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
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
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.