William S. Rader, an Air Force brigadier general who flew missions over Europe and the Pacific during World War II, died on Nov. 5 from cardiac arrest. He was 89.
Rader was enrolled in a pilot training program at Wittenberg College, but dropped out in 1940 to enlist as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps. During World War II, Rader flew 17 reconnaissance flights over the Pacific as a B-17 aircraft commander. At one point, his plane was so badly damaged that it fell from the sky and crashed 100 miles from Hawaii. The general floated in the water, supported by his life jacket, for 18 hours before he was rescued. He and his crew then flew 72 missions over Europe, bombing ball-bearing plants and aircraft factories, without losing a single plane or crewman.
In the 1960s, Rader flew “Looking Glass” missions. In the event the underground Strategic Air Command was destroyed, he and his crew were to remain aloft and serve as a nuclear command post.
Rader amassed more than 10,000 hours of flight time during his career, and received the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his leadership skills and bravery. He also earned a degree in military science from the University of Maryland.