by Lynn F. Bianchi
(Alex City, AL)
The crew of No No Cleo
Captain Willis Fuller flew his B-24 Liberator out of San Pancrazio, Italy. Nicknamed "Lil' Pud" for his little four year old daughter, the plane was brand new. As the story was told to us, he was bumped from his scheduled mission by a group of headquarters officers who needed the mission to finish their quota. It exploded on take-off, and a maintenance person later stood court martial and was executed for sabotage.
And so it was in another plane, "Alabama Bill", that Captain Fuller was nearly killed on a mission to Ploesti. Anti-aircraft flak severely damaged the controls of the plane. He gave the crew the choice of bailing out or taking a chance on a very bumpy ride. Because he was the youngest man in his crew, and the only one with a child, the men enjoyed calling him "Pappy". They chose to stay with Pappy and take the chance. He brought the heavily damaged plane in safely. In doing so, he made some pioneering discoveries that helped with the development of the auto pilot mechanisms. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He always said, "I had a great crew, a good group of guys." This picture is of his crew of No No Cleo. Captain Fuller is standing, the third man from the left.