First Lieutenant William Walton Bonner was born in 1917. His father was Luther Bonner and his mother was Johnnie Bonner. He lived with his parents and maternal grandfather, William W. Halton, in Knoxville. After four years of college, he enlisted in the Air Corps on September 5, 1941 in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He served in the North African Theater in the 60th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Group. He was the pilot of aircraft P-40L with serial number 42-10609. He departed from Pantalleria Island on a combat mission to Sicily. His plane went down on Saturday, July 10, 1943. He was given a Finding of Death* one year later. He is memorialized at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia. He was awarded an Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster.
Statement from 2nd Lt David Clark:
Lt Bonner and I were returning from a mission over Sicily. I was flying on his right wing, We were at about 5000 feet approximately twenty miles from Pantelleria headed in that direction. His plane started missing, and smoking and he slowed down to about 120 miles per hour. I started circling him, and I saw his plane go into the water. He made a belly landing, and the plane tipped over on it’s back as it sank. The plane sank rapidly. As soon as the plane hit the water, I gave a distress signal over the radio.
I circled, saw a slick on the water, and dived on it. I could see him in his Mae West and he waved to me. I circled again, and dropped my life raft to him. It landed about 600 feet from him. I pulled up, lost sight of him, and circled about four time, in an effort to re-locate him, but could not. I then returned to the base.
*FOD - Finding of Death, in the absence of a recovered body, soldiers that were determined to be dead under Public Law 490. Made in cases, after at least one year from time of disappearance, when there was either conclusive proof that the person is dead or equally overwhelming evidence that the person could not have remained alive.
- Rank: First Lieutenant
- Date of birth: 17 August 1917
- Date of death: 10 July 1943
- County: Knox
- Hometown: Knoxville
- Service Branch: Army/Army Air Forces
- Division/Assignment: 60th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Group
- Theater: North Africa
- Conflict: World War II
- Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart
- Burial/Memorial Location: North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia
- Location In Memorial: Pillar XIV, Top Panel
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