Bill Simeroth

Bill Simeroth

Bill Simeroth grew up in Purcell and graduated from Purcell High School in 1945, where he was a star athlete in football, wrestling and track.

A multi-talented athlete, Bill received All-State Honors from The Daily Oklahoman in football in 1944 as an offensive tackle even after playing fullback the entire season.

After high school graduation, which was right at the end of World War II, Bill joined the Army Air Corps, where he served for two years and then was Honorably Discharged.

He then attended Oklahoma A&M University in Stillwater for two years, where he majored in economics and played on the football team and participated on the track and field team where he lettered in 1950. 

After graduation, Bill joined the United States Air Force where he trained as an Aircraft Electronic Countermeasures Technician. He traveled to various special assignment locations around the world while in the Air Force including those in Alaska, Brazil, Guam and Hawaii.

It wasn’t until late in Bill’s life, that his family discovered that he had a “Top-Secret Clearance” from the U.S Government and that many of his Temporary Duty (TDY) assignments were classified. One of those assignments was at Shemya Air Force Base (now known as Eareckson, Air Station) on Shemya Island, AK, which is at the far western tip of the Aleutian Islands in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

“Project Rivet Ball” was a Top-Secret Program that was initiated with a single RC-135S (serial 59–1491, formerly a JKC-135A) on Dec. 31, 1961. The aircraft operated from Shemya AFB. This specialized RC-135S had an elongated nose radome housing an “S band” receiving antenna. The aircraft first operated under the “Nancy Rae Project” as an asset of Air Force Systems Command and later as an RC-135S reconnaissance platform with Strategic Air Command under “Project Wanda Belle.” The project name “Rivet Ball” was later assigned to the mission in January of 1967.

When Bill was first deployed to Shemya Island, he was part of the original 41 men assigned to the “Nancy Rae Project” and the men who flew and maintained this reconnaissance aircraft were known as “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves”. Bill was one of the “40 Thieves”.

Throughout his career, Bill was also based at several locations including Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, Germany and in New Mexico during his 20-year Air Force career. He received The Air Force Commendation Medal for outstanding initiative and for professional competence and devotion to duty. He contributed significantly to the successful completion of a project of national importance.

Bill has been recently selected by Purcell Football Alumni to the 1940’s PHS All-Decade Football Team as a defensive tackle. He was also chosen as a member of the All-Time PHS Football Team (1895 – present day) as a defensive tackle.

He married Irma Ochner in 1954. She came with a built-in family, two daughters, Sandi and Rynna. They had a son together, Craig. Bill died in March of 2007.