Colonel (USAF Ret.) Willis Lyndell "Bill" Helmantoler, (1921-2011) was born on August 6, 1921 in New Columbia, Illinois to Willis Eli and Myda Martin Helmantoler. After graduation from East Alton - Woodriver High School in Woodriver, Illinois, he attended the University of Illinois for three years. He then signed up for the Army in 1941 and reported to Scott Field, Illinois on 5 January 1942. Colonel Helmantoler completed flight training at Goodfellow Field, San Angelo, Texas (Class 42-I) on October 9, 1942. He then moved to Tampa, Texas awaiting assignment to the Pacific to the 13th Air Force as a C-47 pilot and Operations Officer. It was as an Operation Officer that Colonel Ford asked him to join the newly formed 13th Rescue Group as their Operations Officer. Captain Helmantoler was checked out in the OA-10A by Captain Gerard F. Wientjes and flew many rescue missions with the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron.


"Getting There" | "Write it Again" | "Last Hand" | "Happy New Year" | "The Rescue"
"Mission Improbable" | "Birthday Blast" | "A Birthday Present"

Colonel Helmantoler was offered a promotion to Major by Colonel Wallace S. Ford to stay another six months, but opted to return to the United States in August 1945. He was stationed at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi and while in the Air Force flew the C-47, OA-10A, B-17, B-24, B-25, and P-38. He was awarded the Silver Star for rescuing 17 members of three bomber crews under fire on 4 March 1945 in the southern Philippines.

Following the war, he was given various high level public affairs assignements at Air Force headquarters in Japan, in Hawaii, and with the Office of Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. He remained in the Air Force, but completed his Bachelor's and Masters Degrees at Boston University in 1949 and 1950 respectively. He was awarded the Legion of Merit 4 times. His last assignement was as a press officer at the 1968 Paris Peace Talks under President Johnson.

Pacific Theater, WWII (1944 - 1945)
Keesler Field, Mississippi (1945 - 1948)
Boston University (1949 - 1950)
Eglin AFB, Florida (1950 - 1953)
The Pentagon (1953 - 1956)
Japan-5th Air Force (1956 - 1959)
Randolph AFB, Texas (1959 - 1962)
Industrial College, Washington, D.C. (1962 - 1963)
Pacific Command, Honolulu, Hawaii (1963 - 1967)
The Pentagon (1967 - 1969)
Retired (August 1969)

After retiring from the Air Force in 1969, he became director of public relations for American Airlines in Washington, D.C. He went on to work for large public relations firms in Chicago and Washington D.C. before retiring as president of Helmantoler Communications in 1991. His first wife, Brickey Casey Helmantoler died in 1967.

Bill passed away March 16, 2011 at the Greenspring Villiage Retirement Home in Springfield, Virginia. Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Mary Strader Helmantoler of Springfield; a son and daughter by his first marriage: Michael Helmantoler of Sandy, UT and Lynn Greene of Auburn, CA; a son, John Helmantoler of Midlothian, VA; a sister, Leatha Jorgensen of Springdale, AR; nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

His awards and decorations included: Silver Star, (See extract copy) Legion of Merit (4 BS), Air Medal, (7 OLC), World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal (7 Battle Stars), National Defense Service ribbon, Air Force Commendation Medal, & Pilot Wings.

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