William Richard Shrum

Born: December 25, 1915          Died: June 4, 1989


William R. “Bill” Shrum was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of  Moses Leslie and Marie (Halesek) Shrum.  After completing public school, he went to work, learning to be a brick mason, which was a family tradition and heritage.  In March of 1941, he enlisted in the US Army, and completed assignments in California and Alaska as part of the Signal Corps. In December of 1942, he began Preflight Pilot Training at Santa Ana, California.  In April of 1943, he began Primary Pilot Training at Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare, California, which was followed in June of 1943 with Basic Flight School at Lancaster, California. After that came Advanced Pilot Training in August of 1943 at Stockton Field, California.  Upon completion of that course in November of 1943, he was discharged from enlisted status, and promoted to the rank of Flight Officer.  That same month he began B-25 Transition Training at Mather Field, California.  From January through June of 1944, he was stationed at Florence Army Air Field, Florence, South Carolina, as a member of the 411BG/648BS where he was qualified in both the B-25D and A-20B/G/J/C.

In early July of 1944 he arrived in the western Pacific theater and joined the 3BG/8BS, and flew his first flight in an A-20 on July 27th.  He remained with the 8BG through September of 1945. During that time, he was promoted to 2Lt in February of 1945, and then to 1Lt in May of 1945.  His flying records indicate that he flew 45 operational missions, for which he was awarded an Air Medal.  In October 1945, following Japan’s surrender, he was assigned to Turner Field in Albany, Georgia.  From January through July of 1946, he was assigned to Boca Raton Army Air Field, in Boca Raton Florida.  During this assignment (in March of 1945), he married the former Betty Webster, who was born (November 14, 1925) and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  In July of 1946, he began the Photo Interpreter Course at Lowry Field, Colorado.  From November of 1946 through November of 1949, he was assigned to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C.  During this assignment, both a daughter and a son were born, and he was promoted to Captain.  In December of 1949, he was reassigned to Fairfield-Suisan AFB, California.  This was a short assignment, as he was separated from the USAF on March 24, 1950.  In April of 1950, he moved to Dallas, Texas, and returned to his vocation as a Brick Mason.  He also joined the USAF Reserve, and was promoted to the rank of Major in January of 1956.  Another son was born to the family in 1952.  About 1958, he resigned from the USAF Reserve, and continued working as a brick mason while becoming active in the union hierarchy.  He also became a member of the Masonic Lodge.  The period from 1950 through 1970 was spent raising three children as best that Bill and Betty knew how.  After the children graduated high school and left home, Bill’s life slowed down.  The early 1980’s brought retirement, and, unfortunately, a series of strokes that left him paralyzed during the last few years of his life, and he passed away in 1989 in Dallas, Texas from associated complications.  His wife survived him by a few years but joined him in January of 1992.


Author’s Note:  As his son (and the author), I learned most of this information after his death when I acquired most of his military records.  As with many WWII veterans, he spoke very little about his military service during the time I was growing up, and never once tried to interest me in flying.  In fact, I can only remember one flying related story.  In a strange twist of fate, like him, I enlisted in the USAF in 1966 during the Viet Nam conflict, and then achieved commissioned status and attended pilot training.  The major difference between the two of us was that I made a career of the USAF. 

Leslie William Shrum

Col. USAF Ret.





I roomed with Shrum. as we called him for something like a year in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands along with the third occupant, Bill Roe who was also a pilot. I greatly appreciate learning more about Shrum's life after WW2. Shrum was the best buzz artist I ever knew. One time he buzzed the squadron area to get someone to come out to the strip and pick him up. It was late afternoon and I was in our pyramidal tent when he buzzed so low the tent raised up about two feet in spite of being tied to a wooden frame.  I ran out to see what it was and saw shrum coming back for a second pass and was so scared he would hit a power pole that I ran to the side of his path. He did not hit the pole. I do not remember much else. Shrum was quiet

Another recollection was when he was playing volleyball with me, when some big guy across the net would spike the ball down into Shrum, he would pretend to spit out teeth. 

The other recollection I have is a story Shrum told me about a raid over Lae New Guinea. It as at tree top level and Shrum and Bill Roe were both on the raid. Another A-20 on the raid had an anti aircraft shell explode under one wing and turned the  plane upside down while he had little altitude.  Shrum told me he heard Bill Roe say over the intercom 'Hard fucking luck'. Fortunately the other pilot kept control, turned back right side up, and flew home on one engine.

Robert H.  Elliott
89th & 8th Squadrons Quartermaster Supply