Service: USAAF, 9th Bomber Squadron, 7th Bomber Group, Heavy
Service #: 13155731
Date of Death: 1 December 1943
Original MIA Report: 1 December 1943, Radio Operator, B-24J #42-73222 “Bugs Bunny”, MACR #1226
Hometown: Vandergrift, Pennsylvania
Awards: Purple Heart, Air Medal
William Clifford Fetterman was born on November 21, 1922 in the borough of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania about forty miles east of Pittsburg. “Billy” was the youngest of six children with four brothers and one sister. He was raised in a quaint Victorian community and had a normal, happy, childhood. During his younger years Billy did odd jobs for a local grocery store which would continue through his high school years.
His junior year he met a pretty freshman named Ruthie Baker. They became sweethearts and were engaged by the time “Bill” was a senior and Ruthie a sophomore. After graduation, Bill got a good job in the office of the local steel mille while Ruthie finished her senior year and attended a six-month business course. They were a happy couple and looked forward to one day getting married and having a family.
Then came December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. America was at war. Plans for the future changed. Bill wanted to serve his country and enlisted in the Army Air Force in Pittsburg in May of 1942. Ruthie finished her business school and got a job. Bill would be in various bases and when he was sent for radio operator school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he asked Ruthie to join him and get married. She caught a train to South Dakota and they were married February 5, 1943. There would be no honeymoon. Bill had to return to the base and Ruth went home to her parents until Bill was assigned a permanent base in Pueblo, Colorado. Once again Ruthie joined him, but they would have only ten short months together until he was reassigned overseas. Ruthie was now expecting a baby and Bill said she would need to go back to her parents until he could return. He never did. He was listed MIA and presumed dead on December 1, 1943.
On his third mission, Bill was the radio operator on a B-24J called “Bugs Bunny”, Serial # 42-73222 with the 9th Bomb Squad. It was one of fifty B-24’s that bombed Rangoon’s railway marshalling yards. Their escort of P-51 fighters arrived late and Bill’s crew met with enemy fire fifty miles southwest of Burma and was engulfed in flames, only two of the crewmen were able to bail out at two hundred feet. The bomber crashed near Ensein, Burma, exploding when it hit. The surviving crewmen became POW”s of the Japanese in a camp in Rangoon. The bombardier died in the camp and the navigator returned home after the war. Many years later he contacted Ruthie to tell her himself what had happened that day.
After the war, five sets of remains were recovered from a banana grove where the B-24 had crashed. Those remains were placed onboard C-47 #43-48308 which subsequently crashed on it way back to India. It is assumed that Bill was one of the five sets of remains.
– Written by daughter, Andria Fetterman Clarey
Relatives active in the C-47 recovery effort:
Andria Fetterman Clarey (Daughter) – Mount Pleasant, South Carolina