Bill Byrns was born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1943. He was commissioned through Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on November 17, 1967. Byrns next went through pilot training at Williams AFB, Arizona, and earned his pilot wings in December 1968. After F-4 Phantom II training, he was stationed with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing flying out of Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from October 1969 to October 1970. He was reassigned to the 434th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 479th Tactical Fighter Wing before returning to Southeast Asia in June 1971. Col Byrns was shot down by antiaircraft fire on May 23, 1972, while flying a fast forward air control mission over North Vietnam. He was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War and spent the next 309 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973. After being hospitalized for injuries he received, Byrns went back on flying status as an instructor pilot on the F-4E. He was assigned to the Allied Tactical Operations Center at Sembach AB, West Germany in June 1978 and returned to the United States in 1982 when he was assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, Florida. At Homestead, Col Byrns served as Chief of Wing Weapons and Tactics, Operations Officer of the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Commander of the 31st Tactical Training Squadron, and Wing Chief of Safety. From August 1988 to August 1990, he served with Headquarters 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, as the Director of Safety. From August 1990 to July 1993, Col Byrns served as the Deputy Commander for the 347th Operations Group at Moody AFB, Georgia. During this time he flew combat missions in the F-16 Fighting Falcon in Desert Storm. His final assignment was as Professor of Aerospace Studies for the Air Force ROTC Detachment at Kansas State University from July 1993 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1997. Col Byrns is a command pilot with over 4,200 hours of flying time with 894 combat hours amassed over 428 combat missions in two wars. Bill Byrns married Joanne Garrison and they have two children, Scott and Sarah.
His 6th Distinguished Flying Cross reads:
Captain William G. Byrns distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4D Aircraft Commander over Southeast Asia on 29 April 1972. On that date, Captain Byrns displayed exceptional airmanship and courage while on a night strike against vital hostile supply, storage, and communication networks in North Vietnam. Despite surface-to-air missile defenses, radar controlled heavy caliber antiaircraft artillery and the threat of numerous hostile interceptor aircraft, he delivered his ordnance on target with the extreme precision, and accurate timing required to achieve the highest degree of success and safety. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Byrns reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.