All fighter pilots name their airplanes: it is as simple as that.  Fred Hillis was no different, and when he was assigned his first fighter, a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, he wasted no time in christening it Cookie; a nickname given his infant daughter, Cynthia, by his colleagues at Eglin Field.  The name stuck: both on the planes and on their young namesake.

Over the months which followed, the original Cookie was lost in combat.  It was succeeded by another P-47, then another, then another.  Before all was said and done, a total of five Cookies had been lost in combat, with Hillis at the controls in three of those instances.  His last P-47 (Cookie VI)  flew only a single combat mission before the war ended.

Interestingly, the story doesn't end there.  One more plane was destined to carry the name Cookie, though it was just about as far removed as you could get from a P-47.  Cookie VII was a highly classified and extremely rare Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter "liberated" from the Luftwaffe.  (Details on this mission may be found elsewhere on the Stormbirds site.)

Clearly there was a streak of very good fortune associated with the Cookie name.  Despite the fact that it was emblazoned on multiple aircraft, several of which suffered heavy combat damage or were shot down, no pilot flying any of the seven "Cookies" was ever injured or killed!

Just in case you missed it, here's a breakdown on what is known of each individual Cookie ...

Cookie ICOOKIE - Republic P-47  Thunderbolt

The original Cookie

Little is known about this particular machine,
except that it was lost or damaged in relatively short order, as Hillis was flying Cookie II almost immediately after his arrival in Europe.

Most of Hillis' combat flying was done after this period.


COOKIE II - Republic P-47D-10 Thunderbolt

Hillis flew this machine from September 1944 through the October/November timeframe. 

No photo or other information is available.

Cookie IIICOOKIE III - Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Hillis flew this machine on "lots of missions" throughout the month of January 1945. 

He scored his first two confirmed kills (Me 109s) in this aircraft, and felt it was one of the best planes in the squadron.

On 17 January, it received a new wing, courtesy of a Luftwaffe strafing attack.

The plane was shot down on 23 January, with another pilot on the controls (the pilot survived).

COOKIE IV - Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Hillis flew this machine throughout the month of March 1945. 

The advance on the German frontier was in full swing, and Hillis reported this was a "very busy" time.

This plane received a new engine and new landing gear, but wasn't ever the equal of it's predecessor.

At the end of the month, both plane and pilot were featured in some motion picture footage of his squadron.

On 10 April, Hillis scored a total of four (4) aerial victories in this aircraft, bring his total to six (6) confirmed kills -- including another P-47 (see the T-Bolt Kill page).  He also has two (2) confirmed damaged enemy aircraft, and at least one unconfirmed damaged  enemy plane.

The unit was based at a former Luftwaffe base inside of Germany during this time.

No photo or other information is available.

COOKIE V - Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Hillis received this machine just in time for the Führer's birthday: the 20th of April, 1945. 

Painted with an orange tail, a red nose, and a yellow cowling.

Hillis says it is a fine airplane; "best in the squadron, as good as III was." 

Lost in action on the 30th of April.

No photo or other information is available.

Cookie VICOOKIE VI - Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Hillis was assigned his final P-47 on the 30th of April 1945, and sent this picture home on the 13th of May.

He flew only one combat mission in it before the war in Europe ended.  In his words, "$100,000 for just one mission, pretty expensive mission."

V-E Day marks the end of all further combat missions.

COOKIE VII - Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

Cookie VIIAs the war drew to a close, Hillis was selected to participate in a highly classified operation to to capture and fly German jet aircraft.  He arrived in Lechfeld, Germany in early June, and was soon assigned this Messerschmitt 262A-1a/U3 fighter.  The plane was an extremely rare reconnaissance-modified variant of the much-feared Messerschmitt.  Hillis flew the jet (his first ever experience with this technology) across Europe to the port of Cherbourg, where it was loaded aboard ship for transport to the United States.

Cookie VII sealed and moored aboard the HMS ReaperOn 19 August 1945, fellow Watson's Whizzer Lieutenant Ken Holt was at the controls during the last flight of Cookie VII.  The jet was en route to Freeman Field in Indiana for testing, when a scheduled fuel stop in Pittsburgh turned disastrous.  Shortly after 1600 hrs, Holt brought the plane in for landing on a very fast, but otherwise normal approach.  On touchdown, the brakes failed and he sailed past the runway, over a ditch, and into a field where it burst into flames.   The plane was destroyed in the post crash fire, but pilot Holt emerged unscathed -- keeping Cookie's perfect record intact.


Cookie VIIIIn the spring of 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, an assault helicopter from the 2-501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division (United States Army) was christened Cookie VIII by her crew in honor of the Hillis legacy.

Flown by the webmaster during operations over Baghdad, the evidence to date suggests that the Cookie name still brings with it a mysterious, if welcome, sense of protection for airmen flying in harm's way.



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