Veterans Day 2017 Remembrance

by Placerville Newswire / Nov 08, 2017 / comments

[Richard W. Buchanan NC USMC, Gregory AM Etzel AFC USAF - Founders, EDC Veterans Monument  Photo courtesy of John Riley]
One of the last American WW11 Aces, Commander Willis E. (Bill) Hardy Navy Cross, friend and mate to many of the EDC Veterans Monument Founders recently past at 97. Flying an early Hell-Cat the Naval aviator attach to VF-17 "Jolly Rogers" shot down five kamikaze pilots on April 6, 1945 making him an “ace in a day.”

Bill Hardy joined the USS Hornet aircraft carrier and proceeded to distinguish himself on numerous occasions as a fearless warrior in the Pacific Theater of the war. He flew the Bird-cage Corsair aircraft in early war missions and supported the United States Marine Corps in the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima through preemptive aerial bombing destruction of gun caves on Mount Suribachi. As a lieutenant junior grade, Cmdr. Hardy earned the distinction of Ace in a Day by shooting down five enemy aircraft that were on an aerial suicide mission in the Pacific. That day’s dogfight was fierce, and after the fray he and his wingman navigated in their F6F Hellcats back to their carrier with perilously low fuel levels in the dark, with no visual cues and only intermittent radio signals as guidance. They eventually made it back to the carrier by following the large phosphorescent waves in the wake of the blacked-out carrier.

Cmdr. Hardy participated in more daring aerial combat missions in World War II and earned the nickname “Medals.” He was credited with 6-1/2 downed enemy aircraft, one probable enemy aircraft down, and 2-1/5 damaged enemy aircraft. During the Korean War, he trained Navy night fighter pilots. After the conclusion of the Korean war, he served on the USS Corson (APV-37). He was awarded the China Service Medal for his role as fighter director officer for photo reconnaissance flight missions over the People’s Republic of China in 1954, and was subsequently promoted to lieutenant commander. The following year he was promoted to executive officer of the Navy’s VF-51 squadron.

In 1959, Cmdr. Hardy retired from the United States Navy as a commander. He was a proud member and advocate of the American Fighter Aces Association, where he served in a variety of roles including president. He has been honored for his service by a number of organizations and institutions, including the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His military service decorations included the Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four gold stars, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

CMDR. Willis E. (Bill) Hardy, U.S.N.
Citation: Navy Cross
War: World War II

Willis Everett Hardy, Lieutenant, United States Navy: for extraordinary heroism as pilot of a fighter plane in fighting Squadron Seventeen, attached to the U.S.S. Hornet, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of Okinawa Shima, April 6, 1945. Participating in the interception of the large force of Japanese aircraft, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Hardy attacked an enemy fighter plane, causing it to crash into the sea. Sighting two hostile dive bombers, he shot both down in quick succession. Centering his fire upon the third dive bomber, he skillfully exploded it in midair after which he set off in relentless pursuit of another Japanese dive bomber, which crashed into the sea, exploding with terrific force upon impact. His courage and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Lieutenant Junior Grade, Hardy and the United States Naval Service.

Submitted by:
Richard W. Buchanan NC USMC,
Gregory AM Etzel AFC USAF.
Founders, EDC Veterans Monument
Legion of Valor