Hemet resident receives nation’s highest award

Sgt. Bill Becker flew black ops over Europe during WWII

Dennis Fletcher / The Valley Chronicle
U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to William “Bill” Becker for his work flying secret missions behind enemy lines in support of resistance groups during World War II.

■ Dennis Fletcher / Contributed

The audience of over a hundred at the American Legion Post 53 hall was welcomed by Hemet Mayor Mike Perciful.
The colors were posted by the Blue Eagles Honor Guard from March Air Force Base. The audience was treated to a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem by Darla Fox, singer, songwriter and vocal coach from Menifee.
U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, on Aug. 1 presented the Congressional Gold Medal to 92-year-old Hemet resident William “Bill” Becker. The veteran entertained the audience with a few stories about his harrowing experiences as a turret gunner manning “twin-fifties” on his all-black B-24 Liberator bomber in the 492nd Bombardment Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. He was 18 at the time.

Dennis Fletcher / The Valley Chronicle
An honor guard stands at attention during the National Anthem at the ceremony to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to William “Bill” Becker of Hemet.

Organized in December 1943 as the 801st Provisional Bomb Group, they were a secret USAF group codenamed: Carpetbaggers. As a Carpetbagger, Sgt. Becker flew support for the OSS army intelligence group during WWII in the European Theater. He flew clandestine missions deep inside German occupied territories. In 1945, he flew seven missions to secret destinations over Europe, from Norway to France. His mission was to fly behind enemy lines and parachute in military supplies, including weapons, explosives – even secret agents – all to help resistance groups. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) lasted three years and three months. It was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), our modern military intelligence organization.
Becker told the audience, “We were told we did not have to join the secret bomber group, but if we told anyone – we would be shot. I didn’t tell anyone after the war. By 1985 you could mention the Carpetbagger operation.” Later they reactivated the 492nd Special Operations Wing and now call them Carpetbaggers.
Becker has helped to keep the legend and history of the 492nd Carpetbaggers alive for his OSS comrades. He now serves as reunion director, treasurer, and newsletter editor for the 801st/492nd Bombardment Group Veterans Association.
Originally from New York, Becker moved to Hemet in February from Menifee. He has family nearby, and the ceremony was attended by children, including his daughter, Sandi Herman, of Indio, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
While the Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest civilian award that Congress can bestow upon a citizen, this is not Becker’s first honor for his work during the war. In 2013, he received the French Legion of Honor Medal from the consul general of France. The reason was that Becker’s and others support of resistance groups behind enemy lines is credited with having shortened the war by some two years.

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