Roanoke, VA - This story of war is set in 1944 and told through the eyes of a fighter pilot considered Roanoke's "only Ace."
Bill Overstreet, long recognized by the nation as a hero, will soon be honored by the French government at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Every once in a while you run into someone that has such incredible life experience tales that they really are hard to believe. Bill Overstreet is one of those guys.
"A lot of people don't believe it. I don't blame 'em," Overstreet said.
At 88, Captain Bill Overstreet is suddenly getting a lot of recognition for his WWII flying stunts. Already surrounded by models of his likeness, his autograph really became a commodity just a few years before, all because of a picture an artist was looking to paint.
"He says, 'Look, I want something close to the ground...', and I said, 'Well, I got plenty of stories. I came back with barbed wire under the tail, grass stains on the wing tips, leaves in the air scope."
A P-51 Mustang pilot who flew along Chuck Yeager, in one of the most decorated Air Force units of the war, Overstreet had plenty of suggestions for the artist.
"He didn't like any of those things," Overstreet said.
He also didn't like the time he and his unit would unit flew loops around the Golden Gate bridge or the time he ran into the German Air Force with nothing but bottles of Russian beet vodka in his ammo trays. He wasn't even impressed with Overstreet having flown from Germany to England and landing safely while blind.
"It was nothing compared to some of the other things," he said.
No, the artist was interested in something that Overstreet hadn't even mentioned to people until decades after the war ended.
"It wasn't that important because the other guy was just fighting for his life."
Chasing a Nazi ME-109, Overstreet was led over Paris and through a hail of anti-aircraft fire, to no avail. The Germen then turned his plane and flew beneath the Eiffel Tower.
"That didn't work either because as he pulled up trying to come out of the tower. It was restricted area so he more or less had to come up instead of making the turn. So. it was in perfect gun-sight and he was demolished right there."
And that's the story that has some people struck with amazement and other struck with skepticism. No known witnesses, no cooperation, just the word of a man, friends say, shot down at least ten Nazi planes. The government says just 2.5. Overstreet himself is too humble to count, too focused to care.
"We fighting 300-400 German fighters with one or two groups which is 50 or 100. It keeps you too busy to know what's going on," Overstreet said. "We did our jobs. We got each other back home. That was the main thing."
Overstreet will be honored on Tuesday for his World War Two heroics. The French Ambassador will be presenting Overstreet the "Legion of Honor," France's highest award.