Bill Brollier was only 24 when he was assigned to the 389th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in Hethel, England in 1944. The journey had begun for him in 1942, shortly after graduating from the Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Texas, with an engineering degree in 1939.
It was in 1942 that he enlisted in the Air Force, and by January of 1943, he had already been called up for service. Training in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico followed. While in Albuquerque, he was trained on the 4-engine B-24, and soon he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and selected as a pilot for the big bombing aircraft, and then trained with a crew in Muroc, California, before sailing to England and Hethel Air Field.
He would end up flying 33 missions from Hethel, with targets in Germany and France. It was during one of those missions, this one to a chemical plant in Dusseldorf, Germany, that he narrowly avoided a shrapnel hit. The saving move was entirely unintentional, and very fortuitous. He had moved forward to manually release some bombs that were stuck when the shrapnel hit the seat where he had been only moments earlier.
He didn't realize at the time how close he had come to being hit. He was much too focussed on the fact that they had bomb bay doors that wouldn't close properly, and they still had four bombs in the bay. They would finally dump those remaining bombs over the English Channel; but, would only then discover that the entire hydraulic system was out. Brollier and his crew had to manually crank the wheels down and pump the flaps down, before executing an emergency field landing, safely, back on English soil.
Brollier still keeps that piece of shrapnel as a reminder of just how close he came to ending his career, and his life, on that fateful October day in 1944.
Jump ahead 69 years, and the 1st Lieutenant is now retired rancher Bill Brollier. His supportive friends and neighbors know of Bill's life during World War II, and they do all they can to let him know how much they appreciate his service, and how much they appreciate him.
One of those friends is Bob Terrell, and he decided to give Bill a gift that was appropriate to the service that had been rendered to his country.
On Good Friday, March 27th, Terrell arranged for Brollier and a handful of other folks to fly on a historic B-25 from Temple to Austin. This time, he wouldn't be piloting the craft, and instead of a full bombing crew, he was accompanied by his daughter, Diana Brollier Bartlett.
The B-25 is part of a collection of planes that the Collings Foundation owns and uses for exhibitions around the country. The final destination of the short trip was the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's south terminal where a collection of aircraft was on display for the general public.
The 30-minute flight cost $425. Bob Terrell arranged everything, including the donations that made the flight possible, the carpool to Temple and the pickup vehicles in Austin, and the cameras to record the event. He could not stop smiling as he shared plans for the excursion prior to their departure, chiefly because he knew that he was helping to organize something that would be remembered by his friend, Bill Brollier, and all of his family, for the rest of their lives.
When it was all done, they made the drive home to Mason. The flight was over; but, the retelling of the adventure will continue for years.