Born in Clifton Forge, Virginia, on April 10, 1921, Overstreet interrupted his studies at West Virginia’s Morris Harvey College to enlist in the US Army Air Forces in February 1942. Months later, he became an aviation cadet and earned his wings in a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter.
Sent to Europe as a P-51 Mustang pilot with the 357th Fighter Group, Overstreet flew escort missions to protect heavy bombers on long-distance raids. Bill always had a smile and his eyes were the brightest blue you had ever seen, and his heroics during the war are no secret (flying under the Eiffel tower during a dog-fight, flying over 100 European missions, being shot down twice, escaping his captors, receiving the French Legion of Honor, etc). He would talk about his flight under the Eiffel tower, because he knew that is what people wanted to hear; however, he would always talk about the men who did not make it back.
Perhaps my most exciting wartime event happened in August 1944. My Mustang stayed hot on the tail of a Messerschmitt Me 109G over Paris. Obviously, the German pilot flew over Paris anticipating that the heavy German anti-aircraft artillery would solve his problem and eliminate me. We had a running dogfight, and I got some hits at about 1,500 feet. I was flying my P- 51C, the Berlin Express.
The German’s engine was hit and I persisted through the intense enemy flak. As a last resort, the Me 109 pilot aimed his aircraft at the Eiffel Tower and, in a breathtaking maneuver, flew beneath it. Unshakeable, I followed him underneath, scoring several more hits in the process. The German plane crashed several blocks away, and I escaped the heavy flak around Paris by flying low and full-throttle over the river. When asked what I was thinking when I flew under the tower, my comment has always been, “I’m not sure. I was a little busy.”