Flight engineer, patriot defended freedom ’round the world
Flight engineer, patriot defended freedom ’round the world
Mason Beasler
Mason Beasler
AFA Journal staff writer

Above, World War II veteran Bill Swinney during his visit to AFA Journal

March 2021Experts often estimate that between 40% and 60% of the U. S. population have never left the country. However, in the life of 97-year-old William “Bill” Swinney, a longtime friend of AFA, there has certainly been no lack of seeing the world. At 20 years old, Swinney boarded a plane, left his home in America, and eventually circled the globe.

This great adventure started during Swinney’s freshman year at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, on a Sunday morning in December 1941.

“I was walking across to the chapel,” Swinney told American Family Radio, “and they announced America had been attacked by the Japanese [at] Pearl Harbor.” This changed everything for Swinney. At the time, he was a prelaw student, but after the Japanese attack, he was driven to find a way to fight for his country.

“[At the] end of that semester in January,” Swinney recalled, “most of the men quit to go join the military. I quit also and intended to join the military, but I was still underage and my parents encouraged me not to go in the military at that time.”

However, Swinney was unswayed. He still felt a strong pull to serve his country, so he traveled to Hawaii to help with harbor repairs as a citizen instead of a soldier. After returning to the states, Swinney was accepted into the Army Air Corps in 1943 as a flight engineer on a B-24 bomber.

“This [was] my first trip around the world,” remembered Swinney. “From Florida we flew to Maine. From Maine we flew to Greenland.”

Once across the Atlantic, they flew to French Morocco, then across the Sahara Desert to Cairo, Egypt. They continued to Iran and then India.

Along the way, Swinney and his 10-man flight crew stopped and toured some of the greatest sites in the world. In Egypt, they saw the pyramids and the Sphinx. In India, they toured the Taj Mahal, then crossed over the Himalayas into China.

“[We] flew over the Great Wall of China [at] almost treetop height,” Swinney recounted, “one side and then the other. So all the crew members could view the wall for over 50 miles.”

Once in China, the crew conducted bombing missions against the Japanese. “The missions were 12 to 14 hours in length,” said Swinney. “We bombed Japanese installations in China [and] Japanese industrial facilities along the coast.”

After several more seasons of battle, the war finally came to a close, and Swinney was sent home. Much like his wartime entrance, his exit took quite the scenic route.

“They [sent] the entire China contingency home and sent me to Calcutta, India,” Swinney said. “I boarded a merchant ship [and] spent 45 days on this ship. We stopped in the Philippines briefly, and sailed to Perth, Australia.”

Finally, in the fall of 1945, Swinney sailed across the Pacific Ocean and under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Throughout his life abroad, and the many years he has spent raising a family and starting businesses, Swinney has demonstrated conservative Christian values in all he has done. He has long been a supporter of AFA, and on October 14, 2020, he, his wife Brenda, and son Scott, visited AFA Journal and American Family Radio, where he recorded a radio special with AFA president Tim Wildmon.

“American Family Association,” Swinney said, “[supports] the values we cherish that I’d like to see perpetuated for my children and my grandchildren and their children, some of those values being family, faith, honor, truth, patriotism, sanctity of marriage, [and] sanctity of life.”

“Bill Swinney is the kind of patriot we should all aspire to be,” observed Wildmon.