Bill Conlee was born in 1935 in Galesburg, Illinois. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at San Diego State College on June 19, 1957, and went on active duty beginning February 12, 1958. Lt Conlee next completed Navigator Training and was awarded his navigator wings at Harlingen AFB, Texas, in November 1958, followed by Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) training at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, from December 1958 to September 1959. After completing B-52 Stratofortress Combat Crew Training, he was assigned as a B-52 EWO and instructor EWO with the 342nd Bomb Squadron at Robins AFB, Georgia, from May 1960 to June 1961, followed by service as a B-52 Instructor EWO with the 93rd Bomb Squadron at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan, from June 1961 to January 1963. Maj Conlee next served as a B-52 EWO with the 716th Bomb Squadron at Kincheloe AFB from February 1963 to January 1967, and then as EWO Instructor with the 328th Bomb Squadron at Castle AFB, California, from January 1967 to August 1969. After completing Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, he completed EB-66 Destroyer Combat Crew Training, and then deployed to Southeast Asia in October 1970. LtCol Conlee served as an EB-66 EWO with the 42nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from October 1970 to October 1971. His next assignment was as a B-52 EWO with the 20th Bomb Squadron at Carswell AFB, Texas, from October 1971 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam while deployed to Southeast Asia on December 22, 1972. After spending 98 days in captivity, Col Conlee was released during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and then served as Deputy Chief and then Chief of the Aircraft Test Division with Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, from August 1973 to July 1975. Col Conlee attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB from July 1975 to May 1976, followed by service as Assistant Deputy Commander and then Deputy Commander for Operations of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, from May 1976 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1979.
His 3rd Distinguished Flying Cross w/Valor Citation reads:
Lieutenant Colonel William W. Conlee distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as a B-52 Electronics Warfare Officer over Southeast Asia on 21 December 1972. On that date, Colonel Conlee participated in high-priority bombing missions against vital military targets in heavily-defended areas of North Vietnam. Despite the intensity of the hostile defensive reactions and the great threat posed by it, Colonel Conlee displayed extraordinary courage, a remarkable ability to perform under stress and a willingness to place mission requirements above his own safety as he successfully countered and neutralized those threats, thereby enabling his crew to release their ordnance on the designated target. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Conlee reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.