More detail on this person: Bill Fulbright BILL FULBRIGHT, CW4 U.S. Army (retired), of Montgomery, Texas, died Thursday. He was 77. Fulbright led a hero's life. Born in Batesville, Arkansas, November 18, 1928, he lived with his parents until the age of 5 when his father died, his mother left to find work, and he and his sister were mistakenly placed in an orphanage and later separated. At age 10 he was adopted but then left home at 15 to join in the military effort in WWII. The military career that followed lasted over 30 years and would eventually establish him as a pioneer in Army Aviation, a hero, and one of the greatest Army pilots that ever flew. His early years in the Army were exciting. He was an accomplished boxer for the Army boxing team. He was a medic. In 1944 he began service as a paratrooper in the Philippines and Japan, and continued as a Jump Master stateside in the late 1940's and early 1950's. From boyhood, Fulbright had always dreamed of flying. Yet he was regrettably color blind, and so unable to become a military pilot. He was able to circumvent this, however, by becoming a civilian pilot, capitalizing on an Army recruitment campaign of civilian pilots, and then devising a way to pass the color blind test (he memorized cues on each card). The rest is, literally, history. In 1954 Fulbright became one of the first graduates of the Army's Warrant Officer Aviation school, as well as one of the first instructor's for the H-21 (a cargo helicopter, known commonly as "the flying banana") transition school. These were to become the first helicopter pilots to serve in Vietnam, Fulbright being one of them in 1962-63. Initially sent to Vietnam to act as an instructor, he became involved in Vietnamese combat operations, and successfully led several dangerous reconnaissance and medevac missions during his tour. In 1963, Fulbright returned to the US and was instrumental in forming a transition course for fixed wing (i.e. Caribou) Army aircraft, and in 1967 secured the use of six US Navy patrol bombers eventually outfitted for surveillance use in Vietnam. In June of 1967 Fulbright was back in Vietnam and, by the end of his tour in 1968, had amassed an impressive total of 1250 combat hours. For his service, he was awarded the Air Medal with 30 Oak Leaf Clusters. Fulbright's Army career continued on until 1975 when he retired. By that time he had logged 8,704 flying hours and was qualified in 25 aircraft types. Few matched the impact he had on early Army Aviation in the 50's and 60's. For his contribution to his country and to military aviation, Fulbright was inducted by his peers, in 2001, into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame, in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. Fulbright continued to fly professionally for another 17 years with Air Logistics/Heliflight Systems until retiring as their chief pilot in 1991. Since then he has spent time flying with his son John (also a pilot), playing golf with his grandsons, and traveling with his wife Jo to visit their many friends around the country. Besides being an exceptional pilot, Fulbright was an excellent dancer. He spoke Japanese too. And to his grandchildren's delight, he learned how to rollerblade. Billy Joe Fulbright was loved by all, and will be sorely missed. He is survived by his wife, Jo A. Fulbright, his son, John Fulbright, his daughter, Shirley Cates, his step-daughter, Vickie David, his step-son, Steven Moore, M.D., eight grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and his sister, Jean Knox.
Burial information: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, TX
This information was last updated 05/11/2018
Please send additions or corrections to: HQ@vhpa.org VHPA Headquarters
Return to the Helicopter Pilot DAT name list
Return to VHPA web site
Date posted on this site: 04/14/2021
Copyright © 1998 - 2020 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association