The 440th Troop Carrier Group website and community wishes to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of 2nd Lieutenant William J. Hamrick, 440th Troop Carrier Group, 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, navigator and flight leader. He passed away on March 16, 2013.
In a 2009 interview, Hamrick recalled the arrival of the group commander after he had been shot down.
“Colonel Krebs and Major Ottoman had been lost at Bastogne,” he said. “I remember them walking in with their straw hats on. We had a big rally for them.”
Hamrick also recalled a joke he played on Major Ottoman shortly afterwards.
“I said to Major Ottoman, ‘Could you tell me why in the world they sent a bombardier to this unit?’ Ottoman was livid and reported me to Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, our squadron commander. Colonel Johnson and I flew together on a zig-zag pattern and he said to me, ‘Could you direct us back?’ By golly, I got us back and Johnson and I have been friends ever since,” he laughed.
Hamrick also recalled an incident from Operation Varsity.
“Colonel Johnson’s plane was hit in the nose while we were dropping over the Rhine. Capt. James Robertson was the co-pilot and he was trying to use the firefighting equipment to get the flame out,” he said. “Capt. Aldo Tombari got so excited that Johnson had to tell him to sit down because he had to make an emergency landing.”
“2nd Lieutenant Aymon Prudhomme was the pilot of the right wingman plane and 1st Lieutenant Joseph Turecky was the co-pilot. They had a hole in their gas tank and had to set it down. Nobody mentioned anything about that episode until our 1996 reunion in St. Louis. I told Turecky ‘Do you know who told you to land at Wesel?’ He shook his head and said, ‘No.’ I smiled and said, ‘Well you’re looking at him!’” he chuckled.
Though decades later, he could still not get the images of the war out of his mind.
On one particular day, he flew as a navigator with 1st Lt. David Brown, 1st Lt. James Murphy and Sgt. Thomas Pinto on a mission to deliver five-gallon jerricans of fuel to the Third Army. The flight was a routine flight and they made their way back to Metz. He didn’t fly with them the next day but remembers clearly what happened.
“Murphy and Brown slid in a little too close on takeoff and they started to roll out to the left. I could tell the pilot was trying to pull up but the weight of the cargo shifted to the left and they couldn’t pull it up. They came down but didn’t make it out. The plane hit and went off like a bomb had exploded. They were hauling gas,” he said.
“When I got there, their bodies were already taken off. Murphy was a guy who always liked to fly with jump boots on. I saw his leg with a boot by the tail of the aircraft. Pinto, the crew chief, was a Brooklynese kind of a fellow. I saw his coveralls there. He was the only one still with his body in good condition, the rest were consumed by the flames,” he sobbed out of remembrance.
“We lost other guys but seeing that was hard. I still feel deeply hurt. I did get a weeks pass on the Riviera to get over the shock of it, but it never really went away. I flew with the crew the day before it happened. They were all nice young men.”
Lieutenant Hamrick, you are already missed. We salute you!
Here is his obituary published March 18, 2013 in the TribStar:
March 18, 2013
William “Bill” Jean Hamrick, 88, of Terre Haute, passed away Saturday, March 16, 2013. He was born in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, on Nov. 27, 1924, to Floyd and Katherine (Russell) Hamrick. He was a graduate of Indiana State Teacher’s College (now Indiana State University) with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1948 and 1951, respectively. He retired in 1989 from Vigo County Schools, where he had been the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.
He was a career educator with Vigo County School Corporation for 40 years. During that time, he served as teacher, counselor, assistant principal, coordinator of Guidance and Special Education, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, acting Superintendent and 20 years as assistant Superintendent for Instruction. He served one year at the state level as Indiana Director of Guidance Services and six years as consultant with the American Schools in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. He also served as a developer of the Covered Bridge Special Education District. Under his supervision the Washington Alternative High School was developed in Vigo County.
After retirement, Bill was an active member of the Wabash Valley Art Guild, where he painted as a water colorist. His work was award-winning and exhibited in many locations in/around southern Indiana. He also was an active member of Memorial United Methodist Church and he served as chairman of the Administration Board and Pastor Parish Committee.
Other civic contributions include serving 23 years as Board of Directors of the Hamilton Mental Health Center from its inception through building and program development. He also was a member of Vigo Country Coordinating Council and co-founder of the 4-C Child Care Services of Vigo County. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Terre Haute Symphony and Vigo Country Historical Society and was a member of the Kiwanis Club.
Survivors include his loving wife of nearly 57 years, Mary Claire (Thomas) Hamrick, whom he married on June 30, 1956; one son, Charles “Chuck” Hamrick of Woodstock, Ga., and his fiancé Margo Held; one daughter, Sally A. (Hamrick) Robertson of Laurel, Md.; one brother, Donald Hamrick of Terre Haute and his wife Joanna; six grandchildren, Michelle Hamrick, Marie (Hamrick) Anstead and her husband Charles, Heather (Hamrick-Ormiston) LeClear and her husband Robert, Charles “Chas” Hamrick, Monet (Hamrick) Luloh and her husband Alex, and Samantha Robertson; six great-grandchildren, Amanda (Ormiston) Roberts and her husband Brandon, Darin Ormiston Jr. and his wife Angie, Austin Charles Ormiston, and Charles “Chase” Anstead; and five great-great-grandchildren, Rowen, Bailey, Lilly and Irelynn Roberts and Damien Ormiston. He was preceded in death by his parents; and his brother Robert.
Visitation will be Tuesday, March 19, 2013, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at Callahan-DeBaun Funeral Home, 2425 Wabash Ave., Terre Haute, with funeral services at 2 p.m. with Pastor Scott Johnson officiating. Burial will follow at Roselawn Memorial Park in Terre Haute. The family asks that contributions be made to Memorial United Methodist Church, 2701 Poplar Street, Terre Haute, in lieu of flowers. Online condolences can be made at: