While flying fighters was his first choice, Bill Thies would be assigned to PBYs in the Aleutians instead. With a knack for flying he would be great at either. He would become known as the patrol plan commander of the PBY that discovered Koga’s Zero (otherwise known as the Akutan Zero) in 1942 while apparently lost on an all night patrol. He and his crew would forever be linked with this important find that is thought to have changed the course of the war in the Pacific.
After serving in the Aleutians Captain Thies moved on as Commanding Officer of VPB-144 in the Central and Western Pacific flying the PV-1, PV-2 and F6F Hellcat. He was rewarded for his service with the Navy Cross, 2 distinguished flying crosses and six air medals for combat with Japanese. Hear about finding Koga’s Zero and other stories of the Aleutians in a 2010 interview with Captain Thies.
Download a full transcript of Bill Thies' interview.
Captain William Nouris Thies Transcript Summary (download full transcript above)
[0:00:32.0] Introduction of date and location of interview.
[0:01:22.1] Introduction of interview attendees.
[0:01:58.0] Entering the military.
[0:03:41.3] Types of planes flown in beginning of military career.
[0:04:16.8] First assignment after flight training.
[0:04:40.3] Discussion on the type of training that he had.
[0:05:41.0] Discussion on preparation for conditions in Aleutians.
[0:06:12.1] Tells story of flying in the Aleutian weather.
[0:07:47.0] Aerologist, John Tatum.
[0:08:07.1] Locations of duty during time in Alaska.
[0:09:26.0] Missions flown while on Kodiak.
[0:09:46.0] Story about Japanese ship off the coast of Kodiak.
[0:11:42.6] Encounters with Japanese ships or aircraft.
[0:13:29.5] Discussion about the PBY airplane.
[0:14:24.0] Extending the use of the PBY airplane.
[0:15:02.4] Number of missions/hours flown in the Aleutians.
[0:17:01.0] Bombing of Dutch Harbor.
[0:17:44.6] Time spent in Dutch Harbor and Atka.
[0:18:25.8] Rescue of Native people living in the Aleutians.
[0:19:25.0] Discussion about an American submarine that ran aground in Amchitka.
[0:21:32.3] Second discussion about the bombing of Dutch Harbor.
[0:22:22.6] His experiences on Kiska bombing Japanese fleet.
[0:25:42.8] Discussion of responsibilities at a relatively young age.
[0:26:36.0] Reasons for success.
[0:29:16.8] Discussion about various locations he landed his plane in bad weather.
[0:31:49.0] Story about box of cigars received for bringing torpedoes back.
[0:32:27.8] He tells of the crew he flew with most of the time.
[0:35:57.0] Story about seeing the Zero for the first time.
[0:37:39.0] Story about salvaging Zero on Akutan.
[0:39:00.0] Discussion regarding the Zero’s limitations which changed the tactics of our fighters.
[0:40:54.4] Discussion about his medals and decorations.
[0:42:32.2] Discussion of the effect of losing friends and crews in the Aleutians.
[0:44:07.8] Daily life in the Aleutians.
[0:46:33.0] Discussion about Commander Gehres and what he was like.
[0:48:05.9] Discussion about his wife evacuating on USS Grant.
[0:49:46.8] Assignment to the South Pacific after the Aleutians.
[0:51:14.8] Called to San Diego and assigned to Kiska Island.
[0:54:54.0] His time spent on Kiska.
[0:56:09.9] Time spent in Enewetak.
[0:56:49.8] Discussion about the PBY in the Anchorage Aviation History Museum.
[0:57:39.3] Going to Tinian after Enewetak.
[0:58:37.4] Discussion about destroying the PV-2 airplanes.
[1:00:12.9] Number of years of service in the Navy.
[1:00:31.0] Work after World War II.
[1:04:12.9] Story about testing for a private pilot’s license.
[1:06:33.0] Story of flying in a Hellcat.
[1:09:14.5] Story of qualifying for carrier landing.
[1:11:36.7] Discussion about his time spent on Sitka and crossing Baranof Island.
[1:17:06.8] Life after leaving the service.
[1:18:04.0] Learning to build an atomic bomb.
[1:19:37.5] Fishing adventures.
[1:20:29.5] Presentations he has been asked to give.
[1:20:53.9] Story about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
[1:22:29.3] Discussion of photos.
[1:25:38.0] Local paper articles about Captain Thies.
[1:28:16.7] Looking through photos.
[1:32:38.8] Exchange of email addresses.
End of interview at 1:32:45.9