Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: August 25, 2016

William Sharp, Lieutenant, United States Navy


Willie was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma in October 1940.  His father was a mechanic; his mother was a schoolteacher who later became a newspaper proofreader.  Willie had one older brother.

In the early 1940s, the family moved to Dinuba in California’s Central Valley.  Willie graduated from Dinuba High School in 1958 and entered California State University in Fresno majoring in English.

During March 1963, he graduated, married Nina Bishop, and entered the Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate program.  After training in T-34, T-2A, F-9, and F-11 aircraft in Pensacola, Florida; Meridian, Mississippi; and Kingsville, Texas, he was commissioned as an Ensign and awarded his wings in September 1964.

He asked for and was assigned to the F-8 Crusader at Miramar, California and completed F-8 training there in March 1965.  In April 1965, Willie departed the US via commercial air and joined his Squadron, VF-191, after it arrived at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

In April 1965, Willie went into combat in North Vietnam aboard the carrier USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA 31.  In August 1965, he became the Squadron Landing Signal Officer (LSO). On 18 November 1965, he was shot down, ejected over the Gulf of Tonkin, was captured, escaped, and was rescued.

In August 1966, the Squadron moved to the USS Ticonderoga, CVA-14.  Willie volunteered for a second tour in the Gulf of Tonkin 1966-1967 for a total of 317 combat missions.  He then served as a LSO for Advanced Training at Kingsville, Texas until March 1968 when he left the Navy in the rank of Lieutenant.

Willie’s military awards and decorations include the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 11 Stars, the Purple Heart, and the Navy Commendation medal with V device for Valor.

In 1968, Willie joined United Airlines (UAL) as a Flight Engineer on DC-6s and then on Boeing 727s.  His seniority-controlled progression included First Officer on 737s and 727s.  In 1979, he made Captain in 737s, then 757s, 767s, 747-400s, and 777s.  He was also designated as a Flight Instructor and a Line Check Airman.  His flying career with UAL continued until mandatory retirement at age 60 in October 2000.

Willie and Nina had three daughters.  Sadly, Nina died on 17 June 2016; Willie resides in Pleasanton.