The Nebraska Signal
02 February 2000
William Joseph Schleif was born to William Schleis and Rose (Kasik) Schleis on May 17, 1918, in Milligan and passed away on Jan., 16, 2000, in San Ramon, Calif., at age eighty-one and eight months. He was second of five children. At age two, his family moved to a farm northwest of Milligan. He attended School District 33 through the eighth grade, and attended Milligan High School graduating with the Class of 1936.
Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Sept. 4,1940, and served his first tour on the USS Chicago-a heavy cruiser. He served a year on this ship before transferring to the Naval Station on Midway Island in November, 1941, as a first contingent of navy personnel to that newly established base. On Dec. 7, that small island came under heavy attack by the Japanese fleet, inflicting heavy damage. He was also there in June, 1942, during the Battle of Midway.
In August, 1942, Bill was transferred to the Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor. In December of that year, he was selected for Naval Aviation Flight Training, graduating in December of 1943, at which time he received his pilot wings and was commissioned Ensign USN. After several months of operational training-including aircraft carrier landings-he was assigned to a carrier fighter squadron and participated in the initial carrier attacks on mainland Japan, the Iwo Jima invasion from start to finish, the Okinawa invasion, and numerous strikes on ships of the Japanese Navy.
During his Naval Career-which spanned thirty years-he flew in several fighter squadrons from aircraft carriers as well as from shore bases. In 1947, his squadron made an historical around-the-world cruise onboard the USS Valley Forge, CVA45, transiting both the Suez and Panama Canals. He served on shore duty at most of the major Naval Air Stations in the United States, including Hawaii. He also made two Mediterranean cruises. In 1952, his squadron was one of the first to transfer from reciprocating to reaction engine aircraft, i.e., jets.
Bill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals, and several battle stars. During his flying career, he accumulated over 5,000 flight hours and several hundred carrier landings. He enjoyed flying and had the greatest respect for Naval Aviation. He believed that carrier takeoffs and landings represented the highest degree of flying skill and professional ability any pilot could undertake, especially at night aboard a rolling, pitching carrier deck.
Bill retired from the Navy in 1970 with the rank of Commander. Since his retirement, he and his wife, "B," have made thein home in San Ramon, Calif.
He is preceded in death by his parents, two sisters, Rose Uldrich and Mildred Becker, and brother, Fred W. Schleis.
He is survived by his wife, Bernice; daughters, Patricia Bernice Tankersley of Wellington, New Zealand, and Sharon Ann Schleis of St. Louis, Mo.; son, William Michael Schleis of San Leandro, Calif.; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; sister, Ann Newman of Geneva; cousins, Jean Molde of Reno, Nev., and Len Schropfer of Milligan; nephews, Frederick Schleis and Billy Newman, both of Fairmont, Robert Newman and Norman Uldrich, both of Grand Island, Charles Uldrich of Milligan, and Eddie Uldrich of Mt. Vernon, Washington; nieces, Nina Verzani of Geneva, Jackie Tucker of Grand Island, Nori Uldrich of San Pedro, Calif., and Rose Lee Basso and Donna Fredell, both of Lincoln.
In the spring, memorial services will be held in Geneva, and Bill's ashes will be buried at the Bohemian National Cemetery.
CARD OF THANKS
We want to thank everyone for the sympathy cards, flowers, and acts of kindness shown at the time of our loss of our husband, father and brother-William Joseph Schleis.
CLARA BERNICE SCHIEIS,
PATRICIA BERNICE TANKERSLEY,
SHARON ANN SCHLEIS,
WILLIAM MICHAEL SCHLEIS,