Date of Interview
Bill Connell was born in 1924 in Bakersfield, California, but grew up in Seattle, Washington, where he graduated from high school in 1942. In August of that year, Bill enlisted in the US Navy and was selected for training as a pilot. Pilot training took Bill to several stateside locations, and lasted through the beginning of 1944. By mid-1944, Bill was pilot of a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver (a carrier-based dive bomber aircraft) and stationed in the Pacific on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10). On 4 July 1944, while flying a mission over the Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima, in the Central Pacific, Bill's plane was shot down over the ocean. He parachuted to safety and was picked from the water by the crew of a Japanese naval vessel. Bill was held for eight days on Chichi Jima, then flown to Japan; he was placed in Ofuna Naval Interrogation Center, where he remained for nine months. Subsequently Bill was transferred to Camp Omori, where he spent time in solitary confinement. He was liberated in late August 1945, when US forces landed in Japan after the Japanese surrender. By his own account, Bill spent decades recovering from his ordeal as a POW. He remained in the US Navy, retiring in 1959; after that, he worked more than twenty years for State Farm Insurance. Bill lived in Minnesota after retiring from the Navy in 1959. This interview took place in 2004 at his residence in Edina, Minnesota.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Bill Connell" (2004). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 17.