William Wilson Douglass, Jr.
Born in New Hampshire, Bill Douglass was of sturdy New England stock: proudly independent, but helpful and generous. Despite decades of living throughout the United States, his voice sometimes carried a faint accent of the Northeast, especially when he was excited about a new project or the latest outrage by Democrats. When you grow up in a state with the motto, “Live free or die,” it is not surprising if you develop a bit of an edge: an attitude of defiance, a spirit of liberty, a taste for adventure. So, after attending Bowdoin College for a while, Bill joined the Air Force at age nineteen.
At the time, as he would say later, he was attracted above all by the ideal of service, the honor of earning his wings, and the thrill of being at the controls of a jet fighter. He flew fighters out of the RAF base in Lakenheath, England, where he was known as much for his exuberant spirits as his flying skills. If anyone ever lived life abundantly, it was Bill Douglass. He was the sort of person of whom it can be well said: “Ever he sought the best, ever he found it.”
Flying about ten stories above the jungle during his first tour of duty in Viet Nam, his airplane, in Bill’s words, “got ventilated with about 25 holes,” then he added almost as an afterthought, “and I got ventilated also.” He managed to land with a shaken South Vietnamese observer in the back seat; then he spent months recovering in the hospital. But he didn’t just leave it at that, take his Purple Heart, and go home. Instead, after his release, he signed up for another tour of duty, this time not only as an observer of enemy positions but also as an aggressive attacker of hidden gun sites.
When he arrived in Vietnam for his second tour of duty, Bill became second in command of a brave, skilled, intrepid, and slightly crazy set of pilots that comprised the Fast Forward Air Controllers called “Misty” for the favorite song of their commander, Bud Day, who later wrote, “Bill Douglass was a dynamo; nothing was too difficult.” As Bill put it, “we concentrated on the AAA order of battle.” Later he flew F-105s or “Thuds” over North Vietnam with the same focused courage. In his contribution to the published collection of Misty stories, Bill wrote, “I am eternally proud of the fact that I have witnessed the heroic actions of American aviators. I have traveled in the company of courageous men.” He retired from the US Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1974.
After military service, he graduated from the University of Albuquerque with honors and later took a course in Chemistry at Cornell College to strengthen his credentials as a nuclear power plant operator at Duane Arnold Energy Center in Cedar Rapids. Folks there remember Bill as an effective and sensitive manager.
Bill retired a second time in 1997 as Director of Fossil Generation at Iowa Electric Utilities. He and Jackie moved to Colorado Springs within view of Pike’s Peak, whose beauty he found inspiring. Bill was an avid skier and golfer and loved to be out of doors, feeling his spirit expand at the spectacle of nature and the wind blowing through those white, curly locks. He once said that his religion was a profound reverence for nature and the humbling effect of its magnitude and magnificence.
(source: Eulogy for Bill by David Weddle, Professor of Religion, The Colorado College)
William Wilson (“Bill”) Douglass, Jr., 78, died peacefully on March 17, 2012, at home in Colorado Springs in the company of his wife and sons.
Bill Douglass was born on February 4, 1934, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bill attended Bowdoin College and graduated from the University of Albuquerque with honors. He joined the United States Air Force at age nineteen. Bill was a founding member of the legendary “Misty” Fast FACs and served three tours of duty as a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Those under his command remember with deep appreciation his leadership by inspiring example and courageous spirit. He retired in 1974 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Among the military awards he received for his service were two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, Air Medal with twenty-four Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart. Bill was a heroic warrior and fierce patriot.
Bill married Jackie L. Rosenkranz on April 23, 1966. The family moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where Bill taught science and math in public school and ran for Iowa State Senate with a passion that reflected his life-long concern for integrity in politics. He was a nuclear power plant operator at Duane Arnold Energy Center in Cedar Rapids and retired in 1997 as Director of Fossil Generation at Iowa Electric Utilities. He and Jackie moved to Colorado Springs within view of Pike’s Peak, whose beauty he found inspiring. Bill was an avid skier and golfer, spirited conversationalist, amateur artist, adventurous traveler, and a loyal and generous friend.
He is survived by his wife, Jackie; sons William (Bill) III and John Douglass, and three grandchildren. Bill is inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.At his memorial service, Don Shepperd remembered him this way…
“…. In the distance there was a gleam on the horizon. Bill started walking towards it, then he began to jog. His ankle didn’t bother him anymore and he breathed easily with his new lungs. As he came closer he saw it was an F-100 – A CLEAN F-100! no camouflage, no tanks, no rocket pods, no back seat and he climbed in. His parachute was already there and he strapped in and gave the run-up sign. The MA-2 “Duece” huffed to life and he pushed the starter button. As the RPM passed 15% he brought the throttle around the horn and the engine roared to life. He signaled for the chocks to be pulled and taxied onto the runway. He ran the engine up, released brakes, and moved the throttle outboards into afterburner. There was a kick in the back and he was airborne and he climbed…and climbed…and climbed. Every time the fuel gauge started to deplete, it filled-up again…and there was no tanker and no probe and no drogue and he just flew…and flew…and flew – and as High Flight says, he “…chased the shouting wind along…and flung his eager craft through footless halls of air…” and flew and flew, and flew some more. Late in the afternoon he got tired and pulled the power back, put the gear down, and squeaked the tires onto the runway in a perfect landing, good chute, taxied in, and shut down. No 781 to fill out, no maintenance or Intell debriefs, but he heard music and singing coming from a nearby building. He pushed through the door and there were his old Misty buddies, drinking beer and laughing. There was Bob Craner and Glenn Jones and Chuck Turner and Howard Williams and Mike McElhanon and John Overlock and many others from his flying days. They were all there and I guess so will be we – those of us who make it through the waiver process.”
- 1967 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, Phu Cat AB, Vietnam (F-100D)
Awards & Decorations
Silver Star (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Air Medal with 24 Oak Leaf Clusters
Military & Civilian Education
- Bowdoin College
- University of Albuquerque
- Cornell University