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Sheahan, William G. - 2nd Lt

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Modified on 2015/10/13 20:53 by Historian Categorized as Combat, Personnel


Prior to the War

Born April 1, 1921 in Chicago. His father died when he was an infant and his mother by his mid-teens, so while he lived with and received some supervision from relatives, much of his life-coping skills were learned “on the streets of Chicago.”

Service during the War

2nd Lt William G. Sheahan flew 7 missions, from 01/04/1944, mission #11, to 03/02/1944, mission #29. He served as a Pilot. He evaded capture on 03/02/1944.

Recorded Missions

No Missions Found


During the War

Entered the Air Force in 1942 and became a B-17 pilot. On his 7th mission, March 2, 1944, (Frankfurt), his plane was shot down. He told his children years later (because like most servicemen, he didn’t talk about his war experiences for many years) that he put the plane on autopilot and went to check on his crew, but the plane lurched and he went through the bomb bay opening. He was one of three crew members that evaded; three were killed in action, and four were POWs. The following is from a 1996 interview he did with a local newspaper reporter.

[When the plane lurched] he descended lopsided, crashing through a large dead tree and hanging briefly from its limbs until he jerked loose and hit the snowy ground. “I didn’t know if I was in Germany, Holland or Belgium.

Sheahan hid in a culvert in a nearby forest until dusk. And then he saw a boy in a blue jump suit, who was out looking for him. He was a 14-year-old, a member of the Resistance. Sheahan was 22, an American bomber pilot, downed in Nazi-occupied territory in Belgium.

For the next six months he was passed around, living in hiding waiting for the Allied invasion of France and his subsequent liberation by American troops. For about three of those months, he lived in a cave. “Without a program, I didn’t know who the good guys were,” Sheahan recalls. “Some of the people I was with were members of recognized outfits of resisters. But there was everybody out there from gangsters to draft dodgers to deserters, some of whom would have turned you in for money. Nobody had names. I met Robin Hood and Bunny Rabbit and Oscar and The Beaver. They all had cartoon names.”


After the liberation of Paris, he was eventually reunited with his unit. He was awarded the Air Medal while he was Missing In Action, and later received the Purple Heart.

After the War

After completing his military service, he returned to Chicago and received a business degree from Northwestern University, after which he worked for National Cash Register Company until his retirement. He continued in the Air Force Reserves and retired with the rank of Lt. Col. He and his wife of 56 years, Dawn Ingolia, had five children and six grandchildren.

Decades after the war, a nephew of the man whose yard a portion of Sheahan’s plane had landed in tracked him down. As a result, he reconnected with the woman who, along with her mother, had hid him for the first several days after his plane was downed, making two trips to Belgium in the 1990s to visit her and her family.

Besides his family and his patriotism, his other passions were flying, fishing, golfing, and anything connected with his Irish heritage. He continued recreational flying in small planes until he was in his late 70s. His death on October 27, 2005, was followed by the death of his loving wife on February 26, 2008. The graves holding their cremated remains are in the Catholic cemetery in Lincoln, NE.

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