by Melissa LaScaleia
William H. Rutherford was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and joined the United States Air Force where he was a Command fighter pilot for more than thirty years. He also served in the District of Columbia’s National Guard forces as part of his military career.
During his tenure in the military, William was stationed at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base four times— in 1957, 1968, 1970, and 1976. In 1970, during the Vietnam conflict, William was deployed to Cambodia. On May 30, he was responsible for leading a mission against the enemy. Called a strafing mission, he orchestrated the troops to attack targets on the ground from low-flying planes. The mission took place in Parrots Beak.
William was flying an F-100 aircraft when he discovered that his wingman was having problems with his radio. He hastily made a pass over the enemy and dropped a bomb, then flew up to his wingman to offer aid, before making another bombing pass. William attempted a third low-flying bomb-dropping pass, before he was hit by the enemy from the ground. His plane was engulfed in flames, and he was forced to eject himself. When he reached the ground, he was standing in the midst of a group of water buffalo, who were eyeing and sniffing him with hostility. To scare them away, he thought to discharge his pistil, then heard a multitude of firearms all around him, and realized that the animals weren’t disturbed in the least by all of the noise.
He was rescued by a helicopter before the enemy could find him. In total, William served two tours in Vietnam— in 1969 and 1970. He flew a total of 100 combat missions in a number of aircraft including: the F-86H, F-100D, and A-7D.
He served a third tour of duty at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. He served his fourth tour here as well, in June 1976 this time, as the Chief of Airfield Management.
During his time in the military he received the following awards and decorations: the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; Purple Heart; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; and the Meritorious Service Medal.
He retired from the military in 1981. He was instrumental in contributing to the historical information about the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base found throughout the Market Common on signposts, and in the museum. He passed away on May 7, 2008.