“I’m not sure, I was a little busy.”
– An understatement of remarkable proportions. After
being asked what was around the Eiffel Tower as he chased
an ME 109 beneath the landmark, this is Bill Overstreet’s
response. Easy to understand why he may not have been checking
out the scenery.
In the spring of 1944, Bill Overstreet of the 357th Fighter
Group stayed hot on the tail of a German 109 ME 109G. The
German pilot flew over Paris hoping the heavy German anti-aircraft
artillery would solve his problem and eliminate Overstreet
and his P51C, the “Berlin Express.” Hoping did
no good. The German’s engine was hit, and Overstreet
persisted through the intense enemy flak. As a last resort,
the ME109 pilot aimed his aircraft at the Eiffel Tower and
in a breathtaking maneuver, flew beneath it. The unshakeable
Overstreet followed, and scored 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
Overstreet describes the heroic event in his own words:
“I had followed this 109 from the bombers when most
of the German fighters left. We had a running dogfight and
I got some hits about 1500 feet. He then led me over Paris
where many guns were aimed at me. As soon as he was disabled,
I ducked down just over the river and followed the river
until I was away from Paris.”
A little busy indeed.
Flying under the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of an enemy plane
is not the only amazing survival story Overstreet can relate.
He also can tell of a “one second parachute ride,” in
addition to flying formation loops around the Golden Gate
Bridge. Mr. Overstreet also flew unconscious for 90 minutes
after his oxygen was shot out, and in another event, his
eyes were swollen shut, he had to be led back to England
Born in Clifton Forge, Virginia on April the 10th,
1921, Bill Overstreet remembers a happy childhood.
He graduated high school in 1938 and continued his education
in Charleston, West Virginia as a student at Morris Harvey
College. For a time, Bill went to school and worked for
Columbia Engineering. He was involved with both when the
war broke, and learned of his acceptance as an Aviation
Cadet, but had to wait a couple of months for an opening
in the program.
When the wait was over, Overstreet was shipped to Santa
Anna, California for preflight, and then ventured
on to Tulare, California for primary. After that,
he traveled to Lemoore, California for basic, and lastly,
he had to fight to go to Luke Field to get single engine
After getting his wings, Overstreet joined the 357th Fighter
Group. He trained in P-39s until being sent to England in
November of 1943. He flew an extended tour and was sent home
in October of the following year. His next assignment was
to teach at the gunnery school in Pinellas, Florida. Overstreet
was released from active duty, but kept in Reserves. So,
he returned to Charleston, West Virginia where he worked
as General Manager of Charleston Aviation.
Overstreet eventually moved to Roanoke, Virginia in 1950
and worked for Andrews-Burket, CPA’s after T. Coleman
Andrews became Director of Internal Revenue Service for Eisenhower.
He then started his own firm, and retired in 1984. That’s
when he really got down to business. Perhaps now, there would
be a bit more time to observe just what exactly is around
the Eiffel Tower.