WASHINGTON-U.S.Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized Col. (retired) Thomas Williams, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars who dedicated his life to serving his country in uniform, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.
Thomas calls North Little Rock home today, a community he grew to love while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base for the final assignment of his more than 30-year Air Force career.
“I did things here that I never had the opportunity to do before,” Williams said. He supervised the transportation, supply, comptroller, contracting and logistics plans and learned “more from the people with whom I worked than they learned from me.”
Williams’ assignments took him all over the world, but his job at Little Rock Air Force Base is a highlight because of his different role. “All I had to do until that time was fly and manage things,” he said.
Williams’ decorated career began in 1951 when he enlisted in the Air Force. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ray, who was a fighter pilot. While the younger Williams had aspirations to fly fighter planes, the Air Force had other plans for him.
Williams was assigned to Perrin Air Force Base where he learned to fly the B-26. This was followed by time at Langley Air Force Base for combat crew training to get him ready to deploy in support of the Korean War.
“I completed 19 missions over North Korea doing the same thing that I did at Langley Air Force Base,” Williams said. As a Second Lieutenant, Williams said he would typically take off at 2 a.m. and return about dawn after completing his bombing missions. His year-long tour also included an assignment in Japan as a B-26 test pilot for aircraft that had undergone maintenance.
Following his deployment, Williams was assigned stateside as an instructor pilot and served as an aide to the Commander of Bolling Air Force Base, Brigadier General Stoyte Ross. Williams recalled the role that had given him his first opportunity to fly to Europe fondly.
He continued learning to fly different aircraft and was selected as the Air Force advisor to the Turkish Air Force where he helped train their pilots to fly the C-130 E. “I had a crash course in Turkish. I got there and lo and behold they didn’t want to speak Turkish. They wanted to speak English,” Williams said.
His next assignment was Vietnam where he flew C-130s, picking up cargo in Japan and the Philippines to take to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base. “We would stay there and fly around the clock for about two and half weeks,” Williams said. Then he would return to Taiwan typically in an airplane in need of repairs.
Williams served several other assignments before being stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base where he retired from a life of military service on October 30, 1982. Since retirement from the military, Williams continues to serve his community and in veteran service organizations.
“Col. Thomas Williams honorably served our country in uniform for more than 30 years. He was a skilled aviator whose dedication to his country is something we can all be proud of. Preserving his memories for the Veterans History Project is a great way to show our appreciation for his outstanding service to our country,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Williams’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.