Bill Vanosdal: The Pilot

Take a ride north of Edmond to the Myrick Kitty Hawk Airport and find yourself transported back in time.  There you will find Dr. William (Bill) VanOsdol, professor emeritus at the University of Central Oklahoma and military veteran, coddling his blue and white Cessna Cardinal or his restored Navy NC-65 airplane, along with a restored 1943 Navy Willys Jeep.

And in case you’re wondering who flies those planes—Bill does. The seventy-nine year old licensed psychologist and pilot has been flying for sixty years, starting with his Navy stint in 1945-1947.  What’s more, he has owned his own plane for many of those years.  Retired from UCO in 1993, the Navy veteran now finds his greatest enjoyment in flying and doing World War II research.

This past summer VanOsdol flew to an air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, taking a pilot friend with him.  “There were probably about 12,000 to 15,000 planes there.  We set up tent and camped under the wings for four to five days and played with airplanes,” he said with a laugh.

Though his wife often reminds him that he is too old for such trips, VanOsdol takes it in stride, saying, “I’m much younger than the person I stare at in the mirror.”

The soft-spoken pilot has had an interesting career as a professor and author of a dozen books—seven textbooks, two WWII non-fiction books and three novels.

Dr. VanOsdol began his teaching career as a football coach and special education teacher, later working as a flight instructor before returning to school to receive his doctorate in Psychology.  

In 1964 he joined the UCO staff in Edmond, becoming the Chair of the Special Education Department.  It was during those early years that VanOsdol realized the books for special education were too clinical.  He teamed up with Don G. Shane to write a more “hands-on” book for those studying to become teachers.  Psychology of the Exceptional Child has been revised five times and was adopted by sixty-seven universities.  More books followed.

After retirement from UCO, VanOsdol plunged into his longtime passion—writing about World War II.  The author has traveled the world, researching WWII sites from the River Bridge Kwai in Thailand to Hitler’s Eagle Nest near Dachau.  He has researched the V2 and V3 sites in France and Belgium, Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland, Normandy D-Day, Bunkers in Holland, Bastogne Battle of the Bulge, Arnhem Market Garden in Holland, plus many other sites.

It brings back memories of his time in the Navy.  “We left the Pacific Ocean on April 8, 1946 on the aircraft carrier, USS Barnes,” he said.  The ship decommissioned in Boston.  From there VanOsdol boarded another ship, eventually arriving at his port home in Plymouth England.

“When we went into Plymouth, that city was absolutely destroyed,” he said.  “In fact, King George came down while we were there for a rebuilding dedication to the city. It was bombed for many days during the blitz, way back in ‘40 and ‘41—the early years of the war.”

While in the Navy, VanOsdol also traveled to France, Ireland and other countries, including Holland.  “The main thing I saw there was just absolute starvation,” he said.  “Holland was devastated at the end of ’44 and early ’45, before the war was over. Those people were starving to death—literally.  They burned—tore down—9,000 houses for firewood to keep warm.”


In 2000, VanOsdol spent time as a Navy PACE (Program At Sea College Education) instructor aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln. Then in 2007, he spent two months on the newest Navy aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan as a PACE instructor, flying from San Diego to Hawaii, then on to Guam where a Navy plane picked him up, flew to and landed onboard the ship, which sailed on to Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.  On his return flight, he especially enjoyed the take-off from the Navy carrier’s four and half acre flight deck.

“That was a thrill, flying off that thing,” said VanOsdol.  “Catapult off–go from zero to 170 mph in three seconds!  It kind of freezes your body for a little while.  You can’t move.”  

But some of his most fun times have been flying a B-17 “flying fortress” across Minnesota, Illinois, Canada, Alaska and other places.  

“It’s a dream to fly that B-17,” said VanOsdol.  “Sit there and act like a World War II pilot.”   

The retired professor and author has done reams of research for the books he has written.  Famous Faces of World War II contains 190 photos and profiles of Americans of that era—movie stars, athletes, politicians, military people and more.

“About fourteen are Oklahoma people,” said VanOsdol.

From Whence They Fall is a fiction work that takes place during World War II. The sequel, The Ultimate Human Evil—Odessa, is with a New York agent, awaiting publication.

Along with flying, VanOsdol has been writing most of his life. He wrote a story about how he met his future wife, Beverly.  The story was chosen for an ABC network show and they were married on a Hollywood set. The VanOsdols have celebrated 57 years of marriage and have three sons and seven grandchildren.

Dr. VanOsdol is always looking for stories for future books.  “There are thousands of stories out there that are just phenomenal,” he said.  He is also available to speak at WWII events.

To contact Bill VanOsdol concerning his books, or to submit a story, call 341-0153 (home) or 282-3254 (airport).  You may e-mail him at [email protected]

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