NO. 17380 • 16 September 1927 - 12 May 1952
Killed in action May 12, 1952 in Korea, aged 24 years.
"Some keep their rendezvous with death
Valiantly and soon;
They pledge their youth and give their all
And rest before their noon."
Within a brief two years after graduation from West Point, William Bonner Slade, First Lieutenant of the Air Force, went to his death while in line of duty on a bombing mission over North Korea. To those who knew him, his nobleness need not be told, but this memorial is written so that a generation to come may know the loveliness of his life.
"This was he, that every man of arms could wish to be."
He was born in Lake City, Florida, September 16, 1927. His father, John Ithodes Slade, and mother, Frances Louise Dunbar, were both of Georgia extraction. He was educated in the public schools of Florida, his native State, attending Columbia High School in Lake City, attaining honors. After preparation in Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama, where he distinguisbed himself in scholarship, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. Here he maintained the same high standing, graduating with the Class of 1950 as a Second Lieutenant of the Air Force.
He was trained for jet flying in Sherman, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona; graduated from the Gunnery School in Las Vegas, Nevada, in October 1951; and was immediately ordered to Korea for combat flying. After two months combat training in the Philippines he was stationed at Suwon Air Base, Korea, in February 1952. His outfit contributed immeasurably to the disruption of enemy transportation facilities and installations. On May 12th he was leading a four-plane mission; had released his bombs and was pulling up from the target, when his plane was hit and burst into flames. Moments afterward he crashed to the ground fifteen miles southwest of Huichon, North Korea, deep in enemy territory.
Writing to his parents, his commanding officer said "His courage and ability, together with his devotion to duty, gained for him the respect of all and has been an inspiration to the squadron." General Mark W. Clark said of him, "His devotion to duty in defense of all that we, the free people of the world hold dear, has helped us on the long road by which alone we may hope some day to reach a just, an honorable, and an enduring peace."
To his friends, "Bill" was quiet and unassuming but with an uncompromising conscience and an inflexible purpose. From these qualities arose his nobleness as a man and his bravery as a soldier. Said one of his closest friends, "Bill was made of the stuff that all men admire and that knits the souls of men togother in enduring friendship" One of the men in his outfit said "He brought out the better in us all and we have been deprived of one of the best men that ever walked this earth."
While a teen-aged youth, he won the coveted medal of an Eagle Scout and the admiration of all the younger generation. He spent part of each summer as a counsellor for smaller boys in a boys' camp, and no doubt built into many hearts his own sense of truth and honor.
He was a loyal churchman and attended the Episcopal Church regularly. He was recognized for his spiritual leadership in the younger group at home. "He always carried his sword with honor and there never was one blot upon his shield." He faced life and death alike with steady eyes.
"We about you, whom you moved among,
Would feel that grief for you were surely wrong.
To you death came, no conqueror in the end.
You merely smiled to greet another friend."
- Edwin F. Montgomery