The fighter pilot who flew through the Eiffel Tower in 1944 has died
The fighter pilot who flew through the Eiffel Tower in 1944 has died.
William Overstreet Jr., a former captain in the U.S. Air Corps, passed away on Sunday at a hospital in Roanoke, Virginia.
In the spring of 1944 Bill and his P-51C, the ‘Berlin Express’ were near Paris when the scene that is immortalized in the artwork by Len Krenzler of Action Art that leads this article took place. Bill had followed this Messerschmitt BF109 from the bombers he was escorting when most of the other German fighters left. The two planes had been in a running dogfight.
The German pilot flew over Paris hoping that the heavy German anti-aircraft artillery would solve his problem and eliminate Overstreet and the ‘Berlin Express,’ though Bill managed to get some hits in at about 1500 feet.
The German’s engine was hit, and Bill stayed on his tail braving the intense enemy flak. His desperation undoubtedly growing, the German pilot aimed his plane at the Eiffel Tower and in a surprising maneuver, flew beneath it.
Undeterred, Bill followed right behind him, scoring several more hits in the process. The German plane crashed and Bill escaped the heavy flak around Paris by flying low and full throttle over the river until he had cleared the city’s heavy anti-aircraft batteries.
WWII fighter pilot who flew THROUGH the Eiffel Tower to take down a German plane dies in Virginia aged 92, William Overstreet Jr., a former captain in the U.S. Air Corps, passed away on Sunday at a hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. He famously flew his plane beneath the Eiffel Tower in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, lifting the spirits of French troops on the ground. In 2009, he was presented France’s Legion of Honor.
Hero: World War II Aviator Bill Overstreet Jr., best known for flying beneath the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of a German plane, is pictured in his military days.
Before the ceremony, Overstreet had previously said that, if he lived long enough to receive the Legion of Honor, he would be accepting it in memory of his fallen brothers.
In particular, he wanted to pay tribute to a friend, Eddy Simpson, who died fighting the Nazis on the ground so his comrades, including Overstreet, could escape. After the award was pinned to his lapel, Overstreet said: ‘If I said, “Thank you,” it wouldn’t be enough,’
He was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1921 and after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Air Corps as a fighter pilot. By February 1942, he was a private and sent to California for flight training; here, his instructors prepared him for the unexpected mid-flight by cutting the engine as he landed.
Aircraft: Overstreet is pictured by his P-51 ‘Berlin Express’, the plane he flew beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Proud: Overstreet is pictured in 1943 with his cherished 1938 Buick in California, where he trained.
Close call: The wreckage of his Bell P-39 which spun out of control mid-air as he completed combat training in 1943. He managed to force his way out of the craft and walked away unhurt
Loss: Bill Overstreet is pictured at an event, Warbirds Over the Beach, in 2013.
‘He was always humble. Whenever the press interviewed him, he said, “I didn’t do anything, we were a team”.’ RIP Bill Overstreet.