He famously flew his plane beneath the Eiffel Tower in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1944, lifting the spirits of French troops on the ground.
In 2009, he was presented France’s Legion of Honor.
The fighter pilot who flew through the Eiffel Tower in 1944 has died.
In the spring of 1944 Bill and his P-51C, the ‘Berlin Express’
were near Paris when the scene that is immortalized in the
artwork by Len Krenzler of Action Art that leads this article
took place. Bill had followed a German Bf109 from the
bombers he was escorting when most of the German
The two planes had been in a running dogfight.
The German pilot flew over Paris hoping that the heavy
German anti-aircraft artillery would solve his problem and
eliminate Overstreet and the ‘Berlin Express’, though Bill
managed to get some hits in at about 1500 feet.
The German’s engine was hit, and Bill stayed on his tail
braving the intense enemy flak. His desperation undoubtedly
growing, the German pilot aimed his plane at the Eiffel Tower
and in a surprising maneuver, flew beneath it.
Undeterred, Bill followed right behind him, scoring several
more hits in the process. The German plane crashed and
Bill escaped the heavy flak around Paris by flying low and
full throttle over the river until he had cleared the city’s
heavy anti-aircraft batteries.
Hero: World War II
Aviator Bill Overstreet Jr., best known for flying beneath the
Eiffel Tower in pursuit of a German plane, is pictured in his
Overstreet was presented with France’s Legion of Honour in 2009.
Before the ceremony, Overstreet had previously said that, if he lived long enough
to receive the Legion of Honor, he would be accepting it in memory of his fallen
brothers. In particular, he wanted to pay tribute to a friend, Eddy Simpson, who
died fighting the Nazis on the ground so his comrades, including Overstreet,
After the award was pinned to his lapel, Overstreet said:
‘If I said, “Thank you,” it wouldn’t be enough,’ before adding:
‘What more than “thank you” do you need?’
He was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1921 and after Pearl Harbor, he
enlisted in the Air Corps as a fighter pilot.
By February 1942, he was a private and sent to California for flight
training; there, his instructors prepared him for the unexpected
mid-flight by cutting the engine as he landed.
Loss: Bill Overstreet is pictured at an event, Warbirds Over the Beach,
in 2013. ‘He was always humble. Whenever the press interviewed him, he said,
“I didn’t do anything. We were a team”.’
RIP Bill Overstreet.
“May Papa God Bless all those who served in the Greatest Generation
And Bless those have served and are serving now!”