P. Pratt was born on June 1, 1912, in Sarasota, Florida.
He learned to fly early on in life, soloing at the age
of sixteen. He met Verna Parnell of Lake City, Florida
and on January 23, 1939, they were married. He was sixteen;
she was eighteen. Billy and Vera had three daughters -
Barbara, Sheila and Cheryl, and two sons - Billy, Jr.
joined the Army Air Corps on November 25, 1942, at Orlando,
Florida. His flight training began in Nashville, Tennessee
and progressed to Maxwell Field, Alabama, George Field
Illinois, and finally to Lockbourne Army Air Base in Columbus,
Ohio. At Lockbourne, he served with the 76th Bomb Wing,
2214th Base Unit, as a B-17 pilot.
late October of 1944, Billy was transferred to Smoky Hill
Army Air Field in Salina, Kansas, and in a month of flew
a B-29 for the first time. It was at Salina, that Pratt
met and was assigned to Sterling Pile's crew (P-32) as
co-pilot and began B-29 combat training. The cold Kansas
winter restricted training severely so the group was moved
to Havana Cuba for six weeks in January to complete their
returning from Cuba, the crew picked up their brand new
B-29 in Wichita, and after overseas staging, departed
for North Field, Guam pacific station for the 39th Bomb
Group. Pratt elected to stay in the service after WWII
and continued doing which he loved best - Flying. By August
of 1950, he was back in the pacific flying B-29 combat
missions in the Korean War. He was promoted to Major,
and assigned as operations officer for the 371st Bomb
Squadron of the 307th Bomb Group. He made it safely through
65 combat missions but sustained the loss of his flight
engineer and best friend of four years, August Hinrichs.
Ironically, he was killed while on temporary assignment
to another B-29 that was lost in combat.
Korea, Billy was assigned 8th Air Force, 77 th S.R.S at
R.C. Air Base in Weaver, South Dakota. There he piloted
the massive ten engine B-36, Peacemaker, the largest bomber
ever built. In 1952, he was transferred to Furstenfeldbruck,
Germany where he flew B-29s with 12th Air Force, 105th
R.C.F. By now his flight time with the B-29s reached 3,
350 hours. Later he was transferred to 317th T.C.W. flying
C-119G. In 1957, Pratt was sent back to the States where
he trained in jet fighter aircraft. Upon completion he
joined the 2nd Air Force, 68th Bomb Wing, 65th Bomb Squadron.
There at Chennault Air Force Base, Lake Charles, Louisiana,
he flew the B-47 Stratojet bomber.
after 21 years of service, retired from the Air Force
as a command pilot in 1963. He began flying for Air America,
a covert air operation in Southeast Asia. This marked
the third time he flew combat - This time in Vietnam and
Laos. For eight years, he flew under the most demanding
conditions. Though landing and take-off in frequent torrential
rains from narrow, muddy primitive airstrips carved into
mountain terrain, he never lost a crew or aircraft in
Pratt died in on September 22, 1971, after a lengthy and
losing battle with cancer. At the time of his demise,
he was qualified in 36 various aircraft ranging from single
engine to STOL aircraft to jet fighters, to multi-engine
bombers. He spent nearly 16,000 hours of his life doing
that which he loved - Flying.