Highlighting Kirtland History at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941

  • Published
  • By Christopher McCune
  • 58th Special Operations Wing Historian

In commemoration of the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Kirtland Air Force Base highlights 1st Lt. William R. Schick, who served at Kirtland Field, then Albuquerque Army Air Base, from May-December 1941.  A native of Clinton, Iowa, Lt. Schick received a medical degree from the University of Illinois in July 1940, then received his commission in June 1941 prior to his assignment to the 19th Bombardment Group, which was training in Albuquerque AAB at the time prior to its deployment to the Phillipine Islands later that year.  Lt. Schick and his wife, Lois, a nurse, quickly integrated themselves into the local community, and also volunteered at Jemez Pueblo to help provide medical services to the tribe.

Following the completion of an 11-week Aviation Medical Examiner course at Randolph Field, Texas, Lt Schick received orders to join the 19 BG at Clark Field on December 3.  Schick departed Albuquerque with a B-17 aircrew, stopping briefly at Hamilton Field, California, before continuing on to Hickam Field, Hawaii, at 9:15 p.m. on December 6. 

The aircrew arrived in Hawaiian airspace on the morning of December 7, in the midst of the first wave of the Pearl Harbor attack.  The aircrew inadvertently flew into an engagement between Japanese Zeros and anti-aircraft ground forces, and was hit in the fuselage, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing several hundred yards from the Hickam hangars as smoke filled the cockpit.  The crew, including Lt. Schick, immediately sprinted for shelter as the runway was strafed by a Japanese Zero.  Lt. Schick was struck in the head and subsequently pulled to safety by the other crew members, but later died from his injuries, becoming the first aviation surgeon to lose his life in World War II.  Eight and a half months later, Schick's son William Richmann Schick was born, and was swaddled in his father's silk parachute at his baptismal.  The William R. Schick Clinic at Hickam Air Force Base is named in his honor.