Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
William A. (Wild Bill) Lyell Sr., Colonel, USAF (Retired)February 27, 1923 – May 04, 2016
Colonel Retired William A. (Wild Bill) Lyell was born in Waco, Texas in 1923. He was 93 years old. After graduating from high school in 1940, he went to work at the post office in Washington, D.C. in 1941.
Bill entered the Army Air Corp in 1943 and graduated as a pilot in single engine fighter aircraft and served in that capacity until discharged in late 1945.
Upon return to civilian life, he worked for the post office inspection service and pursued a musical career at radio stations in San Antonio, Texas as a singer and guitarist.
He was recalled to active duty in the Air Force at the outset of the Korean War in 1950 and was a flight examiner and instructor pilot in single and multi-engine aircraft and helicopters. Bill had a long association with helicopters. He served as a helicopter instructor at the Air Force school for 6 years. He was the helicopter instructor for the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Curtis Lemay.
He was commander of the “Doomsday” squadron, the helicopter unit designated to move the president, his family and staff to the emergency locations of the White House. He was the commander of the 56th Rescue Squadron, Tripoli, Libya and of the 40th Rescue Squadron, Udorn, Thailand. While there he participated in the Son Tay Raid – an operation to rescue our prisoners of war in Vietnam. He furnished all of the aircraft and two of the crews for this operation. Altogether he spent 31 years in the military service. He was Director of Combat Operations at NKP, Thailand.
Bill led an interesting life. He was a crop duster pilot, a cut man for professional boxers, a race car driver – he said he always had a close set at the race. He flew the helicopter scenes in the movie “Flight From Ashiya” starring Yul Brenner and Richard Widmark.
After retirement he resumed his musical hobby as an accompanist at fiddle contests. His wife, Stephanie, eager to become a part of his hobby, began to play the fiddle and they participated in contests all over the United States.
Eventually Bill became nationally recognized as a guitar accompanist, playing on over 50 albums, tapes and CDs with many of the professional fiddlers active today. Bill credits Pat Hopson of Mound, Texas as his mentor as a guitar accompanist.
Bill is survived by his wife, Stephanie; son, Bill Lyell, Jr. of Abilene; step-daughter, Helen Xenos; one grandchild, Sean Talamini; a sister, Martha Gadel of Waco and numerous nieces and nephews.
~ GUEST BOOK ~
February 26, 2017 2:00 AMVery very sorry to hear of Bill’s passing- I have been going through a lot of my Grandmothers photos and found a few things signed by the Colonel. I decided to look him up and found out that not only was he an amazing musician but an amazing airman- Rest in Peace Wild Bill!~Eric Lundelius
October 14, 2016 9:30 PMDear Lyell family, I want to offer my condolences on the death of Mr. Lyell. I knew him as “Wild Bill” at fiddler’s contests. I just learned of his passing today, and am very sorry. My brother, Daniel, and I saw him at many fiddlers’ contests. I played the guitar and accompanied my brother as he played the fiddle. Mr. Lyell could make that guitar do things that I still am trying to learn to do on my guitar after more than 35 years of playing. A part of him lives on in me as I play and accompany fiddlers at contests now. Just wanted to share that with you. He had a tremendous impact on my playing and I am forever grateful. Take care.~John Carwile
May 13, 2016 4:26 PMWe were honored to call Bill our friend. Stephanie, God bless you as you deal with your loss. The way you and Bill honored your marriage is an inspiration to us. We hold you in our prayers.~Carroll and Dixie
May 11, 2016 8:02 AMStephanie our hearts are broke. We share you’re hurt and sorrow. “Wild Bill” will be in our hearts forever. We consider it a blessing that God led us to be more than friends. Praying your memories of happiness of the life you shared see you through this difficult time. Knowing he loved the Book of Psalms“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”Psalms 31:24~Tim & Denise Veach
May 10, 2016 6:38 PMPrayers for the family, we know this is a very difficult time. May God grant you peace and healing.~Darrell, Laura & Reece White
May 10, 2016 6:25 PMA candle was lit by Darrell and Janice White.~Janice White
May 10, 2016 3:16 PMHelen,I am so sad to hear about your dad! Please know that you and your mom are in my thoughts and prayers. This will be a difficult time but with God’s help you will get thru this. Hugs!!~ Regina Herzog
May 10, 2016A GARDEN PATH was sent by Greg and Dana Shead.~Greg & Dana Shead
May 10, 2016A GARDEN PATH was sent~Greg and Dana Shead.
May 9, 2016Stephanie, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. You and Bill were so special in our lives and you touched more people than you’ll ever know. It is so great that he had such a long and wonderful life. He will be missed by everyone. Love, Marilyn, Cheryl and Donna (Lindley)~Marilyn, Cheryl and Donna (Lindley)
May 9, 2016 4:02 PMPlease accept our expression of deepest sympathy. You are in our thoughts and prayers.~Grady and Mary Hill
May 8, 2016A SENTIMENTAL THOUGHTS was sent.~Gary, Maedell, Mark, Angela, Michael and Matthew
May 7, 2016 11:27 PMOur thoughts and prayers are with you now and in the coming days. May the Lord give you all the strength you need during this time of sorrow.~Gary and Maedell Gradel