World War I Ace Buried
IRONTON, Ohio (AP) — William Lambert
, one of America's forgotten heroes from another era, was buried Tuesday.
A small crowd accompanied him to a hilltop grave overlooking Ironton, where he spent most of his life.
Lambert was the nation's longest surviving World War I flying ace. He was credited with shooting down 22 German aircraft, second only to the more flamboyant Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker
, who died in 1973.
"He was a great hero, but when he came back from the war he did nothing to gain glory," said Royal Frey, the retired curator of the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
"He could have been more famous than he was, but he wasn't impressed with his own importance," Frey said.
For many years, Lambert talked of his exploits only with fellow fliers. Even then, he shied away from reunions, where the talk was sure to dwell on memories he'd rather keep quiet.
"That's why I don't like to get together with these old vets," he told a reporter a few years ago. "Right away, they start going back to 1918."
Lambert, who lived alone since his wife died in 1971, had no children. He died last Friday after a long illness at 87.
"He'd bark, and I'd bark right back," Frey said, recalling his talks with Lambert. "He and Eddie Rickenbacker were a lot alike that way. But he was a lovely old gentleman with a great sense of humor."
A half-dozen distant relatives attended the brief services Tuesday, along with about 30 others. A few more people were at the cemetery to see the military send-off which included an Air Force color guard, 21-gun salute and a formation of jets flying overhead.
"For years, the people next door to him didn't know anything about him or what he had done," Frey said. "And that was OK with him."
Lambert was buried in the lieutenant colonel's uniform he earned during World War II.
There was no U.S. Air Force when he began flying; the United States had not entered the war in 1916, when Lambert enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in Canada.
He was credited with all his "kills" during three months of 1918. That August he was presented the British Distinguished Flying Cross by the future King of England.
In his later years, Lambert painted his recollections of World War I air battles and wrote two books, "Combat Report" and "Barnstorming and Girls."
Marysville Journal-Tribune (Marysville, Ohio) - Wednesday, March 24, 1982