Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
William C. Edge, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)November 24, 1919 – January 09, 2015
Born Nov 24, 1919 Birmingham, AL.Died Jan 9, 2015 Austin, TX.
Lt. Col. Edge made his final flight on the wings of angels after a brief illness at age 95.
He is survived by Helen Dettman Edge, his wife of 63 years, and their three daughters: Sandra and husband Ken Balacek of Wimberly, TX, Barbara and husband Dean Word III of New Braunfels, TX, Lee and husband CMSgt. Craig Thomas USAF (Ret.) of Hunt, TX, along with 9 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
After honorably serving four years in the National Guard, Edge earned his Air Corps wings as a Flight Cadet in January 1943. During WWII, he served in England with the U.S. 8th Air Force, 94th Bomb Group, “The Big Square A” 410th Squadron. He completed 51 combat missions (two full tours of duty) as a B-17 Pilot. He earned the 94th’s coveted “Lucky Bastard” award 23 June, 1944 after completing his 30th mission. He flew in the first daylight bombing mission to Berlin, Germany, in March 1944. Under intense German anti-aircraft artillery attack, his plane fell from formation and began to lose engines and altitude. He was able to cross the English Channel on one engine and crash-land along the English coastline with only two crewmen lost. Within days, they were back in the air carrying out their assigned missions in a new plane.
In 1947, Edge graduated from helicopter school in San Marcos, TX. While on station, he was assigned to familiarize a Civil Aeronautics Administration evaluator from Washington, DC with requirements necessary for civilian rotorcraft licensing. He was later issued C.A.A. helicopter license #33.
He flew during the Berlin Airlift and completed 97 peaceful supply missions. As an experienced Instrument Instructor, he was designated an elite “3-engine man” to return disabled C-54s from Berlin for repair.
Edge was then assigned to Air Rescue Service during the early 1950’s. He delivered the first 20 Grumman SA-16 amphibians into USAF service at MacDill AFB, FL. He was personal pilot to Maj. Gen. Robert M. Lee, who commanded A.T.G. 3.4 (Operation Greenhouse) at Eniwetok Atoll during the South Pacific nuclear weapons tests. Although brief, he considered this the most enjoyable period of his flying career.
He next attained “triple-rated” pilot status for the B-47 Strategic Jet Bomber. Assigned to the first operational wing for the aircraft, he commanded the very first designated “Lead Crew.”
By 1956, he was piloting B-52’s at Loring AFB, Maine, then Bergstrom AFB, Austin, TX, flying 24 hour alert nuclear-armed SAC missions. In 1959 he took part in the first non-stop circumnavigation of the continental U.S. utilizing in-flight refueling to demonstrate the strategic capability of SAC and the B-52 platform. He was aloft during the intensely dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Bay of Pigs crisis in 1961.
His 1966 retirement from the Air Force came as commander of the 335th Bomb Squadron, 4130th Strategic Wing with over 4000 hours of B-52 flight time. Over his remarkable career, he logged nearly 9000 hours flying single and multi-engine planes, helicopters and amphibians. For his service, Lt. Col. Edge was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Air Medals, 6 Battle Stars and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Upon retirement, he focused on raising his three daughters and pursued his next true passions in life – fishing, and the game of Golf – which he played until age 91. Although he never flew again, he talked his way into the cockpit of a Qantas 747 in 1996 while bound for a New Zealand vacation. The flight crew invited him to ride the jump seat for the last 2 hours of the flight, all the way to the arrival gate. He was a Shriner, an American Legion member and a 32nd Degree Mason.
A private service was held at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery on January 21. Lt. General Loyd “Chip” Utterback (USAF – Ret.) honored the family with his presence and delivered a stirring message of commitment to God, Duty and Country. Memorial contributions are requested to the benefit of Tarrytown United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas, or the charity of the giver’s choice.
~ GUEST BOOK ~
Jan 30, 2015“Barb and family, I am thinking of you and I know this is a difficult time for you. Best regards always. Bill Alyn”~Bill Alyn, TX.
Jan 23, 2015“Sandy and family, I am sorry for your loss. He lived a wonderful life of service and contribution. I am sad with you.”~Deirdre McGrath, Friend of Sandy and Ken, CA.
Jan 22, 2015“Most sincere condolences to Helen, Barb and the rest of the family. Col. Edge was an accomplished man who enjoyed a long life among his loving family. Please accept our most kind regards in your time of grief.”~Amber Word Heisner, sister-in-law to daughter, Glendale, CA.