Ed Dyess file photo [27473]

Ed Dyess

Given NameWilliam
Born9 Aug 1916
Died22 Dec 1943
CountryUnited States

ww2dbaseGuest Contributor: John D. Lukacs

ww2dbaseWilliam Edwin Dyess was born in Albany, Texas, United States to Judge Richard and Hallie Dyess. Entranced with flight since his first airplane ride at the age of 4, he was in a large crowd that welcomed famed aviator Charles Lindbergh to nearby Abilene, Texas on 26 Sep 1927 and worked multiple jobs throughout high school and college to pay for secret flying lessons from barnstorming pilots. He graduated from John Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas, where he was class president and commander of the R.O.T.C. detachment, in 1936 and enrolled in the U.S. Army Air Corps cadet training program. A graduate of the class of 1937-C at the advanced school at Randolph and Kelly Fields in San Antonio, then known as "The West Point of the Air," the gifted pilot received his commission and served at stateside posts before reporting to Hamilton Field in Novato, California to take command of the 21st Pursuit Squadron in 1941.

ww2dbaseHe deployed to the Philippines aboard the SS President Coolidge on 1 Nov 1941. He arrived in Manila on 20 Nov 1941 and began preparing his squadron for front-line combat duty with the 24th Pursuit Group, V Interceptor Command, Far East Air Force, United States Army Forces, Far East (USAFFE). First Lieutenant Dyess' flying prowess and leadership skills were immediately evident upon Japan's attack on the Philippines on 8 Dec 1941: he destroyed one large convoy and shot down six enemy planes during the early phase of the Philippines Campaign. Dyess would have been classified an "ace" if not for the loss of official records.

ww2dbaseA shortage of aircraft necessitated a temporary transfer for Dyess and his unit to the infantry; the skilled marksman and expert motivator successfully led ill-equipped and inexperienced airmen in combat in the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula during the Battle of the Points in early 1942. He was promoted to captain on 29 Jan 1942. Dyess volunteered to lead 20 men from the 21st Pursuit Squadron in America's first amphibious landing of World War II, at Agloloma Bay on the west coast of Bataan, on 8 Feb 1942. The operation successfully eliminated entrenched Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces troops who had breached the Fil-American lines and had refused to surrender. For intrepidity and his individual heroism in leading the seaborne assault, Dyess received the Distinguished Service Cross.

ww2dbaseOn 2 Mar 1942 he led an audacious air raid on the Japanese supply depot at Subic Bay, Luzon. Flying "Kibosh," his beloved, battle-battered Curtiss P-40 Warhawk jury-rigged as a dive-bomber, Dyess braved heavy anti-aircraft fire on three sorties; he damaged an enemy cruiser, destroyed one 12,000-ton transport, one 6,000-ton vessel, two 100-ton motor launches, sunk several small barges and lighters and inflicted heavy damage in strafing attacks on warehouses, docks and shore facilities. He received his second Distinguished Service Cross for conceiving, planning and leading the raid.

ww2dbaseUpon the surrender of U.S. and Filipino troops on 9 Apr 1942, Dyess survived the infamous Bataan Death March. He would spend nearly a year as a prisoner of war, enduring starvation, disease and torture, while at the same time cataloging the unbelievable atrocities he had witnessed. On 7 Nov 1942, he arrived at the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao, the southernmost island of the Philippines. Here at "Dapecol," a sprawling, reportedly escape-proof prison plantation modeled after Alcatraz and Devil's Island and built in 1932 to house the Philippine Commonwealth's most dangerous criminals, the Japanese Army was using 2,000 U.S. prisoners of war as slave laborers. Dyess organized a 12-man team of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel, plus two Filipino convicts, and helped lead the Pacific War's only large-scale POW prison break on 4 Apr 1943. He fought behind enemy lines with guerrilla forces before evacuating to Australia via the submarine USS Trout on 2 July 1943. He was presented with his third Distinguished Service Cross by General Douglas MacArthur on 30 Jul 1943.

ww2dbaseIn Aug 1943, Major Dyess was rushed to the U.S. for debriefings with high-ranking officials and military brass, including General of the Army Air Forces, Henry Arnold, but instead of enjoying a hero's homecoming, was muzzled by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Washington officialdom for fear that the story of atrocities committed against American POWs would incite the American people for a greater prosecution of the Pacific war, jeopardizing the "Europe First" strategic policy and POW relief efforts. He was sequestered at Ashford General military hospital, also known as The Greenbrier resort, in West Virginia in Sep-Oct 1943.

ww2dbasePromoted to lieutenant colonel, Dyess was temporarily assigned to the 337th Fighter Squadron, 329th Fighter Group, Fourth Air Force while preparing to lead a squadron of P-38 Lightning fighters to the European Theater. On a routine flight out of Grand Central Air Terminal on 22 Dec 1943, he experienced engine failure and attempted to land his crippled P-38 on a Burbank, California street, but was forced to abort when a motorist strayed into his landing path. He took evasion action to crash into a vacant lot and was killed instantly. He was 27. For sacrificing his life to save that of a civilian, he was posthumously awarded the Soldier's Medal. He was buried in Albany Cemetery.

ww2dbaseThe epic story of the Davao escape and revelation of Japanese atrocities was released by the U.S. Government on 28 Jan 1944 and promoted by the War Department as "The Greatest Story of the War in the Pacific." His name was on the front page of every newspaper in the country. Due to his incomparable individual heroics and undefeatable spirit, Dyess was nicknamed "The One-Man Scourge of the Japanese" by the New York Times. His eyewitness survivor's account of the fall of Bataan and the Bataan Death March was serialized in the Chicago Tribune and more than 100 newspapers in the U.S. and throughout North America starting on 30 Jan 1944. Abilene (TX) Army Airfield was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in his honor on 1 Dec 1956.

ww2dbaseThere is currently a grassroots campaign underway called "The Mission of Honor" to petition the United States Congress, Department of Defense and White House to award Lt. Col. Dyess the Medal of Honor.

J. Lukacs, Escape From Davao

ww2dbaseAbout the Guest Contributor

ww2dbaseWriter, adventurer, historian and documentary filmmaker John D. Lukacs specializes in one-of-a-kind stories - the unusual, the unprecedented and the virtually unknown.

ww2dbaseHis first book was Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War. Lukacs's first documentary film, titled 4-4-43, was an official selection of the 2014 GI Film Festival. He is currently working on books on the Battle for Manila in 1945 and the Aleutians Campaign.

ww2dbaseHis work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, World War II Magazine and on ESPN.com. Lukacs has made numerous local and national television and radio appearances, including on ESPN and C-SPAN, as well as Sirius Satellite Radio. A hands-on historian, he has explored World War II battlefields and historic sites throughout both Europe and the Pacific, including: Attu, the Ardennes, Bastogne, Bataan, Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden, Cabanatuan, Corregidor, Coral Sea, Dachau, Davao, Dutch Harbor, Fiji, Guadalcanal, Guam, Hiroshima, Hong Kong, Iwo Jima, Kiska, Manila, Midway, the Maginot Line, the New Hebrides, Paris, Pearl Harbor, Okinawa, Rabaul, Reims, Saipan, the Siegfried Line, Singapore, Tarawa, Truk and Wake Island.

ww2dbaseA former resident of New York City's famed Hotel Chelsea, Lukacs is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. His website is 4-4-43.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2018

Ed Dyess Interactive Map


Ed Dyess celebrating after raid on Subic Bay, Philippines, Mar 1942Ed Dyess, Melvyn McCoy, Douglas MacArthur, and Stephen Mellnik in Brisbane, Australia, 30 Jul 1943Ed Dyess, 1943

Ed Dyess Timeline

9 Aug 1916 Ed Dyess was born in Albany, Texas, United States.
20 Nov 1941 Ed Dyess arrived in Manila, Philippines.
8 Feb 1942 Ed Dyess led the first American landing of WW2 at Agloloma Bay, Bataan, Philippines.
2 Mar 1942 Ed Dyess, flying a P-40 fighter, led a raid on Japanese shipping in Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippines.
7 Nov 1942 969 American prisoners of war from Luzon, Philippine Islands arrived at the Davao Penal Colony, Mindanao, Philippines.
4 Apr 1943 The only large-scale prisoner of war escape of the Pacific War took place at the Davao Penal Colony, Mindanao, Philippines. It was led by US Army Air Forces Captain William Dyess.
22 Dec 1943 Ed Dyess was killed in a plane crash in Burbank, California, United States.
30 Jan 1944 The opening installment of "The Dyess Story" was published by the newspaper Chicago Tribune.
1 Dec 1956 Abilene Army Airfield in Texas, United States was renamed Dyess Air Force Base.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Ed Dyess
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of the Philippine Islands
» The Davao Escape

Partner Sites Content:
» 4-4-43.com

Ed Dyess Photo Gallery
Ed Dyess celebrating after raid on Subic Bay, Philippines, Mar 1942
See all 3 photographs of Ed Dyess

Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!