Noted World War II vet dies
One of Churchill County’s oldest veterans who served as an aviator in World War II passed away in his sleep on March 14, his family reports.
Services for Cecil Quinley will be conducted April 2 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Fallon with a reception to follow. He will be interred at Glenn Oaks Memorial Park at the Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Chico, Calif., at a later date.
Quinley, who turned 100 years old last year, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot whose crew flew 14 missions over Germany in the early 1940s. The crew of Quinley’s B-17, the “Feather Merchant,” trained at Walla Walla, Wash., before their assignment to the 532nd Squadron, 381st Bomb Group at Ridgewell, England.
Quinley graduated as a single-engine pilot, but the need for bomber pilots beckoned the Sacramento native to Europe.
“I thought I was going into fighters, but they needed co-pilots for the B-17,” Quinley said in a 2007 interview with the Lahontan Valley News. “But the B-17 flew just as good (as fighters).”
On the 14th mission, however, the Germans anti-aircraft guns shot down their B-17 near Bremen on Oct. 8, 1943. Quinley said the anti-aircraft fire destroyed the No. 2 engine, which was on Quinley’s side of the plane.
The crew bailed out, but Quinley and seven others were captured and taken to a German prisoner of war camp about 100 miles southeast of Berlin in what is now Poland. Stalag 3 was one of six used for downed British and American airmen. Because the Luftwaffe ran it, Stalag 3 became a model camp.
After the war ended Quinley and thousands of POWs were released. According to Quinley, Patton’s Third U.S. Army’s 14th Armored Division rolled into Stalag 7A and liberated the POWs on April 29, 1945. Quinley said he met Patton and received two Purple Heart medals and several campaign and flying medals. Quinley remained in the inactive U.S. Air Force Reserves and was discharged as a captain in 1962.
In his last interview with the LVN in August, Quinley discussed the official end of World War II and the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
Between V-E Day (Victory Europe) and the time the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, Quinley spent some time on leave. Quinley, though, never flew another wartime mission. He said other pilots, though, volunteered to train on other types of bombers.
“The Japanese gave up before my leave ended. I had received a telegram to take more leave,” Quinley recalled.
Because of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Quinley said the American servicemen did not know much about the effects of the raids except they felt the United States would not do anymore bombing over Tokyo.
Quinley’s military awards included the Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five battle stars, a Distinguished Unit Citation, two Purple Heart Medals, a Prisoner of War medal, and an aerial gunnery marksmanship badge. He was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. Quinley also received numerous Senatorial proclamations both in California and Nevada.
He has an audio-visual interview on file in the United States Library of Congress and was honored with a flag that flew over the White House during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and with a flag from the U.S. Navy’s “Top Gun” school in Fallon.
Recently, Cecil and his wife, Margaret, celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary. The couple married on April 16, 1939 at Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (built in 1889) in downtown Sacramento, Calif. They met in 1936 on a blind date. Cecil and Margaret’s marriage, separation during World War II and the letters they wrote to each other have been documented in the book, “Forever a True Story of Love and War,” which was written by their son Dan, who also resides in Fallon.
After the war the Quinley’s relocated to Chico, Calif., where he worked as a mechanical engineer for Rainbow Bread and later for Chico-San in Chico and Gridley. In 2007, Cecil and Margaret moved to Fallon to be closer to family.
Quinley was born to John Winson Quinley and Cora Belle McCoy-Quinley in Waterford, Calif., in 1915. He was one of 12 children.
He was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, and Our Divine Savior Catholic Church in Chico, and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Fallon.
Quinley is also survived by sons David (Jan) of Arizona; Dennis of California; and Daniel (Leslie) of Fallon. He has seven grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.