The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
LAWLEY, WILLIAM R., JR.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 364th Bomber
Squadron, 305th Bomber Group. Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944. Entered
service at: Birmingham, Ala. Born: 23 August 1920, Leeds, Ala. G.O. No.: 64,
8 August 1944.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty, 20
February 1944, while serving as pilot of a B-17 aircraft on a heavy bombardment mission
over enemy-occupied continental Europe. Coming off the target he was attacked by
approximately 20 enemy fighters, shot out of formation, and his plane severely crippled.
Eight crewmembers were wounded, the copilot was killed by a 20-mm. shell. One engine was
on fire, the controls shot away, and 1st Lt. Lawley seriously and painfully wounded about
the face. Forcing the copilot's body off the controls, he brought the plane out of a steep
dive, flying with his left hand only. Blood covered the instruments and windshield and
visibility was impossible. With a full bomb load the plane was difficult to maneuver and
bombs could not be released because the racks were frozen. After the order to bail out had
been given, 1 of the waist gunners informed the pilot that 2 crewmembers were so severely
wounded that it would be impossible for them to bail out. With the fire in the engine
spreading, the danger of an explosion was imminent. Because of the helpless condition of
his wounded crewmembers 1st Lt. Lawley elected to remain with the ship and bring them to
safety if it was humanly possible, giving the other crewmembers the option of bailing out.
Enemy fighters again attacked but by using masterful evasive action he managed to lose
them. One engine again caught on fire and was extinguished by skillful flying. 1st Lt.
Lawley remained at his post, refusing first aid until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion
caused by loss of blood, shock, and the energy he had expended in keeping control of his
plane. He was revived by the bombardier and again took over the controls. Coming over the
English coast 1 engine ran out of gasoline and had to be feathered. Another engine started
to burn and continued to do so until a successful crash landing was made on a small
fighter base. Through his heroism and exceptional flying skill, 1st Lt. Lawley rendered
outstanding distinguished and valorous service to our Nation.