Bill Somers grew up in a family of six children in southeast Iowa. His father was a small-town barber; his mother, a homemaker. He loved to build model airplanes and fly them in his father’s barbershop. Since there was no library in their town, he satisfied his second love, reading, with the books and periodicals he found in the back room of the local hardware store. In l941, at 21, and with dreams of being a pilot, Bill enlisted in the United States Air Force.

Since he was colorblind, he instead became a gunnery instructor. In World War II combat with the storied 15th Air Force and its 455th Bomb Group he served as a ball-turret gunner on a B-24 bomber, one that, given the mortality rates for his group, had been named “Ghost of a Chance.” He flew fifty missions, never sure if he and his fellow airmen would return. Survival became even more important to him when he met a young woman by the name of Dorothy Mae Gambach at a roller-skating rink during one of his furloughs in 1942. Though separated by the war, they soon fell in love through their letters to each other and his occasional furloughs. In l945, after they were married, Bill joined Dorothy at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University), where she was already a student, and graduated four years later with a BS degree in Ceramic Engineering, which would serve him in his career as an engineer and manager. Thirty years after the war, re-discovering the letters that he and Dorothy had exchanged, he began his memoir, “Ghost of a Chance.


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