The Dyess Name

The Dyess Name Dyess Air Force Base, known as Abilene Army Airfield from 1942-1948 and Abilene Air Force Base until Dec. 6, 1956, was named after Lt. Col. William E. Dyess. He was born Aug. 9, 1916, in Albany, Texas. As a young boy, he loved powered flight. He was thrilled when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927, and he jumped at the opportunity to fly when entering pilot training at Randolph and Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.

The only son of Judge Richard T. and Hallie Graham Dyess, young Edwin took his first airplane ride in a barnstorming World War I aircraft that came through Albany in 1920. His love for flying was a part of him until his death.

During his school days, Colonel Dyess excelled in track and football. He graduated from John Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas, and then became a flying cadet at Randolph Field, Texas, the West Point of the air.

Following Pearl Harbor, the colonel was stationed in the Philippines with the 21st Pursuit Squadron flying P-40s. He led his vastly outnumbered pilots in many successful attacks on the enemy.

The beleaguered, small group of intrepid airmen, suffering constant attrition of both men and material, finally found themselves penned up on Bataan with neither the planes nor facilities and equipment required for carrying on a war in the air.

The colonel then assumed the role of infantry commander and led his men in ground assaults against the Japanese. When supplies and equipment ran low, he ordered the evacuation of "his" officers and men from the Philippines, but when they didn't have the means, he stayed with them. He was captured by the Japanese April 8, 1942.

When the hopelessly outnumbered, exhausted and sick heroes on Bataan were taken prisoner after their epic struggle, Dyess and what remained of his command were part of the column of Americans who made the infamous Bataan Death March -- He survived the 85-mile trek.

After a brutal year as a prisoner of war, in three different camps plus a prison ship, he escaped, fought alongside Filipino guerrillas. In company with fellow Americans and native Filipinos, Dyess waged such fierce guerrilla warfare against the enemy he came to be called "The One-Man Scourge" of the Japanese.

The colonel eventually made it back to the U.S. He recuperated in a hospital at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Dyess later testified, in an interview, to the Japanese atrocities he and thousands of Americans endured.

Though he had already given a full and overflowing measure of service, a safe assignment in the interior held no attraction for him while his country was still at war. He began again to train for overseas combat. It was at this time that the tragic crash occurred. His pursuit aircraft caught fire while he was flying over a heavily populated area.

Even with ample opportunity to abandon the burning aircraft, Colonel Dyess chose to sacrifice his own life rather than risk the lives of others. He remained with the P-38 and died after guiding it onto a vacant lot.

Colonel Dyess did not lose his life -- he gave it. He was an authentic hero in the finest American tradition. For his bravery, leadership, and intrepidity in battle, Dyess was recommended for the nations highest decoration for heroism -- the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was not awarded the CMH but he did earn two Distinguished Service Crosses (the second highest honor at that time), two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Soldiers Medal. He is buried in Albany, Texas.