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By Public Affairs, SBD 3
/ Published April 04, 2023
Kathleen at LA AFB receiving her husband’s awards and decorations after his passing.
Kathleen and Bill's wedding day, December 28, 1957.
Bill Cordero - Early in his Air Force career
Kathleen Carroll was born in Nebraska and moved to San Pedro during WWII. During the war, her older brother was lost in an Army Air Corps training crash. Kay attended Marymount High School in Palos Verdes and then began her nursing career at St. Vincent's College of Nursing in Los Angeles. There, she met an Air Force ROTC Student from Loyola University - Bill Cordero of Santa Barbara. They were married in December 1957 and began their lives as an Air Force family. The young Cordero family was stationed at Biggs AFB in El Paso, TX and then Connally AFB in Waco and welcomed a son and a daughter. In that time, Kay supported Bill's career and raised their two children. In the spring of 1961 the family was transferred to Oxnard AFB in Ventura County, CA. Bill's career continued to grow as he was trained to navigate F-101 Voodoo jets, and the family welcomed two more young sons.
In November 1963, Bill accepted an assignment with the 1st Air Commando Squadron stationed at Bien Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. As Bill navigated B-26s in South Vietnam, Kay was raising four young children back in Oxnard. She was fortunate to be settled there with her parents in San Pedro and Bill's family in Santa Barbara.
After a year of separation while Bill was in Vietnam, Kay and the four kids moved to Angeles City, Philippines for their next assignment at Clark AFB. The year-long adventure of living in the tropics overseas was a contrast of vacations in the Philippines, but no telephone service in the home and housekeepers who carried potable water from the base to the family's cinder-block house each day.
In June 1965, while on a bombing mission over the North Vietnam-Laos border in their B-57, Bill and his pilot were lost. Kay was now expecting the family's fifth child and would have to deal with uncertainty of Bill's status, arrange for the sale of the family's belongings and move her family back to San Pedro. For the next four years, Kay endured life as an "MIA wife" not knowing if Bill was alive and captive in a POW camp, or worse.
In early 1969, the worst fears were realized when Kay received the "knock at the door" confirming that Bill and his pilot were killed in action during that 1965 bombing mission. Kay's questions about the circumstances of Bill's loss were never answered. After Bill and his pilot were interred in a group burial in Arlington National Cemetery, Kay was left to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. As a Gold Star Wife, she had five children under the age of ten and an uncertain future.
In time, Kay would remarry a man who also lost his brother in WWII, and bring three additional children into the world. She eventually completed her nursing education and spent twenty years working at hospitals and clinics in the South Bay.
It is often noted about her life that Kay is a Gold Star Sister from WWII who married a Gold Star Brother from WWII after Kay became a Gold Star Wife in the Vietnam War.
Today, Kay is nearly 85 years old and still resides in the home she purchased with Bill's life insurance policy.