Retired USAF Officer to Relate Spy Stories at WWU

“Spies” most commonly refers to people who engage in spying, espionage or clandestine operations. Bruce Williams, a retired United States Air Force (USAF) lieutenant colonel, plans to share his spy stories with William Woods University students.

Bruce-Williams-for-webWilliams might not be considered a spy, but he was a logistics officer for the U-2 spy plane, making sure it stayed in the air. He will discuss the plane and his career in the military at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, in Room 301 of the Academic Building.

While the presentation will feature facts about the U-2 spy plane, Williams also wants to provide students with information they can use to determine and manage their own career paths, and to manage some of life’s pitfalls.

“I want to contrast the unglamorous reality of programs like the U-2 program as a road map for career choices ahead of William Woods students,” said Williams.

The program is sponsored by Dr. Julian Hertzog, professor of education and psychology, who was Williams’ roommate at the University of Florida. Williams graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in economics in 1970, and earned his master’s degree in counseling from Ball State University in 1978.

He served in the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1971 to 1995 as a supply and logistics officer. His assignments with the U-2 plane included Beale AFB, Calif., the home of the U-2, where he was the chief of supply U-2 and SR-71 branch 1979-1982 and chief of logistics 1993-1995. He was also assigned to Robins AFB, Ga., the U-2 depot, where he was chief of the requirements and distribution division 1982-1988.

Williams also served at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Wake Island, RAF Alconbury, England; Hahn AB, Germany; Sembach AB, Germany; and George AFB, Calif. He was the supply squadron commander at both George AFB and Sembach AB.

The Lockheed U-2 plane is a single-engine, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the USAF and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency. It provides day and night, high-altitude (70,000 feet / 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration and communications purposes.

The U-2 was first prominently used in the Cold War and was sent on missions over the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam and Cuba. It is still in service and is one of the rare aircraft that has been used in excess of 50 years. Although its role is slowly being overtaken by other technology, it is still used in areas of conflict.

After World War II, the U.S. needed a better reconnaissance strategy to determine Soviet capabilities and intentions. The missiles of the time could hit a target 45,000 feet in the air, and track aircraft 65,000 feet up. To be safe, it was determined an aircraft that could fly above 70,000 feet would be needed.

Many modifications were made to already existing planes, and several designs came out of it. The final product called the Lockheed U-2, nicknamed ‘Dragon Lady,’ was designed for minimum aircraft weight, and had several glider characteristics. Thus it was hard to control as the light weight left little room for error.

The U-2 has lasted as long as it has primarily because of its ability to direct flights to objectives at short notice, something satellites cannot yet do. The termination of the U-2 program began in 2012, although full replacement is being held off until 2015.

For more information, contact Julian Hertzog at