William Henry Long – Colonel, United States Air Force

William Henry Long, a World War II bomber pilot who eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force, died March 8, 2007, at an assisted-living facility in Reston, Virginia., of cardiopulmonary arrest, said his son William H. Long Jr. of Reston. He was 86.

Colonel Long was born in Rochester, New York, to Irish Catholic parents. His father left home when Mr. Long was 4, and his mother “was kind of a flapper, if you will,” said Long Jr.

While still in high school, Colonel Long moved to the YMCA, where he bused tables in the dining room and worked as a lifeguard to pay his rent. After graduation, he attended Hobart College briefly before marrying his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Jean Mansfield. He joined the Army Air Forces in 1942 and shipped off to England.

From a base in Sudbury Suffolk, near England's western coast, Colonel Long flew B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses for the 486th Bombardment Group in 35 missions over France and Belgium and deep into Germany.

Colonel Long, whose stern demeanor outlasted his days in the service, never shared some of the off-color names the crews had painted on their planes but did recount the day he watched his crew and plane shot down from the sky while he was training in another aircraft.

Colonel Long remained in the military after the war and assisted in administering the Marshall reconstruction plan from London, said his son. Colonel Long also worked at the Pentagon and was involved in the establishment of Air University in Alabama and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he served as its first budget officer.

After retiring from active duty in 1966, Colonel Long spent his days in the Washington, D.C., area, making waves up and down the Potomac River on Longshot, the 53-foot motor cruiser where he lived. “That's all he did,” Long Jr. said.

A charter member of the Capitol Yacht Club, Colonel Long was practically forced from his boat by his daughter-in-law after his health began to deteriorate about nine years ago. “He'd always taken care of himself,” said his son. “He refused any kind of assistance.”

Colonel Long, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, was predeceased by his wife. In addition to his son, he is survived by three other children, Gary of Seattle, Nancy of Carson City, Nevada, and Richard of Miami; and five grandchildren. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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