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History of Dyess Elementary

William E. Dyess Elementary

On July 7, 1956, approval was granted to purchase land, located adjacent and to the south of the Dyess Air Force base, from Leroy and Elizabeth Jennings and Roy and Era Skaggs. On March 4, 1957, the Abilene Board of Education voted to construct an elementary school at the site using plans drawn by F. C. Olds Company of Abilene. Rose Construction Company of Abilene was awarded the contract to build the school containing twenty-two classrooms, library, music room, cafeteria, kitchen, and an all-purpose room which would double as a gymnasium and auditorium, to serve 650 students from Dyess Air Force base and the nearby community.

In September of 1957, William E. Dyess Elementary opened with grades one through three. Grades four, five, and six were added in February of 1958. Today, Dyess Elementary currently serves kindergarten through fifth grade students. Approximately eight-five percent of our students live on Dyess Air Force base while the remainder resides in Quail Hollow apartments, Hampton Hills subdivision, or are transfer students from surrounding communities. 

Since 1995, Dyess Elementary has earned The Texas Education Agency’s highest ranking of Exemplary every year except 2005, when its ranking dropped for one year to Recognized. The success of Dyess Elementary is the result of experienced, dedicated teachers who have very high expectations for the success of all students. This is truly amazing when you consider that the students at Dyess come from various school systems and programs from many other states and countries. Discipline, both in behavior and in the academic endeavors, has become the mainstay of the educational process at Dyess Elementary.  Dyess teachers believe that every child, regardless of ability, can learn. Each teacher feels personally responsible for the learning of each child in his/her charge. As a result, there exists a collaborative belief that as a team, kindergarten through fifth grade, we achieve success and that failure of a child is not acceptable. “One Team, One Mission, Every Child” is not just a motto, but has become the essence of the dedication of the faculty and staff of Dyess Elementary.


Lt. Colonel William E. Dyess

Dyess Elementary is named in honor of Lt. Col. William E. Dyess a native of Albany, Texas. Nicknamed the “One Man Scourge,” Capt. Dyess exhibited remarkable courage, sacrifice and leadership not only during combat in the Philippines, but also after he was captured by the Japanese forces during World War II. Dyess was among the men captured at the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, and forced into the grueling Death March. After surviving the horrors of the Death March and imprisonment, he and eleven others escaped the prison camp. He met with Filipino guerrillas and participated in their activities for three and a half months. Making his way through hostile territory, he escaped the Philippines in a U.S.submarine.

Capt. Dyess and fellow escapees reported the Bataan Death March atrocities to General MacArthur. The American public first heard of the horrors of the Death March in early 1944 after the War Department allowed the press to tell Capt. Dyess’ story.

While recovering from his ordeal and after being promoted to Lt. Colonel, Lt. Col. Dyess began training to return to combat. On December 22, 1943, his P-38 caught fire while over a populated area. Even with ample opportunity to abandon the burning aircraft, Colonel Dyess chose to sacrifice his own life rather than risk the lives of others. He stayed with the plane to guide it away from a school and died in the ensuing crash after guiding it onto a vacant lot.

Col. Dyess was recommended for the nation’s highest decoration for heroism, the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was not awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor but he did earn two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Soldiers Medal. Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, was named in honor of Albany’s much-decorated war hero in 1956. He is buried in Albany, Texas.

On August 26, 2015, Texas Governor, Gregg Abbott, posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel William  Dyess, which was given to his family who attended the ceremony. Click here for the full article

F4-D “Phantom II”

The F-4 was first designed in the mid-50s as an attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Air Force accepted its first F-4 on May 27, 1963. Over 5,000 “Phantom IIs” were built with more than 2,600 delivered to the USAF. The F-4 “Phantom” saw extensive action during the Vietnam Conflict. The three USAF pilots who became “aces” in that conflict did so in F-4s.

In 1990, F-4D “Phantom II” 65796 was placed on permanent display at Dyess Elementary School. In 1996, the airplane was donated to the City of Abilene with AISD and Dyess Elementary assuming responsibility for the care and maintenance of the aircraft.

In 1998, the Phantom was repainted by Dyess Airman. Again in 2007, a group of airman repainted the Phantom for the opening of 2007-2008 school year. This was the same year that Dyess Elementary returned to campus after a multi-million dollar refurbishing.

The Dyess Elementary F-4D “Phantom II”, call sign “Crafty 01”, piloted by Capt Paul Howman and Lt Lawrence Kullman is credited with shooting down a MiG-21 on January 8, 1973. This was the last MiG-21 downed during the Vietnam Conflict. “Crafty 01” was built in 1965 and was the 796th F-4.