World War IIUS Army Air Force
737th Bomber Squadron, 454th Bomber Group, Italy
Service Number: 18000581
Born: April 29, 1919
Inducted: September 9, 1940
Missing in action June 4, 1944
Status changed to killed in action June 5, 1945
Memorial Marker: Grandview Cemetery, Range 6, Lot 44, Wray
Buried: February 15, 1950, in Zachary Taylor N.C., Plot: E; 294-295
Son of Verle Hawks. Grandson of Franklin T. and Lillian Hawks of Wray.
Photo by NC Staff.
The Wray Gazette, June 22, 1944
BILL HAWKS IS MISSING IN ITALY
War Department Informs Relatives that Wray Youth is Missing Since June 4.
Technical Sergeant W.K. (Bill) Hawks, grandson of Mrs. Lillian Hawks of Wray, has been missing in action since June 4, the day Rome fell to Allied Forces, in the Italian theatre, it was reported by the War Department in a telegram to the Wray youth's uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. N. Dean Henry, received Friday. A letter received here Monday, confirmed the telegraphic message, but added no further details except that information would be forwarded to relatives as soon as received by the War Department.
Sgt. Hawks figured in a dramatic escape from death or capture the last part of May when the plane of which he was a crew member was shot down, over enemy territory, made a forced landing at the coast and he and other members of the crew fell into American and British hands and were returned to their base in Italy. For this exploit, the Wray youth was decorated and spent a week or more in a rest camp. He had only recently returned to active duty. He is in the photographic department and received his training at Lowry Field, Denver. He has been in foreign service for several months and had been stationed in Italy.
He is a great favorite with Wray people. He attended the local high school and was employed by Mr. Henry at the Rexall Drug store before entering service.
The Wray Rattler June 22, 1944
Tech. Sgt Bill Hawks Reported Missing in Action
Technical Sergeant Bill Hawks, grandson of Mrs. Lillian Hawks and nephew of Mrs. N. Dean Henry, Mr. R.W. Hawks and Mr. Alwyn Hawks of Wray, has been reported missing in action. The following telegram was received by Mr. Henry:
June 16, 1944
The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your nephew, Technical Sergeant Wilbur K. Hawks has been reported missing in action since Four June over Italy. If further details are received you will be promptly notified.
-- Ulio The Adjutant General
In a letter from the War Department dated June 17, 1944 the following statement was made: The term "missing in action" is used only to indicate that the whereabouts or status of an individual is not immediately known. It is not intended to convey the impression that the case is closed. Experience has shown us that many persons reported as missing in action are subsequently reported as prisoners of war."
Technical Sgt. Hawks, a photo-gunner on a Liberator bomber, has been missing since Sunday, June 4th, the day the Allied forces took Rome. He had been awarded the Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters recently.
The last letter received from Bill was dated May 25 and he stated he would write again the next day but no letter has been received.
Homefolks are anxiously awaiting further word from Bill and our prayers are that he will be reported safe and sound in the very near future.
The Wray Gazette June 14, 1945
T/Sgt. Wilbur K. Hawks has been declared as killed in action in Genoa, Italy on June 4, 1944.
The late May "dramatic escape" is a reference to a letter dated May 25, 1944 Bill Hawks sent to his uncle Dean Henry that was published in the local papers in early June 1944. In it Hawks described an April 1944 mission to Hungary where their bomber was damaged by flak over the target and was twice shot up by German fighters. Knowing the Liberator was badly damaged and was going to crash the pilot ordered the crew to bail out over southwestern Hungary. The bombardier and the tail gunner, SSgt Gilbert Pagel of Yuma, managed to get out of the plane before it sunk to low for the rest of the crew to jump. The pilot recovered and they limped on to the Yugoslavian coast where the plane crash landed. The crew, including TSgt Hawks, was picked up by British and Americans and returned to duty. Gilbert Pagel was captured by the Hungarian Home Guard and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.
After the war, military graves registration found the June 4th crash site and recovered the remains of the crew. On February 15, 1950 TSgt Hawks was buried along with the others in a common grave in the Zachary Taylor N.C., Louisville, Kentucky.
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