – 1/72nd Sheet

Exito gives you the option of two different markings for Captain Neff’s Mustang. The first option is the early 457th FS paint scheme with the green striped tail shortly after the 506th FG arrived on Iwo Jima as shown in the picture below. The nose art below the front of the canopy shows the half nude without a background.

506th Fighter Group Association via Dr. John Benbow

The 506th Fighter Group Mustangs went to solid tails beginning in June of 1945 after the 7th Fighter Command ordered the three Mustang groups on Iwo Jima to adopt more simplified markings. The second option is 501 with a solid tail and the half nude nose art with a dark background as shown in the photo below. Again, nice touch on Exito’s part.

506th Fighter Group Association via Brian Walter

Kudos to Exito for releasing this decal sheet. Because they have labeled this decal sheet “vol. 1”, we can assume the future release of at least another “Pacific Warriors” decal sheet. Hopefully, volume 2 will include decals for another Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.

Brian Walter, one of the 506th Fighter Group’s historians, was a contributor on the decal sheet for Captain Neff’s VLR Mustang.

In Memory of William G. Ebersole; September 30, 1924 – December 27, 2020

William Glenn Ebersole was born on September 30, 1924, in Arcadia, Florida. Upon graduation from high school, he entered the University of Florida in Gainesville, as a freshman in September, 1942. Wanting to control his entry into active service in the armed forces, he enlisted in the Air Corps Reserve on October 31, 1942, shortly after turning 18. The thought that he might have two years of college before being called up was short lived as he was ordered to report for active duty on February 24, 1943, in Miami Beach, Florida. On his way to earning his wings, Bill flew in Stearman PT-17s, BT-13s, and AT-6s. He received his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission on April 15, 1944, at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama, as part of class 44-D. During his training as a fighter pilot, Bill flew the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, and the A, B, C and D models of the North American P-51 Mustang.

Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Bill was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group in early January of 1945. When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Ebersole, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.

William G. Ebersole via Brian Walter

Bill was the youngest pilot in the 462nd Squadron at the ripe old age of 20 years while on Iwo Jima, and flew a total of 10 VLR missions, the first being on June 7, 1945 to Osaka, and the last being on August 5, 1945, to Tachikawa. He was assigned to fly 619 “Hon. Mistake”, a North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang (Serial # 44-72587) with 2nd Lt. James Bercaw. While on Iwo Jima, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and was credited with destroying a twin engine bomber on the ground during a strafing mission. Bill took his last flight in a P-51D Mustang on December 4, 1945, when he led a flight of 4 planes from Guam to Isley Field on Saipan. From there, he took a ship for the long trip back to the United States.

Bill Ebersole re-enrolled at the University of Florida, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. At the pinnacle of his career, he was the publisher of The Gainesville Sun.

Bill was scheduled to take a return trip to Iwo Jima with his wife Anna in March of 2020 as part of veterans’ flight, but never took that trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brad McClenny/Gainesville Sun

Bill was a frequent attendee at 506th Fighter Group reunions. I first met Bill at the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in 2012. Bill graciously spent several hours answering all of my questions, and I was fortunate to get to know Bill during several 506th Fighter Group reunions. His daughter, Glenda Ebersole Potts, said “I never met a man as good as my father . . . they don’t make’em like that anymore.” Anybody who knew Bill would heartily concur.

Bill Ebersole with the author during the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino California (July 7, 2012)

Bill passed away on December 27, 2020 at the age of 96 after a bad fall and subsequent hospitalization. The newspaper article in The Gainesville Sun regarding Bill’s passing can be found here: https://www.gainesville.com/story/obituaries/2020/12/29/arcadia-man-wwii-pilot-and-sun-publisher-bill-ebersole-dies-96/4062253001/