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Captain Billy M. Gresham

Captain Billy M. Gresham

Captain Billy M. GreshamBilly Moore Gresham was born in El Dorado, Arkansas. He entered the Army Air Forces for flight training in 1942 and was commissioned and rated a pilot on 25 March 1943 at Mariana, Florida. Initially assigned to the 15th Fighter Group at Bellows Field, Hawaii on 12 May 1943, two months later he transferred to the newly organized 432nd Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group.

Organized in Australia and equipped with the P-38 Lightning, the Group moved to Dobodura, New Guinea on 14 August. A week later, Gresham scored his first aerial victory by downing a Japanese twin engine fighter near Dagua, New Guinea during a series of raids against Japanese held Wewak.

By the end of August, Wewak had been neutralized and the 475th operations shifted to the support of the invasion of Lae, on the southeast coast of New Guinea. On 20 September, Lieutenant Gresham shot down two Tonys over Marilinan.

On 15 October, the Japanese launched a major aerial assault on Oro Bay. In the ensuing wide-ranging battle, the 475th was credited with destroying 21 bombers and 15 fighters of which Gresham accounted for a Kate. Nine days later, the 80th Fighter Squadron joined the 475th on a B-25 escort mission to Rabaul. As they approached their target, 50 Japanese fighters attacked the American formation. Lieutenant Gresham shot down one of the Zekes to become an ace.

As the Allies gained control of New Britain, Gresham, newly promoted to first lieutenant, scored his last confirmed victory on 18 January, shooting down a Zeke over Wewak. He claimed one additional Oscar on 31 March as a probable.

On 2 October 1944, in a test flight over Biak Island, Gresham's was forced to bail out. His parachute failed, however, and he fell to the ground.

Tally Record:
6 Confirmed
1 Probable

Decorations:
Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters

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