William Birch was born on September 7, 1917, in Galexico, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on September 14, 1939, and after serving as an aircraft maintenance technician, he completed bombardier training. Sgt Birch was serving as a B-25 Mitchell bombardier with the 34th Bomb Squadron at Camp Pendleton, Oregon, when he was selected for the Doolittle Mission in February 1942. He served as the bombardier on the 11th B-25 to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) on April 18, 1942, and after bombing targets around Tokyo, the crew flew to China and bailed out when their aircraft ran out of fuel. After returning to the United States, Sgt Birch was accepted into the Aviation Cadet Program in June 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings in June 1943. He then completed B-24 Liberator training before serving as a B-24 instructor pilot in the United States until he left active duty on December 7, 1945. After the war, William worked as a butcher and machinist before working as a commercial helicopter instructor pilot from 1964 until he was forced to retire after a helicopter crash in which he broke his back in the late 60's. William Birch died on November 18, 2006.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942. Sergeant Birch volunteered for this mission knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote, and executed his part in it with great skill and daring. This achievement reflects high credit on Sergeant Birch and the military service.