Bill Austin was born in 1937 in Simpsonville, South Carolina. He entered Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on June 23, 1960, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on September 20, 1960. Lt Austin next completed Undergraduate Navigator Training and was awarded his Navigator Wings at Harlingen AFB, Texas, in July 1961, followed by Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) training at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from September 1961 to May 1962. After completing RB-47 Stratojet Combat Crew Training, he served as an RB-47 EWO with the 38th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Forbes AFB, Kansas, from July 1962 to January 1965, and then with the 343rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Forbes from January to June 1965. Capt Austin next attended Undergraduate Pilot Training, and was awarded his pilot wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas, in June 1966. After completing Pilot Systems Operator training and F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training, he served as an F-4 pilot systems operator with the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from May 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 7, 1967. Maj Austin spent 1,986 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and then attended Air Command and Staff College there from August 1973 to May 1974. After attending recurrancy pilot training, Col Austin served as Operations Officer and Executive Officer for the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, where he flew A-7 Corsair II and A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from January 1975 to July 1978. His next assignment was as Chief of the Current Operations Division for the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing and Deputy Commander of the 23rd Combat Support Group at England AFB, Louisiana, from July 1978 to April 1981, followed by service as Deputy Commander and then Commander of the 363rd Combat Support Group at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from May 1981 to May 1985. Col Austin's final assignment was as Commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, from July 1985 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1988.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain William R. Austin II distinguished himself by gallantry in action while participating in aerial combat against an opposing foreign force on 26 September 1967. On that date, Captain Austin led a strike force whose mission was to destroy a railroad siding along a highly defended line of communication. Prior to reaching the target, the formation was attacked by hostile aircraft. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Austin retained his ordnance, made repeated attacks against the hostile aircraft, and returned to successfully destroy his assigned target. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Austin has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.