William M. Cover

[Age 84 ] The World War II pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals for his aerial achievements.

January 04, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

William M. Cover, a decorated World War II pilot and retired home builder, died Sunday after surgery for an aneurysm at St. Joseph Medical Center. The former longtime Hamilton resident was 84.

Mr. Cover was born in Baltimore and raised on Fulton Avenue. After graduating from City College in 1940, he worked at Bendix Corp. before enlisting in the Army Air Forces in 1943.

After completing flight training, Mr. Cover was sent to India where he joined the 11th Cargo Combat Squadron flying C-46s and C-47s over the Himalayas. Their mission was supplying Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist Army in Japanese-occupied eastern China and Southeast Asia.

"The Humpsters flew unarmed two- and four-engine cargo planes through some of the worst weather in the world. They suffered horrendous attrition, losing more than one thousand men and nearly four hundred airplanes over four years," wrote Richard Rhodes in a 1986 article in American Heritage.

Because the route they flew was so strewn with wreckage, pilots nicknamed it the "Aluminum Highway."

"He had plenty of hair-raising stories to tell," said a daughter, Kathleen M. Tarleton of Phoenix, Baltimore County, with whom Mr. Cover had lived since last year. "He talked about how difficult the flying was and how many friends he had lost."

Mr. Cover and his fellow pilots transported military personnel, equipment and supplies, and evacuated casualties.

"The flying conditions were always treacherous and foggy, and planes were heavily loaded. However, he never lost one," said sister-in-law Carol M. Napoli of South Bend, Ind., who recorded Mr. Cover's wartime experiences last year.

For his efforts, Mr. Cover, who attained the rank of lieutenant, was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two clusters and a Presidential Unit Citation. He was also decorated by the Chinese government with the Breast Order of Yun Hui.

Mr. Cover was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement in aerial flight."

Mr. Cover enjoyed talking about his wartime experiences.

"He was a good storyteller, and my children loved to hear him talk. They saw him as a living piece of World War II history," Mrs. Napoli said.

After being discharged in 1946, Mr. Cover returned to Baltimore and joined his brothers, who owned and operated a seafood house and raw bar on Hillen Street.

He later worked selling homes until establishing Bayco Corp. in 1972, a custom home builder that mainly constructed homes on the Eastern Shore. He retired and closed the business in 1984.

Mr. Cover enjoyed building models of World War II-era aircraft and watching sporting events. He was an active member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9083 in Parkville.

He was a longtime communicant of St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton.

A memorial service will be held at noon today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Also surviving are his wife of 55 years, the former Mary Louise Kirk; two sons, Charles K. Cover of Annapolis and Steven R. Cover of Westminster; another daughter, Cassandra Rolf of Atlanta; and eight grandchildren.


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