William Goodjohn Fuller

NO. 17894  •  6 Jan 1927 - 29 Jul 1974

Died 29 July 1974 in New Braunfels, TX
Interment: Ft. Sam Houston Cemetery, San Antonio, TX

William Goodjohn Fuller was born at Ft. Bliss, where his father was serving as a major in the Calvary. As an "Army brat," "Bill" became familiar with military life from traveling with his family and his interaction with his grandfather, COL Ezra Fuller, Class of 1873, and uncle, MG Horace H. Fuller, Class of 1909. From his grandfather, he heard about Calvary actions during the Indian Wars and, from his uncle, he learned about WW1 and more about life at the Academy. It was no surprise that Bill became interested in West Point and the military. That interest became more focused after his father transferred to Ft. Sam Hous­ton. The close proximity to Randolph Field, then known as the "West Point of the Air," allowed Bill to observe frequent military flights, thus developing a love of flying and a desire to become a military aviator.

While at Ft. Sam Houston, Bill's father retired from the Army and the family settled in Kerrville, TX, not far from Randolph. Bill continued to observe the training flights, commenting about the quality of their formations and his passion for flying grew as he entered Tivy High School in Kerrville. He studied hard to obtain grades that would qualify him for an Academy appoint­ment from Texas. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies in Texas but Bill succeeded in obtaining an appointment from Represen­tative Albert M. Cole of Kansas. Bill then attended Sullivan's Preparatory School to prepare for the entrance examinations. His exertions paid off-he passed all the requirements.

Bill's dreams were on their way to fulfillment but he began to experience academic difficulties at West Point and was turned back at the end of the first semester. Undaunted, he reentered Sullivan's for additional academic preparation. That decision proved to be a wise one and the Academy accepted him for en­trance with the Class of '50. Bill became even more determined to improve his class standing to ensure he would be able to choose a military flying career at graduation. His academic progress al­lowed him to participate for four years as the student manager of Armys championship football teams and to earn his "A" let­ter. He took part in other cadet activities and clubs, experiences through which he developed lasting friendships.

Bill achieved his goal with an assignment as a student pilot in the Air Force and was assigned to Randolph AFB for Basic Flight Training. He was on home ground. Flying was natural for him and he was the first of his group to solo in the T-6 trainer. More significantly, after that first solo flight, he received more good news-his "old flame," Lee Grebe, daughter of COL Alfred A. Grebe, an Army physician, accepted Bill's marriage proposal.

Lee Fuller adjusted readily to life at Randolph and was delighted to accompany Bill to Williams AFB, where he entered advanced jet flight training. The transition to jet aircraft was done without difficulty and Lee pinned the silver wings of an Air Force pilot onto his uniform. Next, Bill attended F-84 jet combat crew train­ing at Luke AFB, where numerous classmates also were under­going combat crew training. That was perhaps the largest gath­ering of the class pilots since graduation, a mini-reunion. Then, Bill was assigned to the 49th Fighter Bomber Wing in Korea, where he completed 100 combat missions flying the F-84. His skills and leadership led to his selection as a flight commander and his accomplishments earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. Bill went home for a well-earned leave to join Lee and his newborn son, William G., Jr., before reporting to Luke AFB as an F-84 combat crew training instructor. That was an ideal flying assignment for Bill and lasted for six years.

The advent of Sputnik and other missile flights prompted Bill to volunteer for missile training, afterwhich he was assigned as a Thor missile alert officer in the United Kingdom. The Fullers lived in the English countryside and exposed their English neighbors to the American lifestyle and vice-versa. In 1961, the Fullers transferred to Vandenberg AFB and, later, Bill was assigned to SAC Head­quarters in Nebraska. Although the work was interesting, he missed the excitement and camaraderie found in fighter units. During those assignments, sons Sam and Peter joined the Fuller family.

Bill desired to be part of the ongoing war in Southeast Asia and volunteered for F-4 aircraft transition training at MacDill AFB. The speed and advances in firepower of the F-4 Phantom jet amazed him-that was his kind of airplane! In October 1966, he completed training and underwent combat indoctrination training at Cam Rahn Bay Air Base in South Viet Nam. His flying skills distinguished him as a superior fighter pilot and he was appointed 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander, a prized assignment sought by many but gained by few. Bill flew 100 combat sorties over North Viet Nam and 85 ground sup­port sorties in South Viet Nam. When he finished his combat tour in 1967, his outstanding performances earned him another Distinguished Flying Cross, 12 Air Medals, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Bill returned to the States to rejoin his family at Randolph AFB, where his Air Force career began. He had come full circle. It was an ideal assignment and he felt as if he had never left Randolph. He enjoyed being with young air cadets and officers, who made him feel young, Bill began to develop health prob­lems that were diagnosed as stomach ulcers. In 1972, after dis­cussing the situation with Lee and the doctors, COL William Fuller retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Although the decision to retire was difficult, Bill adjusted quickly to civilian life and, from his retirement home near Randolph AFB, he continued to observe the training flights over­head. Neither his love of flying nor his energetic approach to life ever left him. Bill was not ready to "fade away." He had more time for other activities and pursued the establishment of a sum­mer camp for impoverished children. That camp would treat them equally and fairly, and give them the experiences that would help them become productive citizens. Bill spent hours writing to likely donors and church groups to obtain their support and financial backing. During one trip, Bill's car left the road and struck a tree near New Braunfels, TX. He was thrown from the vehicle and declared dead at the scene. Bill received full military honors and was laid to rest in the Ft. Sam Houston Cemetery. As the flight of three Air Force planes soared overhead during his interment, one could believe that his spirit had sped to rejoin his Academy roommates, Gene A. Dennis and Robert A. Williams, who preceded him in death many years before. Those three in­dividuals had "escaped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God." Their mission is complete and now they are at peace.

- William G. Fuller '50