After 4-18-60

Perhaps it was a kind of perverse blessing that there was much paperwork needing to be dealt with following Billy's death. Maybe this kind of mundane activity gave June something of a respite from her devastating grief. Fifteen years seems like such a short time for a marriage to last, especially after seeing Billy survive the horrors of war, only to be taken from her in times of peace...I can't even imagine what a blow this was to her.

For practical as well as sentimental reasons, June saved most, of not all, of these official documents, letters and certificates of commendation, and official forms. Below is a listing with summaries and links to scans of these papers. For scans of the Great Falls, and some other, newspaper covers, as well as some other documents, see this page.

When Summary Link
April 18 Letter of condolence from the governor of Montana, exceedingly prompt and kind; an excerpt: "I always felt just a little safer when we were on flights and he was one of the pilots." gov.pdf
April 20

Casualty Report form; brief, with administrative details such as pay and next of kin

Interesting points:

  • Steve isn't listed under children!
  • "Non-Battle" box and "Active Duty" boxes are checked; the active duty designation is important for receiving benefits
  • Cause of death listed as "Military aircraft accident (pilot)"


April 20

Personal Effects Inventory form; incredibly detailed and poignant listing of items from Billy's office

Interesting points:

  • A baby picture is mentioned; perhaps of the child missing from the casualty report?
  • Several paperback books and one hardback; quite a variety of reading material
  • Form is signed by Billy's good friend Henry Maine; what a difficult task this must have been for him
April 21 Program from the annual Texas A&M Muster ceremony, where deceased alumni are honored; I assume it was only a coincidence that the ceremony happened on this date, and I wonder who was able to get his name into the program so quickly muster.pdf
April 25 Letter from the Armed Forces Relief and Benefit Assn., offering sympathy and detailing life insurance benefits due from this organization 60_4_25.pdf
April 27 "Public Voucher for Unpaid Pay and Allowances Due a Deceased Member of the Uniformed Services"; Billy was due $557.55 60_4_27.pdf
May 5 Receipt from the Office of the Quartermaster General of application for headstone; June did not waste any time in applying for the headstone, which you can see at the bottom of this page. A note dated June 29 indicates the marker is to be shipped directly to the cemetery. 60_5_5.pdf
undated Request for Reimbursement of Interrment Expenses interment.pdf
May 6 Letter from the VA with instructions for filing a claim for "Government Life Insurance." 60_5_6.pdf
undated Form from the VA requesting information regarding an Insurance Death Claim ins.pdf
May May issue of the "Scorpion," a newletter of the 120th Fighter Group of the Montana Air National Guard; page 3 is "In Memoriam" for Billy and Lt. Poland, who was also killed in the crash. 60_5_news.pdf
June 2 Form from the Veterans Benefits Office of the VA, noting that a benefit of $188/month is to be paid at the end of each month 60_6_2.pdf
June 6 Cover letter for "Honorable Service" certificate from the Dept. of the Air Force



June 28 Memo from Malmstrom requesting information for claiming a dependent travel allowance 60_6_28.pdf
August August, 1960 issue of the "Communications and Electronic Digest," a publication of the Air Defense Command Headquarters; Billy wrote an article for the Digest the day before the crash. cover.pdf
undated Clipping from Great Falls paper reporting on the accident investigation; an "elevator control failure" was found responsible, but "the final specific undetermined due to the extensive destruction of the aircraft." clipping.pdf
Nov. 11 Letter from Henry Maine about Billy's accident; Hank was one of the first persons to arrive at the crash site. Excerpt: "He was still in his seat but badly battered from the impact. I stood there next to him very briefly wishing I could do anything to bring him back to life. ...What I have always been thankful that he did not have to suffer at all." 60_11_11.pdf
undated Certificate of appreciation signed by President Johnson; this must have been sent after November, 1963 certificate.lbj.pdf