Military News

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dyess awarded Texas Medal of Honor

by Senior Airman Peter Thompson
Senior Airman Peter Thompson

6/4/2015 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess, Dyess Air Force Base's namesake, was posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for 2015, April 30, in Austin, Texas.

Every two years, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Selection Committee votes to award the Medal of Honor to two persons: one to a military member who served before 1956 and another to a member who served after. Each of the military members is selected for having performed a deed of personal bravery or valor above and beyond the call of duty. It is the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a federal or state military member from Texas.

Dyess was selected for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for his many acts of heroism during World War II by a five-person nominating committee comprised of the lieutenant governor, the chairs of the House and Senate Veterans' and Military Affairs Committees, the speaker of the house, and the Adjutant General of the Texas Military Forces.

Dyess' career began as a P-40 Warhawk pilot. He commanded the 21st Pursuit Squadron and led them into Japan in 1941. After suffering many casualties, Dyess transitioned to an infantry officer position. He was captured by the Japanese on the island of Bataan, and he and his men were forced to take part in the infamous Bataan Death March before spending the next several months as Prisoners of War.

Not only did he survive the Death march, he was also instrumental in planning and executing an escape from the Japanese controlled Davao Penal Colony. Upon returning to the United States, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Despite all the obstacles he faced during the war, Dyess began preparing for his return to combat as soon as he could. On Dec. 22, 1943, while flying a P-38 Lightning, he was forced to attempt an emergency landing after losing an engine during takeoff. Dyess had to decide whether to land his aircraft on a roadway and endanger the lives of others or crash-land it in a vacant lot nearby. He chose the latter to avoid hitting civilians on the roadway and perished in the crash.

From early on as a high school athlete in Albany, Texas, Dyess was known as a selfless individual, always caring more for others than himself.

"He sacrificed his own life to protect the people he saw in the cars," said Elizabeth Denman, Dyess' sister. "We knew all along what kind of character he had. He was a very kind, thoughtful and caring man, and that's how he should be remembered."

One of the main forces supporting Dyess' recognition was the community that is now home to Dyess Air Force Base. The Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee advocates not only for the base's current military members but for those who served before.

"We had a wonderful team to make this happen," said Gray Bridwell, MAC chairman. "I am so proud that we are on the way to putting Ed Dyess' name on the Medal of Honor wall in the Linear Air Park at the front gate of Dyess, where it should be."

Abilene Army Airfield was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in 1957 to commemorate his service.

"We're proud our base is named after Lt. Col. Dyess because of his dedication to our nation, the things he stood for, and the things he accomplished," said Col. Michael Bob Starr, 7th Bomb Wing commander. "The Airmen stationed here strive to live up to his standards each and every day."

In addition to the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, Dyess was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the highest level military award following the Medal of Honor, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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