Ed Dyess was born on August 9, 1916, in Albany, Texas. He went through flight training at Kelly and Randolph Fields in San Antonio, Texas, and was commissioned a 2Lt in the Army Air Corps in 1937. He commanded the 21st Pursuit Squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and led the squadron to Nichols Field in the Philippines in October 1941. The 21st Pursuit Squadron was assigned to the 24th Pursuit Group and suffered heavy casualties after the Japanese attacked in December 1941. While flying P-40 Warhawks, Lt Dyess shot down between 2 and 6 Japanese aircraft, but none were ever officially credited to him due to all squadron records being lost during the war. Dyess helped supervise the evacuation of American forces from the Philippines before he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on April 9, 1942. He and others that surrendered at Bataan began the Bataan Death March that same day. After spending a year as a POW, Ed Dyess escaped from his captors and joined up with Filipino guerillas for several months before being evacuated by a U.S. Navy submarine to Australia in July 1943. After hospitalization, Dyess was assigned to fly P-38 Lightnings in preparation for a return to combat. On December 22, 1943, Lt Col Dyess was killed when he elected to remain with his burning aircraft instead of bailing out over a populated area of Burbank, California. Dyess Air Force Base, in Abilene, Texas, is named in his honor in 1956. Ed Dyess was buried at the Albany Cemetery in Albany, Texas. He was posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor on August 26, 2015.
His 2nd Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to William Edwin Dyess (0-22526), Major (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Philippine Guerilla Forces during the period 4 April 1943 through 20 July 1943. Major Dyess was one of ten men including two Naval Officers, three Air Corps Officers, and two Marine Corps Officers who escaped after nearly a year in captivity after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. The ten men evaded their captors for days until connecting with Filipino Guerillas under Wendell Fertig. The officers remained with the guerillas for weeks, obtaining vital information which they carried with them when they were subsequently evacuated by American submarines. Their escape was the only mass escape from a Japanese prison camp during the war. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Major Dyess during this period have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Prisoner of War, and the United States Army Air Forces.