LETTERS HOME: Part II

 

Mary Abney Hillis   Captain Fred L. Hillis

 

 
DATE PLACE  EVENT
     
10 APR 45 Germany Today he killed (confirmed) 3 Jerry airplanes destroyed and 2 damaged. {Editor's note:  letter contains a reference to one of the destroyed aircraft being a captured U.S. plane flown by the Germans (see the T-Bolt Kill page).  It also mentions one additional Luftwaffe plane damaged, but not confirmed as a kill.}

The squadron got almost 20 kills today. He flew 7 combat hours and is "beat." His 200 hour mark is just around the corner:  5 hours to go.  He has 86 missions now, maybe if the war ends he can come home.

14 APR 45 Germany He is now based in a bombed-out German Aerodrome -- an old Luftwaffe facility. Lieutenant Otto Scherer (his assistant flight commander) is his roommate.

Sent photo of himself with Colonel Tipton, Major General Webster and Brigadier General Barcus (above - Hillis is second from right).
 

16 APR 45 Germany "Touring Germany, it looks very much like South St. Louis."  Says he won't get the DFC if he doesn't start getting along better with a “certain operations officer.”

Enclosed photos of himself and a crew chief on top of the A·20 he was flying for the film crew.

18 APR 45 Paris There ... but only on "business."


 

20 APR 45 Germany Today he got Cookie V. When painted, it will have an orange tail, red nose and yellow cowling. Their field is very colorful as a result of the bright aircraft parked there.

Food is getting better. 

Flew for the first time over Czechoslovakia and Austria.

21 APR 45 Germany Cookie V is a fine airplane, "best in the squadron, as good as III was." 

Has over 200 Combat hours now.

"Gravy time ... very little flak and few Jerries in the air."

26 APR 45 Germany The fellow who bailed out of the borrowed and shot down Cookie IV just showed up. Was a Prisoner Of War for a while, but was recaptured ... a ticket home for him and also keeps the slate clean for all the "Cookies:" no lost pilots while flying his Cookies to date!
30 APR 45 Germany He lost Cookie V, but already received replacement, Cookie VI on same day! This is the first time this has ever happened in the group.

One of the boys in his flight group who doesn't have an airplane flew Cookie V out on a mission while he was off.  "An enemy airplane came out of the weather (which was very bad) and crawled his tail and clobbered him.  The pilot fought him off.   Plane was very shot up -- struggled on home though."  He doesn't know how the pilot survived.  The plane was so shot up that he can't see how it could still fly.  It is a salvage job.  He is the first pilot in the group to have his plane with a VI behind it ... "a somewhat dubious honor."

He thinks he has about 95 missions to date, lost count.

10 MAY 45 Germany Got in bad with the Colonel for leading the squadron on a "buzz run" to celebrate the end of the war on their last combat mission. For buzzing the field and the German countryside. Didn't fire a gun or drop a bomb; just flew VERY low. He has been grounded from all P·47s. All he can fly now are B·26 and A·50s ... and on business only.
12 MAY 45 Germany Been flying the B·26.  Getting a lot of non·combat time. Some in England. 

Bought a German camera in Austria and a Nazi Officer's Sword. He has 132 Air Medal points.

13 MAY 45 Germany Sent photo of Cookie VI. The plane only got in one combat mission. $100,000 for just one mission, pretty expensive mission. 

"Still piloting, flew some boys to Paris."

14 MAY 45 Germany "Moved today to very nice billets.  The EM [enlisted men] moved from tents in old barracks."

"Scheduled to go to Paris tomorrow."

"Getting plenty of flying time. I’m now chief pilot of our private airlines, some job!  Paris Tues, Wed and Sat. ... Marseilles on Sunday.  Keeping almost a regular schedule."

22 MAY 45 Germany Busiest man in the group, maybe the whole E.T.O. since the war ended. Flying the 358 Spearmint Airlines (code name used for the Group during the war).

"Squadron code name was Bookworm: CO is known as Bookworm 30, Operations officer Bookworm 40, Me, Bookworm 50."

25 MAY 45 Manheim,
Germany
He has been transferred to a “pretty nice airfield."  It has a beautiful German officer's club. Is a five minute drive north of the Rhine. "The field was bombed a lot by us during the war, but we have it in pretty good condition now."

"No more censoring, ask what you want."

27 MAY 45 Mannheim, Germany He flies the “boys” to the Riviera, now in a B·26. 

"Everything is just a guess as to what is going to happen to us."  He is fully aware that with so many to be moved out and priority emphasis on China/Burma/India theater, "we are liable to be here quite a while. I doubt now if we will go to C.B.I.  Of course no one seems to know.”
 

JUN 45 Lechfeld, Germany No further letters.  Hillis is now assigned to the top secret Messerschmitt 262 recovery project organized under the Air Technical Intelligence command.

FOOTNOTES:


At Cafe Zanzibar in NYC on 31 July 1945.
Fellow Watson's Whizzers pilots Holt and
Dahlstrom are at the far end of the table.

Despite his on-going battles with the "certain operations officer," Hillis did receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, along with the Air Medal -- and 17 Oak Leaf Clusters! 

The pilot in the narrative who borrowed Cookie V and was shot up so badly (30 APR 45) was really Fred Hillis.  He didn’t want to worry Mary, so he invented a replacement to account for the loss of his aircraft.

Hillis ended the war with a total of 97 combat missions and five aerial victories (qualifying him as an Ace), though he himself was "never even scratched" during the war. This suited him fine, for he had always sworn that the only medal he never really wanted was the Purple Heart.

 

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