taking his friends on board. He fell in love with the air."
A decorated World War II hero, Bill Dickey died Aug. 3 of
Alzheimer's disease. He was 84.
Bill Dickey, born in Santa Ana, spent most of his childhood living
on the Balboa Peninsula, right in the heart of the downtown.
He was a Newport Harbor High School graduate; he spent summers
working in a shipyard; and for a short time, he was the manager of
Bill Dickey began his military career in 1942 in the Naval
Reserves, stationed at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
He was then transferred to Pensacola, Fla.
During the war, as a Navy pilot, he flew aboard the U.S. escort
carrier Fanshaw Bay. Dickey earned the Distinguished Flying Cross
medal for helping turn back Japanese battleships, cruisers and
destroyers that attempted to destroy his carrier division in the
Battle of Leyte Gulf. He was the first pilot to sight the Japanese
fleet in the battle.
He won the Air Medal for "intercepting a large formation of ...
[Japanese] bombing planes striking at the invasion ships in Leyte
Gulf," according to a military report.
Dickey, who also participated in the battles of Saipan and Tinian,
received the medals in a 1945 ceremony in San Diego.
"He was a very patriotic man," said Darlene Dickey, Don Dickey's
After leaving the Navy, Bill Dickey traveled to Kansas City to get
his commercial piloting license.
"He practically went from a Navy uniform to a TWA uniform in a
matter of months," Don Dickey said.
Bill Dickey stayed with TWA for more than 30 years, flying both
domestic and international flights. He also flew his own private
Bill Dickey spent much of his adult life in San Juan Capistrano.
He stayed connected to Newport Beach by competing in local yacht
"He was a very strong character -- very energetic," Don Dickey
said. "He was very helpful to his family."
Though he rarely talked about his time in the service, Bill Dickey
was known to bring home mementos, such as a down sleeping bag he gave
to Don Dickey when he was 14 years old.
Don Dickey said his brother was especially close to his mother,
Martha. The two went to lunch almost every day they were in the same
"He was a class A gentleman," Darlene Dickey said.
* ELIA POWERS may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or