William F. “Bill” Schreck, an educator and World War II veteran who dropped the last bomb on Japan several days after the United States had attacked the enemy with nuclear weapons, died Dec. 15 of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 90.
Born in 1924 and raised in Uniontown, Pa., Mr. Schreck enlisted in the Army Air Corps after high school and was sent to Guam as a bombardier-navigator. He flew aboard the “Slim II,” a B-29 Superfortress that had been christened by Hollywood movie star Lauren Bacall, who was nicknamed “Slim” by her husband, Humphrey Bogart.
“It was ‘Slim II’ because the first one belly-landed, and they got another one,” Mr. Schreck’s son Tim said.
Mr. Schreck served with the 314th Bombardment Wing, which dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo and other Japanese cities and strategic targets in 1945 in an effort to hasten the war’s end. Despite the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, however, Japan refused to surrender.
So on Aug. 14, 1945, he and his crew took off with more than 40 other bombers on a nighttime raid over Japan. Aboard the last plane to fly over the target, he dropped his payload in the early hours of Aug. 15 and followed the group back to base.
As the first B-29 touched down on the runway in Guam, President Harry Truman announced that the war was over.
“Jubilation was the order of the day at the interrogation afterwards ...” according to the History of the 39th Bomb Group at www.39th.org.
Mr. Schreck’s historic role in the war was reported two days later by The Associated Press on the front page of his hometown newspaper, the Morning Herald of Uniontown, Pa. Almost seven decades later, he spoke about dropping the last bomb of World War II in a news story on KCRA Channel 3.
He received the Air Medal, served a total of two decades on active and reserve duty in the Air Force and retired as a major in the Reserve.
Meanwhile, he graduated from Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania on the GI Bill and earned a master’s degree in education from Miami University in Florida. He began teaching at a junior high school and earned a doctorate in education from Columbia University.
Mr. Schreck spent more than four decades in education in the United States and Latin America. He moved to Sacramento in 1960 as an educational consultant and was an assistant superintendent in the Elk Grove Unified School District. He was a deputy superintendent in Pleasanton for several years and superintendent of the Biggs Unified School District in Butte County.
In 1974, he went to South America for two years with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help set up public schools in Brazil. In 1982, he moved to a U.S. naval station in Puerto Rico and spent 10 years as a teacher, principal and superintendent of all U.S. Department of Defense schools on the island.
He settled in Sacramento after retiring in 1992 and served on the board of the Swallows Nest Country Club Homeowners Association. An avid golfer, he lived with his wife, Virginia, on the ninth green of the club’s golf course.
“He had four holes-in-one, all after he retired,” his son said. “He never talked about dropping the last bomb in World War II, but he loved to talk about his holes-in-one.”
Mr. Schreck is survived by his wife of 64 years and his son. Services are pending.
In lieu of flowers, donations for a scholarship fund that he established for education students may be made to the Elk Grove Regional Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 2021, Elk Grove, CA 95759-2021.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.