Captain Hillis receives the Distinguished Flying CrossFred ultimately flew 97 fighter combat missions in Europe, in addition to many troop transport aircraft when dual-engine qualified pilots were scarce.  He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 17 Oak Leaf Clusters.  He and his fellow pilots managed to lose five "Cookies" in combat.  Fred was shot up in three of them himself; two were downed with other pilots flying.  The sixth and final P-47 flew only one mission before the war ended.  The miraculous lucky "Cookies" had an unblemished record despite being shot up (and down).  No pilot flying one of the six "Cookies" was ever injured or killed.

He did one thing during the war that he was very proud of.  He and six others became the first Americans to fly jet aircraft when they were hand-picked to ferry the newly-captured Messerschmitt 262 jets to France from Germany.  His last "Cookie," number seven, was a captured Me 262.  Years later, when he told his daughter about the experience, he was disappointed that no one (aside from the pilots themselves) had ever realized what an amazing thing they had accomplished.

After the war, Fred, Mary and Cynthia settled in Columbia, Missouri.  They bought their first house and Fred completed his degree in Electrical Engineering.  Shortly before his graduation in 1947 Mary presented him with a son, Frederick Lawrence Hillis.  After graduation Fred went to work for Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance, first as an inspector of commercial property and later as a sales representative.

The Hillis family in 1953The family then moved to St. Louis, Missouri where a second daughter, Mary, was born in January of 1950.  Shortly thereafter the family moved on to Dallas, Texas when Fred received a promotion to District Sales Manager of the company.  Daughter number three, Valerie Hood Hillis, was born there in 1955.

Meanwhile, Fred had attracted the attention of the Anderson Clayton Corporation.  They hired him in 1957 to start and head their new "in-house" insurance company.  Fred and Mary's last child, another daughter, Virginia, was born in Houston, home of the new Ranger Insurance Company.  Ranger Insurance was soon joined by seven other insurance companies each providing for a different aspect of the conglomerate's interests.  Fred was President and General Manager of them all of them until increasing health problems (chronic Asthma) forced him to retire in late 1964.  He died in Dallas in 1972 at age 53, never having regained his once robust health.  His widow Mary recently celebrated her 84th birthday with her four surviving children (Valerie died in 1991), 12 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Cynthia Hillis McBride


Go to the next page