Mike Thieme (known as Bill to his fellow soldiers) was born January 18, 1923 in Fairfax, Oklahoma. His father was William M. Thieme, Sr. whose parents came from Germany before he was born. Mr. Thieme Senior was a saddle and harness maker by trade. He came to Fairfax in 1912 and married Bonnie Nash in 1914. Bonnie was only 18 years old and was working as a newspaper reporter for her father. She went to meet the train to report on new arrivals to Fairfax and that is where she met her future husband. Bonnie’s family were early American settlers and her mother was related to John Quincy Adams. Bonnie’s father was a newspaper editor who had a portable printing press and traveled around the wild Oklahoma Territory printing newspapers. The Thieme’s had four children: Billie, Lucille, Mildred and Mike. Lucille and Billie currently live in Sweeny, Texas. Both the elder Thieme’s lived well into their ‘90’s.
Mike was loved by everyone in the small town of Fairfax. Even today, when his daughter visits Fairfax, people come up to her and tell her how much he was thought of. He attended the First Presbyterian Church and completed his schooling in Fairfax. But Mike’s great love was music. He had a beautiful voice and played the piano and trumpet. He played music and sang with a band and also sang in competition. They say he could pick up any instrument and play it. Mike said the only music he didn’t like was Asian music and that was because he didn’t understand it. Mike joined the Air Corps in 1941 to play in the military band at Moffet Field CA; however, when the Army needed pilots, he volunteered. He loved to fly.
Mike started his cadet training at the "Hancock College of Aeronautics" in Santa Maria, CA from 6/24/1942 to 8/27/1942. This base consisted of a classification center and Ground School only. After classification as a pilot here, Cadet Mike was sent to a basic flying school " Merced Army Flying School" in Merced, CA from 8/28/1942 to 10/28/1942. Castle was a flying school for those classified as pilots. Following his service at here, Cadet Mike Thieme received his wings and went on to become a Flight Officer at Williams Field in Mesa, AZ. He stayed at this base from 11/1/1942 to 1/3/1943. Mike met his future wife, Betty Ann Ragsdale, while stationed at Castle Air Base in Merced, CA. They were married in 1942 in Arizona where Mike had been transferred. Their daughter Betty Ann, Jr. was born in Tucson, AZ in 1943. From Arizona, they were stationed in Bruning, Nebraska where they lived in a farm house that had been divided into living space for several families. During the war it was common for people to modify their houses by hanging curtains to divide rooms, turn living rooms into bedrooms, etc. to rent space out to servicemen. Betty Ann said that the farmer would come quietly into their room in the mornings when the baby started crying and took the baby into the warm kitchen to play until the parents woke up. He loved babies!
One of the families sharing the Bruning farmhouse was Bill Bontley and his wife. They became good friends. Bill was one of the other pilots who ended up in Romania but survived the war. Mike and Betty’s plan was to move to California after the war where Mike wanted to become a high school music teacher. He loved children as well as music.
At Bruning Airfield Mike was assigned with his crew to a B-24 Liberator Bomber, Tail #11, serial #41-292175 on 20 Oct. '43. They named the plane "Betty Ann” after his new wife. Mike and his crew with 2LT Gilbert Malrait flew overseas to the European theater. Each crew flew his aircraft overseas by a route which took them to southern Florida, on to Puerto Rico and thence to Brazil. The Atlantic crossing was made from Brazil to Dakar, Africa. From Dakar the planes flew north to Tunis by way of Marrakech. From Tunis they flew to their forward operating base at Grottaglie Field near Taranto, Italy. F/O William Thieme had his first accident while flying overseas. The B-24 "Betty Ann" encountered severe icing conditions over West-Africa. The crew was forced to bail out on 15 Dec. '43.
Thirteen bailed out successfully but Captain Hiero Hays was KIA when his chute failed to open. F/O William Thieme flew 17 missions from Grottaglie and was killed on fatal mission #40 targeting the marshalling yards of Bucharest. The B-24 was hit by flak and enemy fighters and crashed in flames near Bucharest. The pilot, co-pilot and navigator were unable to escape the flames but Thieme ordered the others to abandon the ship.
Bill was loved by every one and was a great loss of a exceptional pilot. Mike Thieme was buried at a civil cemetery in Giurgiu, Rumania together with seven of his crewmates. Some time later Thieme was excavated by the American Graves Registration Service and reinterred at the temporary American military cemetery at Sinaia, Rumania. Later on the remains were disinterred and transferred to a central identification laboratory for final identification.
In 1950 his remains were repatriated to the USA as the request of his family. And finally F/O William Michael Thieme Jr. was buried with full military honors on June 3, 1950 at Fairfax Cemetery in his home town of Fairfax, Oklahoma. He left his 7 month old daughter Betty Ann Jr. and his wife Betty Ann Thieme. He was survived by his parents, Bill and Bonnie Thieme and sisters Mildred, Billie and Lucille. He will always be remembered as a wonderful person, loved by everyone who knew him. I hope that this man’s life and what he stood for will never be forgotten. His wife Betty Ann has never forgotten her first love, Mike. Betty Ann was born in Merced, CA on October 4, 1924 and passed away on May 27, 2007 in Woodland CA. She was 82 years old.
Mike's name is engraved on the small Memorial wall at Fairfax, Oklahoma his hometown.
Here the MACR pages, diary page (see 4 April), letter to Betty Ann, Mike's grave.
Letters from Cpl Louis Lannon and his parents to Mike's wife Betty Ann Thieme and article on newspaper.
F/O William Mike Thieme recieved several Awards.See the originals by click on the names.
Air Medal with one oak leave cluster.
World War II Victory Medal.
American Defence Service Medal.
Purple Heart Medal.
On the left the box with all the original pilot Wings, Awards Ribbons and buttons of F/O William Mike Thieme.
Purple Heart, Citation of honor, Honorable Discharge paper.
Here the individual flight records of F/O William Thieme.
My very special thanks go to Betty Ann Thieme Blankenship for the pictures and story of her father F/O William Michael Thieme Jr. -- Mike to his friends.