Presentation Date: February 27, 2014
Lt Col (Retired) William Bill Van Cleve, US Air Force and Bill Yenne, Author
Bill Van Cleve was born in Osceola, Arkansas in 1928, the elder of two brothers. His father, William Van Cleve, was a pharmacist; his mother, the former Katherine Segars, was a homemaker. Bill graduated from Little Rock Senior High School in 1946.
During two years at Louisiana State University, Bill was in the U. S, Navy V5 program as an aviation student. When the program ended, he transferred to Air Force Aviation Cadet training at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB), near San Antonio, Texas. In August 1949, Bill graduated as a Second Lieutenant pilot. After completion of bomber training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, he was assigned to B-25 courier duty.
When the Korean conflict began in June 1950, Bill entered B-29 training at Roswell, New Mexico. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. He flew 12 combat missions until North Korea’s introduction of Soviet-built Mig-15 jet fighters caused unsustainable losses of B-29s.
From Okinawa, Bill transitioned into B-50s, then entered B-47 training at McConnell AFB near Wichita, Kansas. Following service in two other B-47 wings, he joined the Strategic Air Command’s 301st Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
As an aircraft commander, he completed the AOB cross-training program at James Connally AFB near Waco, Texas. This course required additional qualification as both a navigator and a radar bombardier in B-47s.
After transition to B-52s (he eventually flew four models of this aircraft), Bill served as an Airborne Commander overseeing B-52 raids into both South and North Vietnam.
From 1969 – 1971, Bill commanded the 744th Bomb Squadron at Beale AFB near Marysville, California. After 20 years of Cold War service, he retired in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel in 1971.
Bill married Nancy Henry in 1950 at Little Rock, Arkansas. They had two boys and one girl. His second wife, the former Diana Sutton, is an attorney. Bill and Diana reside in Redwood City. During his military service, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering through the United States Air Force Institute of Technology. Bill is a registered Professional Engineer, still does some consulting, and volunteers as a docent at the Hiller Aviation Museum adjacent to the San Carlos Airport.
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Bill Yenne is the author of more than three dozen non-fiction books, especially on aviation and military history. These have included profiles of the B-52 Stratofortress, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles and secret weapons of the Cold War, as well as histories of the Strategic Air Command, the US Air Force, and his recently-updated The Story of the Boeing Company.
His dual biography of Dick Bong and Tommy McGuire, Aces High: The Heroic Story of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II, was described by pilot and best-selling author Dan Roam as "The greatest flying story of all time."
Mr. Yenne has contributed to encyclopedias of both world wars and had appeared in television documentaries on the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel and ARD German Television. He is a member of the American Aviation Historical Society.