Americans in Wartime Experience
June 9, 2019

Bonnelli flew 30 missions out of Foggia, Italy

The Voices of Freedom participated in the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Air Museums 29th Annual World War II Weekend in Reading, PA June 7-9. On Day 3 of the event, staff had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing 98 year old William Bonelli. Mr. Bonelli shared his story of piloting a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying 30 missions out of Foggia, Italy. During his career in the Army Air Corps and eventually the Air Force, William would attain the rank of Lt. Colonel. As interesting as his account was of missions flown in a B-17, the most compelling part was his recollections of the events of December 7th, 1944.

Bonelli 1024x822William Bonelli enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940 and became a mechanic on the very same type of aircraft he would eventually pilot, the B-17. He found himself stationed at Hickam Air Field and on the morning of December 7th, 1944, he had a front row seat to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor that would mark the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II.

William recalls seeing Japanese Zero’s fly overhead and wondering whose aircraft those where. It didn’t take long to realize that they were the enemy and that America was under attack. Running through strafing fire, William made his way to the armory to get a riffle and ammunition. He says that everybody thought they would soon be fighting the Japanese in the streets.

In addition to William Bonelli, staff had the pleasure of interviewing 14 other Americans who served their country during wartime from World War II to the War on Terror. It was the projects 5th year participating in the event which draws thousands of patrons throughout the 3 day weekend who are treated to warbird demonstrations along with military reenactors depicting troops from both the Allied and Axis powers.

Mr. Bonelli’s interview was captured and preserved with the museum and will be available for viewing online in the near future. We thank Lt. Col. Bonelli for his service and for taking the time to sit down with us to share his story.
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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