Tarleton alumnus, war hero William Dyess selected for ROTC Hall of Fame


STEPHENVILLE (May 17, 2016) — The late Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess, a Tarleton State University alumnus and the namesake for nearby Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, will be among those inducted as part of the inaugural class of the U.S. Army ROTC National Hall of Fame.

Dyess studied pre-law and was a member of the Tarleton ROTC at then-John Tarleton Agricultural College from 1934-1936, before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps after graduation. The decorated war hero died on Dec. 22, 1943, in Burbank, Calif., during a training flight when he maneuvered his disabled aircraft away from a populated area before crashing.

The Department of the Army announced last week Dyess’ selection for induction into the 2016 inaugural class and ceremony, which takes place at 10 a.m. June 10, at Fort Knox, Ky. This year’s induction ceremony coincides with the Army ROTC’s Centennial Commemoration Ceremony.

“Hall of Fame induction is awarded to alumni whose character and distinguished service epitomize the qualities Army ROTC embodies,” wrote Maj. Gen. Peggy C. Combs, U.S. Army Command, in a letter notifying the Tarleton ROTC Texan Battalion of Dyess’ selection. “As Lt. Col. Dyess’ achievements exemplify ‘Leadership Excellence,’ he deserves this recognition.

Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess
Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess

“In honor of his meritorious contribution to the nation, a permanent record of his service and accomplishments will be added to a prestigious assembly of Hall of Fame inductees, each an enduring model and source of inspiration for Army ROTC Cadets,” Combs continued.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dyess was thrust into combat in the Asian Theater as commander of all flying squadrons on Bataan.

On March 3, 1942, in Subic Bay, he sank a Japanese ship and damaged shore installations. As the enemy closed in, Dyess refused evacuation and remained with his men in the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, the American forces surrendered to the Japanese, and Dyess became a prisoner of war. He survived the horror of the Bataan Death March and imprisonment at camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan and the Davao Penal Colony.

At Davao, Dyess and several other prisoners escaped on April 4, 1943. They contacted Filipino guerillas who led them to the submarine Trout on July 23. After returning home and staying in an army general hospital in Virginia to regain his health, Dyess was promoted to lieutenant colonel and resumed flying.

A documentary film about Dyess was screened on the Tarleton campus in November 2014, produced by author and filmmaker John Lukacs, who also wrote the “Escape from Davao.”

In August 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honors to Dyess during a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. The Texas Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the state or federal military forces by the State of Texas.

To learn more about the Army ROTC and Tarleton State University’s Texan Battalion, visit www.tarleton.edu/rotc.

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