39th Bomb Group (VH)

Pilot's Badge


airmedal.gif [The Air Medal]

Unit Citation
and Awards

arpuc.jpg [The Presidental Unit Citation]

Oak Leaf Cluster

Service Awards

amcamp.gif [The American Campaign Medal]

apcm.jpg [The Asiatic-Pacfic Campaign Medal]


star1.gif [Bronze Star]

wwiivic.gif [The Victory Medal, World War II]

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Capt Sterling Pile
Airplane Commander

Sterling Pile
in the cockpit
Sterling Pile, Jr. - Airplane Commander was born in East Orange, New Jersey on June 6, 1915. At the age of four, he and his mother moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and spent his years there. He moved back east to finish school, graduating from Pomfret School in June 1934. By-passing Yale, he went to work in Baltimore with Shell Oil Company. Later transferring to New York City, Brooklyn and Groton, Connecticut, which led to his promotion to District Manager for his area. 

Pile learned to fly at Tremball Field, Groton, Connecticut in early 1940. He volunteered for military service March 1941 and after basic training was assigned to Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. In December of that year he began training as an Aviation Cadet. This training took him through a succession of stations including Gunter Field, Shaw, Orlando, Greenville and George Field in Indiana. In 1942, it was on to navigation school in Louisiana. After 3, 000 hours of navigational school there, Sterling was sent to Hobbs, New Mexico where he flew B-17's. Following an assignment in Texas, he finally wound up in Salina, Kansas in the 39th Bomb Group as P-32's airplane commander. After B-29 training there, P-32 moved with the rest of their Group to North Field, Guam. 

Pile will never forget the unnerving experience of having to sign receipt for one million dollars ($1, 000, 000) before he could pick up his crew's aircraft from the factory. The word, responsibility, suddenly had a new and much more personal meaning for him.

After the signing of the Japanese surrender, Sterling flew back to Mather Field, California, then after a brief stay at Ft. Ord, was discharged from the service. He returned to New York and married Leila Chadbourne in September 1946. After resuming his job with Shell Oil Company, he became Aviation Representative for the New York Division. In 1962, reactivated Industrial Developments, a company established and run by his father until the latter's death. 

Photo courtesy of his daughter Leila De Bruyne

The Piles have 4 children and 8 grandchildren. Pile nostalgically remembers attending P-32's reunion in 1982. 

After twenty successful years of developing new products and processes for his company, Pile retired in 1982 and enjoyed traveling.

The above text excerpted from a profile of Crew 32 entitled "Piledriver - P-32" written by Paul P and Billy Pratt, sons of the co-pilot of P-32

12 July 2001: Received an email from Billy K. Pratt, Son of 1st Lt. Billy Pratt, Pilot, P-32 that Capt Sterling Pile took his Final Flight 08 July 2001.

Sterling's daughter Leila remembers ...

He was always the life and soul of any gathering - a cliche, I know - and the best person to have around in a crisis. Highly intelligent with the most voracious curiousity of anyone I have ever met and a sense of hunour which never failed him. Difficult - yes. Emotional - always. Moral - of the highest order. He lived with his heart on his sleeve and there was never any question about where he stood on ANY subject.

For his 70th birthday, I got him a T-shirt on which were printed the words: "I'm not obstinate - I'm just always right." The glee with which he wore that shirt.........

The six of us together at the beach - Sterling holding daughter Laura and Sterling III, wife Leila, with daughters Leila and Majorie - a family ritual every Saturday which spanned 45 years. He was always known as the Asparagus as he never sat down but was a magnet for all the families which took on the tradition as well.

03 December 2001 Added photo and images of some of the awards earned by Capt Pile.
20 October 2001: Added photos and memories from Leila De Bruyne, daughter of Sterling Pile. She would love to hear from anyone who knew dad or just to hear about the experiences at that time. You can email her at:

Thanks to Leila for sending us the photos of her father .. and her memories of him.
If anyone has any additional updates on Serling Pile or a member of his crew, please contact
Crew 32 Main Page
61st Squadron Crew Index
Source: Excerpted from a profile of Crew 32 entitled "Piledriver - P-32" written by Paul P and Billy Pratt, sons of co-pilot of P-32
for "History of the 39th Bomb Group" by Robert Laird (crew 5) and David C. Smith crew 31); Leila De Bruyne, Sterling's duaghter