In Memory of
U.S. Army Air Force Technical Sergeant
William J. Bauer
Yankton, South Dakota
Yankton County
October 6, 1920 – September 12, 1944
Killed in Action over Ruhland, Germany

William J. Bauer

William J. Bauer was born October 6, 1920, at Yankton, South Dakota, to William and Lucille Bauer. He was raised and educated in the Yankton area, where his father had a farm. At 16, William was signed up for the CCC camp; he spent two years in the Black Hills where he built government fire stations. After his stint in the CCC, William returned to Yankton. He worked at various jobs, but his real interest was working on cars. On August 14, 1941, William married Darlene Ness at Yankton, South Dakota. They had a son, William E.J., and a daughter, Judith M. 

According to the bonus application filed on his behalf, William Bauer entered active service in December of 1942 at Fort Lewis, Washington, while he and his family were staying in Bremerton, Washington, and William was working at the Navy Yards. His daughter, Judy, tell us that her father subsequently entered the Air Corps and was trained on a bomber. Sergeant Bauer was sent overseas in November of 1943 and was assigned to the European theater, where he engaged in 48 bombing missions aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress.

Since 50 missions allowed a crew member to rotate home, Sergeant Bauer volunteered on missions, hoping to return to the United States in time for his wife’s birthday in November of 1944. On September 12, 1944, while on a “bombardment mission to Ruhland, Germany” Sergeant William Bauer’s bomber, “sustained damage and fell to the earth…. Three parachutes were observed to leave the disabled craft before it descended…” In 1949, Mrs. Bauer received this information from the War Department:

His remains were initially buried with others of his comrades who met their death in the same incident. Since that time the American Graves Registration Service has, without success, explored every clue that might lead to individual identification of any of the remains, and has at last been forced to conclude that only a group identification of the remains is possible…. All remains in this group will be brought back simultaneously for interment in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, located at Louisville, Kentucky…. This particular National Cemetery was selected in order that no undue burden of travel might be placed on any one family wishing to attend the [burial] service.

William received the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster for his service and sacrifice to his country.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Sheila Hansen, Fallen Sons State Coordinator, Spearfish, SD.  Information for this entry was provided by an application for a SD veteran’s bonus payment and by Judy Vik, Rapid City, daughter of William Bauer.