William Kennedy was born on January 27, 1934, in Alabama. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on August 21, 1952, and completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in October 1952. Amn Kennedy next attended Radio Operator School at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from November 1952 to June 1953, followed by service as a radio operator with the 1993rd Mobility Communications Squadron at Seoul City AB, South Korea, from September 1953 to July 1954. Sgt Kennedy served as a radio operator with the 566th Operations Squadron at Hamilton AFB, California, from July to September 1954, and then as an Operations NCO with Detachment 2 of the 4772nd Ground Observer Squadron at Hamilton from October 1954 to March 1958. His next assignment was as a Radio Operations Supervisor with the 734th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron in Morocco from March to October 1958, followed by service as a Sales Store Specialist with the 809th Combat Support Group at MacDill AFB, Florida, from November 1958 to March 1961. Sgt Kennedy served as a KC-97 Stratotanker Airborne Radio Operator with the 306th Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill AFB from March 1961 to June 1962, followed by service as an Airborne Radio Operator with the 3960th Combat Support Group at Andersen AFB, Guam, from June 1962 to August 1963. He remained at Andersen AFB as a radio operator with the 27th Communications Squadron from August 1963 to June 1965, and then as a KC-135 Stratotanker Airborne Radio Operator and Instructor Radio Operator with the 28th Air Refueling Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, from July 1965 to March 1968. His next assignment was as an MC-130E Combat Talon I Airborne Radio Operator with the 7th Special Operations Squadron at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from April 1968 to February 1971, and during this time he participated as Radio Operator aboard the MC-130E "Cherry One" during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. Sgt Kennedy next served as a C-130E Airborne Radio Operator with Detachment 2 of the 318th Special Operations Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from February to October 1971, followed by service as a C-130E Airborne Radio Operator with the 90th Special Operations Squadron at Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam, from October 1971 to April 1972. Sgt Kennedy served as a C-130E Airborne Radio Operator with the 1st Special Operations Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from April to September 1972, and then at Pope AFB from September 1972 to April 1974. His final assignment was as an MC-130E Airborne Radio Operator with the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, from April 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 1, 1974.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Technical Sergeant William A. Kennedy distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the Prisoner of War Search and Rescue Operation at Son Tay, North Vietnam, on 21 November 1970. On that date, Sergeant Kennedy performed as Radio Operator on the lead aircraft of the force penetrating deep into enemy territory to rescue United States Prisoners of War interned at Son Tay. Completely aware of the enemy antiaircraft and surface-to-air missile threats enroute and in the objective area, Sergeant Kennedy totally disregarded his personal safety and skillfully performed his duties which significantly contributed to effective control of the entire force. As a result of Sergeant Kennedy's heroic efforts, the force arrived at Son Tay as planned, the enemy forces were completely surprised, and the mission was successfully completed. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Kennedy has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.