Last updated: August 31, 2020
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.
Interview - Bill Thies
As a pilot for VP-41 Bill and his crew are credited with finding the Akutan Zero, a find that changed the course of the war in the Pacific Theatre.
Captain William Nouris Thies Transcript Summary (download full transcript above)
- Credit / Author:
- NPS / Janis Kozlowski
- Date created:
[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