Bringing military history to life

Bill Saavedra works with authors around to the world examining Air Force history


By The Riderwood Reporter Staff

Colonel Bill Saavedra, United States Air Force (Retired) currently serves as a volunteer in the Historical Support Division at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington D.C. As of January 2018, when he turned 92, he has completed 16 years of volunteer service and has accumulated more than 10,250 hours at the keyboard. In that time, he has established a marvelous track record for assisting the public.

Originally from Chicago, Bill served in the United States Army Air Force from 1944 to 1945 and the United States Air Force from 1949 to 1977. His assignments were mostly in research and development activities and included flight test engineering, bomber aircraft development, rocket propulsion technology, space boosters and upper stages, spacecraft technology, and Department of Defense use of the Space Shuttle.

One unique and exciting assignment during the height of the Cold War was as an Assistant Air Attache and Air Technical Liaison Officer at the American Embassy in Paris. Following his retirement from the Air Force in July 1977, Bill joined the Senior Executive Service at NASA Headquarters and was involved in Space Shuttle activities until January 1985. Bill received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, along with a private pilot’s license and FAA certificates for aircraft and aircraft engine mechanic, from St. Louis University in 1949. He later received a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1952, and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from Ohio State University in 1955.

Bill responds to a great variety of queries from all over the world, and he has found it a remarkable experience of discovery and learning. One of the more rewarding areas has been in his responding to children and grandchildren of deceased World War II veterans who did not hear much from their fathers or grandfathers about their military experiences. They are surprised and grateful to receive detailed information about where their relatives served and what they contributed to the war effort.

Despite the many years since World War II, a remarkable number of dedicated individuals, associations, and villages overseas continue to honor USAAF crew members who perished in their areas. Bill patiently responds to each and every query for more knowledge about those aviators with information that can be used in the ceremonies held to honor their sacrifices.

Bill has also worked with many historians in Europe, most notably with an outstanding one in Belgium with whom he has collaborated with since 2006 on researching the details of many USAAF aircraft incidents and crashes. Bill has particularly enjoyed working with many authors, including some well-established names and some entering the field for the first time. For example, he provided research materials to the author of Unbroken, as well as for books about B-25s in New Zealand, the USAF in France, air-sea rescue, and air weather reconnaissance.

The most extensive activity has been with noted author Bill Yenne, starting with substantial support for three books including Big Week, and a book on escape and evasion that is still in process. Mr. Yenne received a literary award from the Air Force Association last year and while in the area, Bill brought him to the Air Force Historical Studies Office Library for a visit.

A query from an incarcerated individual for information relating to WWII and Cold War Air Defense activities in the northeast proved to be one of Bill’s most memorable events. This activity continued with the inmate’s release from prison and attendance at college, and he is now contemplating authoring a book on Air Defense Command history. Bill is also involved with the management of the Military History Club at Fort Belvoir and has made several presentations to that group. His historical knowledge is outstanding, and his life experience even more so.

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