Smithwick Genealogy

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William Smithwick Johnston, Sr.

William Smithwick Johnston, Sr.[1]

Male 1922 - 2017  (94 years)

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  • Name William Smithwick Johnston 
    Suffix Sr. 
    Nickname Bill 
    Born 15 Feb 1922  Waterbury, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 10 Feb 2017  Litchfield, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried 15 Feb 2017  St. Joseph Cemetery, Waterbury, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I202  Smithwick Family Tree | Smithwicks in the US
    Last Modified 20 Feb 2017 

    Father William George Johnston,   b. Aug 1885, Thomaston, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Sep 1947, Thomaston, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 62 years) 
    Mother Mary C. Smithwick,   b. 18 Aug 1886, Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick, IE Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Nov 1974, Thomaston, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 88 years) 
    Married 14 Jul 1914  St. Joseph's Church, Bristol, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F65  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Catherine McElligott,   b. 29 Mar 1924, Waterbury, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Apr 1997  (Age 73 years) 
    Married 22 Oct 1949  Immaculate Conception Basilica, Waterbury, CT, US Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Living
    +2. Living
     3. Living
    +4. Living
    +5. Living
    Last Modified 23 Aug 2016 
    Family ID F71  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Bill and Catherine Johnston Wedding
    Bill and Catherine Johnston Wedding
    Bill Johnston
    Bill Johnston

  • Notes 
    • Remembrance from Monica (Johnston) Pepicelli:

      Friends - this is a bit long but the war stories are interesting to read

      Wanted to let you know that my 95 year old father (William S. Johnston) passed late yesterday afternoon. His passing, while not tragic at his age and because he has lived a vibrant and full life, will still be tinged in sadness. My dad was part of the "greatest generation" as that era of Americans are now referred in vast appreciation. He was an Ivy League graduate (Brown) and started his own successful advertising firm (Johnston Marketing Group) in Tarrytown NY, in the 1970?s, after having spent 10 years at TWA.

      He left college in his senior year and served as an Captain in the US Army Air Force in WWII as a pilot of a B24 Liberator and was a Squadron Leader in the USAAF 7th Bomb Group out of India and bombing the Japanese along the Burma railway. His goal was to cut off communications and the transport of ammunition and supplies by the Japanese. He was also tasked to fly gasoline (and sometimes alcohol :-) ) from India to China to supply American and British Air Bases deep in China.

      A few stories from his WWII career:

      His route was over the hump (or Himalaya Mountains from Kuprmitola India (now Dhaka, Bangladesh), to Chengdu, Sichuan or Kanchow China. The route was known as one of the most difficult anywhere. My dad had to fly over trackless jungles in Burma and the rugged uncharted Himalayas (the highest mountain range in the world, with extremely unpredictable weather such as monsoons, thunderstorms and winds over 100 miles/hr. He and his crew would fly between 12,000 and 30,00 feet in an unpressurized plane with a leather jacket, hat and oxygen mask! Imagine doing that today!!!

      His Colonel wanted to be more effective with the bombing of the supply lines and devised a new concept: ?Dive? Bombing in a B-24, a huge feet given the size of these planes. They achieved this by installing a bomb release button on the pilots wheel. The method was to approach the target at around 5,000 ft and ?diving? down to a pullout between 1000 to 1500 feet or less, depending on terrain, giving the B24 pilots the opportunity to drop down low, aim the plane and drop the bombs. The planes generally cruised at 156 t0 170 mph, so when they pulled out of a dive it was at around 200 to 210 mph giving the plane a nice upsweep with those big wings. The success of this bombing technique allowed my dad and his squadron to make three passes at a supply dump target to ensure accuracy so as not to endanger the POW camps right next to the supply dumps. Mission achieved!

      He was the first to bomb the Bridge over the River Kwai (and yes, someone else claimed it but he knew it inside and that was enough for him). And unlike the bridge in the movie, which was made of bamboo, and destroyed by Alec Guinness, the real bridge was a steel reinforced bridge seen below in current condition repaired from the bombing (photos below). Beyond that, he led the longest military flight in the ENTIRE war on a bombing mission from central India "thru/not over" the Himalayas to eastern China and back.

      He was awarded the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Pacific Service Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge and the American Services Medal.

      When the war was over, he returned to Brown University to finish his college education and begin his career in advertising with a job selling the Today Show with Jack Parr. He then moved to TWA for most of the 60?s and made sure his family was able to travel all over the US and Europe to experience different cultures. ($5pp back then?Yes! Standby at $5 per person!)

      Dad was an exceedingly decent and modest man of great integrity. He was a gentleman always and is a man who leaves a big shadow over our family which numbers 23 children and offspring. He outlived my mom, Catherine by 20 years. He leaves his loving family of four daughters and his devoted son and four sons-in-law and of course, his grandchildren. He was a great dad who always loved adventure. He wanted his family to experience all the world had to offer.

  • Sources 
    1. [S219] Obituary - William S. Johnston Sr., (Waterbury Republican),
      William S. Johnston Sr., born Feb. 15, 1922, passed away peacefully on Friday, Feb. 10. He was 94.

      Bill graduated from The Taft School and continued his education at Brown University before entering the Army Air Corps in 1943. As a U.S. Army Air Force captain, he served with distinction flying B-24 Liberators in the China-Burma-India theater (CBI), where he was squadron leader on the longest B-24 mission of World War II.

      Capt. Johnston was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf clusters, the Air Medal and numerous other awards.

      After the war, he graduated Brown and began a successful career in New York as a marketing executive, eventually founding his own advertising and marketing agency, The Johnston Marketing Group in Tarrytown N.Y. He retired to Thomaston and was active in local politics, having been elected Thomaston town treasurer.

      Bill was predeceased by his wife of 47 years, Catherine McElligott of Waterbury.

      He is survived by his five children, Catherine and Robert Mullin of Acton, Mass., Dr. Elizabeth Johnston-O'Connor (B.J) and her husband Daniel of Newtown, William S. Johnston Jr. of Thomaston, Denise and Robert Cypher of Rye, N.Y., Monica and Joseph Pepicelli of Littleton, Mass.; and his 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

      Arrangements: Calling hours will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Lyons Funeral Home, 46 High St. in Thomaston. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Thomas Catholic Church on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Burial with full military honors will follow in Old St. Joseph Cemetery in Waterbury.

      In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation (IWMF), 6144 Clark Center Ave., Sarasota, FL 34238.