In the spring of 1945, Lt. Ted Hill and his P-47 squadron were returning from a mission over Germany to their base in Kelz, Germany. The Thunderbolts flew support missions patrolling roads for concentrations of enemy troops, strafing German military trains and vehicles, and dropping bombs on gun emplacements. Once, their squad leader dropped down through the clouds over what he thought was their home base. Unfortunately, he guessed wrong, and they quickly realized they were actually over Cologne, Germany, where 1800+ 88 cannons ringed the city and all were seemingly firing at them. Ted said “the sky turned black from all the flak.” All the pilots had to quickly get back above the clouds and out of the range of the 88’s. Surprisingly, every one of the planes made it back safely to their home base.
Ted Hill was born Sept. 18, 1924 in North Andover, Massachusetts. He remembers walking home from church when he heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed on Dec. 7th, 1941. He enlisted in the Army in October 1942, but was sent home. He was recalled to active duty in November 1942. He spent his basic training “on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.” He had always wanted to be a pilot and signed up for the Army Air Corps. He was sent to Butler College in Indiana to “take cram courses in math, physics, etc.” He spent the next year or so getting trained as a pilot in San Antonio TX, Cimarron OK, Enid OK, Wendover UT and finally Cadet School near Mission TX where he “was discharged as a Private and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant the same day.”
It was here that Ted learned to fly, first a P-40 and then a P-47 aircraft. The P-47 was one of the most durable and best armed fighter planes of its time. It was mounted with eight .50 caliber machine guns and was very fast, with a massive 2300 HP engine, and could reach speeds of up to 500 MPH. Bob mentioned that the “atomic bomb played an important role” in his personal life. During P-47 training in Wendover UT everyone was ordered to “evacuate the base – no explanation was given.” It wasn’t until after the war that they found out that the base was being used to fit B-29’s with the atomic bomb.
His class was “broken up in groups of 4 or 5 and was sent to various bases to resume training.” Ted was sent to Abilene Army Air Base in Texas. It was here that he was set up on a blind date by one of his buddies with a local girl, Doris, who was a student at Hardin-Simmons University. After only three dates, Ted was sent to Harding Air Base in Louisiana. He was unable to tell Doris, as she had gone home for Thanksgiving. He was then sent to Kilmer, New Jersey where he boarded a British “Liberty Ship” and arrived in Liverpool, England. He was assigned to the 404th Fighter Squadron and was sent to Paris, France where his unit was put up in tents at a chalet. He was in a group of 20 or so pilots awaiting assignment.
Ted’s first mission would be “ground support for troops in Belgium at the tail end of the Battle of the Bulge.” Ted said, “The P-47 was one tough plane. It could take a hit and still make it back to base.” He would eventually fly 41 missions. Ted’s group wound up at a liberated base in Fritzlar, Germany when Germany surrendered in May 1945. Ted said that “set off some pretty wild celebrations. Guys were firing flares and whatever they could find.” His squadron was sent to Meise, France where they were put in a staging area and then sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. During this time, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His squadron was sent to Tampa, Florida where they were disbanded. Ted was discharged in January 1945.
Ted went back home to Massachusetts and asked Doris to come and meet his parents. They were married in November 1945 in Tampa. He applied to be a pilot at Eastern Airlines, but they told him they “would not take fighter pilots.” He checked on being a dentist, but that had a two year waiting period. He went to pharmaceutical school in Boston for 4 years and spent 39 years as a pharmacist in various locations with his last stop in the Abernathy area.
Ted and Doris had 3 sons and 6 grandchildren. Sadly, Doris passed away in March 2013 after what Ted said was “67 years, 3 months and 12 days until death did us part”. Ted went on the 2013 Texas South Plains Honor Flight and said the Air & Space Museum was his favorite, as he saw a P-47 again and thought back to his days during WWII.
Respectfully submitted by
Larry A. Williams
Veterans Liaison Co-Chair
Texas South Plains Honor Flight