William Fray Livesey (1917-1946)
William, My Father's good friend. They played high school football together. A few years later they joined the RCAF, trained and remained together until mid 1942. In a letter dated July 7, 1942 my Father wrote, "Bill and I have at last been split up. While here he got malaria and I was posted while he was still in the hospital. However a saw him a few days ago and he is completely cured, but don't think there is a chance of him coming with me." In closing he wrote, "Can't tell you where I am or what I'm doing, but I'm in no danger.
By Jack Dunne
"Billy" was the oldest of three brothers, Tom and Jack being the other two, all sons of Mrs. Sarah and William Livesey of 195 Kings Road, Madison (Livesey Kennels). He was born on August 8, 1917.
Billy attended Madison elementary schools and
graduated from Madison High in 1936.
After high school, Billy worked for Stanley L. Richter of Danbury, Connecticut, as kennel manager. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. After his flight training at Windsor Mills, Quebec, Canada, Billy was promoted to Flight Sergeant and continued his flight training to obtain his wings. After completing his training, he received a furlough to the United States. While on leave, Billy married Helen Terepka, an American airlines hostess, on November 1, 1941. He returned to Montreal, Canada, on November 9 to await his orders to sail to England. After service in England, he was sent to Cairo in 1942. In December 1942, Billy transferred to the American Army Air Corps.
As a fighter pilot, Billy served in Italian and African campaigns. Flying over 60 combat missions. Billy was credited with bringing down on May Day 1943, three and one half enemy transport planes during the Nazi evacuation in North Africa, the half being shared with another pilot. he was also credited with damaging two other enemy planes in that fight.
A member of the 66th Air Squadron, Billy was flying a fighter plane named after his wife Helen.
Billy was promoted to Flying Officer in April 1943. An American newspaper carried a dispatch recounting Lieutenant Livesey's exploits, with two other pilots, (my father one of them) in bombing a German train transporting an estimated 150,000 gallons of German gasoline, 15 miles south of Metkovic, Yugoslavia. The three then went on to explode another train at Sarajevo. "I've never seen such a blaze in my life," Bill wrote of the train's explosion. It was "a terrific sheet of flame" that rose as the cars were hit. "We were in a valley with jagged cliffs rising at each side and enemy guns throwing up tracers like red golf balls but we found an opening in a cloud, climbed into the sunlight and returned safely," Bill reported, after the raid.
The war was over in Africa in June 1943 and Billy spent most of his time looking for his brother Tom, who was with a 1st Division Signal Company. Bill in a letter home dated May 25, said he combed hundreds of miles in his plane and by car and missed his brother by just one week. Only one of a few pilots left in Africa to train other pilots, he had sent his thanks to the people of madison for the purchase of a P-47 airplane for the Army Air Corps. "I'm mighty proud of the old home town, that guarantees that their war effort must be 100% and you can bet all the boys from Madison who are in the services are proud and appreciate it."
Ironically, Bill did meet up with his brothers later in 1943. Jack a Staff Sergeant, looked him up in Cairo, and Tom, also a Staff Sergeant rode over half of Sicily searching for him. Brother Tom remembers, "My outfit was in Sicily and I knew Bill was somewhere there also and I saw a jeep with '66th SQD' painted on the bumper. I then asked the Sergeant driver if this was the Air Force 66th and he replied it was. I then asked if he knew a Bill Livesey and he answered, "Sure I'm his crew chief.' With this info I went looking for Bill at his base (we found the landing base by the dust clouds). Bill took me up in his P-40 (a one-seater by sitting on my lap). After that, Bill would regularly stop at our base after a mission. One time Bill dropped by parachute, a canister with a jumpsuit and a bottle of gin to me. The jumpsuit was ok, but the gin bottle broke. We did manage to wring out the jumpsuit and enjoyed a 'taste.'"
All brothers arrived home on Christmas Eve 1943; none of them were aware the others would be there. "We went down to Lucinano's Plant market (now Covillo's) and bought a Christmas tree as Mom didn't bother getting one," recalls Tom.
Billy, after being promoted to Lieutenant and completing 134 combat air missions, arrived home on Christmas day for a 20 day leave. After completing his leave, he reported to Atlantic City and then to Sutton Air Corps Base, South Carolina, as an instructor.
On August 28, 1946, now a Captain, Bill was on a routine night training flight with his co-pilot Lt. Angelo Durante of Cheyenne, Wyoming, from Shaw Field, South Carolina, to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They landed at Greenville, North Carolina, and then took off for Winston-Salem and Shaw Field. At 11:45 p.m. the C-46 developed engine trouble, and he and his co-pilot attempted to land in an open field. Because of darkness they missed the point of landing and crashed outside Martinsville, Virginia, killing both officers. Bill's death occurred on his son's first birthday. Bill had recently purchased a fishing pole for his son but, unfortunately was never able to give it to him.
Capt. William F. Livesey, aged 29 years, a war hero, a holder of 23 citations, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with several clusters, was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown after a full military funeral.
Captain Livesey was survived by his wife, who resides in largo, Florida, his son, who now lives in Texas, and two brothers, Tom and Jack, both of Madison.
Jack Livesey, brother of Bill, remembers in 1944 when he and "Billy" were in Virginia (he was stationed there on a stop over and Bill the same): "I was going to take a train home to see my daughter Linda, who was three months old and I had not seen her, when Bill said he would fly me home. He borrowed Navy 2- seater plane and we 'hedge hopped' all the way to Newark. Somewhere in New Jersey, we were at tree top level over a chicken farm and we were so low all I saw was thousands of chickens flying around in panic from the noise of the plane. All Bill said was, 'Oops.'"