William "Bill" Axel Hitchcock

Air Force Badge
  • Name: William "Bill" Axel Hitchcock
  • Location of Birth: Grand Rapids, Minnesota
  • Date of Birth: April 22, 1920
  • Date of Death: February 20, 1995 (74 years old)
  • Parents: C. E. and Marie Hitchcock
  • High School and Class: Greenway High School, Coleraine, Minnesota
  • College: Itasca Junior College, Coleraine, Minnesota (1 year)
  • Highest Rank: LTC (Lieutenant Colonel)
  • Branch: Air Force
  • Other Branch: United States Army Air Corp
  • Date Sworn In:
  • Place Sworn In:
  • Date of Discharge:
  • Place of Discharge:
  • Units and Locations:
    Start Date End Date Unit(s) and Location(s) Served
    April 12, 1953 Processing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
    May 6, 1953 Pilot Refresher Course, Malden Air Force Base, Missouri
    June 23, 1953 2nd pilot RB-36 Advancing to co-pilot and aircraft commander at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
    January, 1960 Transferred to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas (Strategic Air Command) Aircraft commander-B-52, Promoted to Major (spot and temporary). Attained 1,000 hours flying time in B-52
    March, 1964 Transferred to Travis Air Force Base, California (Military Air Transport Service). Pilot and aircraft commander C-133 with 84th Air Transport Squadron. Flew in and out of Vietnam. Safety Training Officer.
    July, 1966 Transferred to High Wycombe Air Station, England (Military Airlift Command). Promoted to Lieutanent Colonel in November, 1966. Command Post Controller, advancing to Chief of Airlift Command for the 322nd Air Division.
    January, 1969 June, 1969 Temporary Duty Yonder (TDY) to Wiesbaden, Germany, Lindsey Air Station
    July 1, 1969 Departed Southampton, England aboard SS United States for New York, docking on July 5, 1969. After visiting New York City, New York, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, arrived in Wichita Falls, Texas
    August 1, 1969 Officially retired from Active Military Service
  • Military Awards:
    Personal records indicate approximately 8,000+ hours of flying time had been achieved in various aircraft.
    (8,760 hours = 365 days = 1 year)

    Pilot ratings: March 10, 1943 Pilot Wings (plain)
    April, 4, 1955 Senior Pilot Wings (Star)
    March 12, 1958 Command Pilot wings (Star and Wreath)
    Ratings are a combination of flying time and years.

    Distinguished Unit Citation American Theater
    Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
    European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon with 7 Bronze Stars
    Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star
    Ribbon Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters

  • Military Highlights:
    The Work War II Years
    April 8, 1942 to March 9, 1943 - United States Army Air Corps, Aviation Cadet
    September 11, 1942 - Rated Pilot, Chandler, Arizona
    March 10, 1943 - Graduated, appointed 2nd Lieutenant
    March 11, 1943 - 89th Troop Carrier Command, Delvalle, Texas
    April 9, 1943 - 89th Troop Carrier Command, Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas
    September 26, 1943 - Preparations for overseas, Goldsboro, North Carolina
    September 30, 1943 - Shipment Order, Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia
    October 7, 1943 - Europe
    October 24, 1943 - Assigned 17th Troop Carrier Group, part of 64th Troop Carrier Squadron (C-47)
    October 27, 1943 - May 30, 1945 - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater

    News articles:
    "Two Coleraine Brothers In service are Lieutenants"
    Lieutenant William Hitchcock and Lieutenant Paul Hitchcock
    These are sons of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hitchcock of Coleraine, Minnesota. First Lieutenant "Bill" is overseas, a pilot with the United States Army in Italy. Paul, recently promoted to second lieutenant, is still in this country, at Green Cove Springs, Florida, in the Marines."

    1944 News article:
    "Coleraine Flier Cited"
    "With the 12th Air Force - For outstanding achievement in the China-Burma-India theater of operations a veterans troop carrier group, to which First Lieutenant William A. Hitchcock of Coleraine, Minnesota, is assigned, has been cited by the 12th Air Force. Lieutenant Hitchcock is now entitled to wear the Distinguished Unit badge. For his meritorious performance of duties as a pilot aboard the group's planes, during his stay in India, he has also been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
    Last April his troop carrier group, stationed in the Mediterranean theater of operations, was suddenly ordered to fly to the support of Allied forces battling the Japanese in the Imphal Valley, India and the Myitkyina area, Burma. Seven days later the big twin-engine C-47 transport planes of his group were delivering the needed supplies.
    The unit continued to support the Allied armies for two and a half months, and played a tremendous part in driving the Japanese from northern Burma and the Imphal valley. The group, called "Cerny's Circus," after its commanding officer, Colonel John Cerny of Harrison, Idaho, is now back in the Mediterranean theater.
    Lieutenant Hitchcock is the son of Clarence Hitchcock, Coleraine. He attended the Itasca Junior College, Coleraine, Minnesota."

    1944 News article:
    "From headquarters of the War Department in the Mediterranean comes a story of Lieutenant William Hitchcock, son and Mrs. and Mrs. C. E. Hitchcock of Coleraine, Minnesota, former manager of the Roxy Theatre. Part of it is told by headquarters and part by "Bill" himself.
    (Somewhere in the Mediterranean Theatre--Delayed). Helping to spearhead the Allied invasion of Southern France on D-Day, August 15, by dropping paratroopers and air borne troops in gliders behind enemy coastal defenses on the French Riviera was First Lieutenant William Hitchcock, Coleraine, Minnesota, pilot aboard an unarmored C147 transport plane, of a Troop Carrier Group, commanded by Colonel John Cerny, of the Twelfth Air Force.
    Lt. Hitchcock has been overseas for more than ten months and is the wearer of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
    After serving in Sicily and Italy, Lt. Hitchcock and part of his Troop Carrier Group were suddenly assigned to the China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations. There the group distinguished itself by flying troops and supplies in support of Allied Armies fighting in Burma and resupplying the Allied Troops battling around Imphal, India.
    "Flying in Burma and India was extremely dangerous business, said Lt. Hitchcock. "We were constantly subjected to attacks by Jap Zeros. One of our planes absorbed 100 bullet holes, in addition to losing a wing tip. Still another of our C-47s was forced to belly land in the dense Indian jungle. One Zero didn't get away after attacking one of our planes. It swooped down on the tail of the transport, chewed off a big section of the vertical stabilizer and then crashed. Our twin engined transport returned safely to its base and the pilot received credit for downing the Zero.
    "And it wasn't only Japs that we were fighting in India." continued Lt. Hitchcock. "Those drenching monsoon rains turned our bivouac area into a miniature ocean of mud. You sloshed your way through the sticky stuff that was as gooey as the chocolate frosting that Mother used to put on her cakes. If you had to drive any distance, a rowboat would have been better transportation than a jeep. And then there was the terrific humid heat and the 'dive-bombing' mosquitoes that we had to face day after day."
    When not participating in paradrops Lt. Hitchcock's Troop Carrier Group carries food, equipment, ammunition and arms up to the front line and evacuates wounded."

    1944 News article:
    "Oak Leaf Cluster Awarded Lt. Wm. A. Hitchcock for Distinguished Service in the D-Day Invasion of France, August 15th"
    "The Itasca Iron News was not surprised when it received information from the publicity department of the U.S. Army Air Corps of the citation received by First Lt. "Bill" Hitchcock, having expected something like that for some time, and even predicted it when "Bill" went into service.
    Any youngster who can grow up in view of a plum orchard and not once get caught pilfering the plums has something more than ordinary on the ball and Bill did that with our plum grove. The plums used to disappear but there never was any evidence. Maybe he never took one, but that doesn't seem possible--not considering his daring disposition; and that was true of his brother, Paul, another lieutenant, but in the Marine corps. And isn't this paper pleased to print this story of our neighbor's son, so likable to us all, who grew up next to this office's doorstep. It comes from the department of Lt. General Ira C. Eaker.
    "Mediterranean Theater of Operations - From Twelfth Air Force Headquarters today came the announcement that 1st Lt. Wm. A. Hitchcock of Coleraine, Minnesota, was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for the part that he played in the invasion of S. France.
    "Lt. Hitchcock is a pilot aboard a C-47 transport plane of a Troop Carrier Group, commanded by Colonel John Cerny, of Harrison Idaho.
    "On D-Day, August 15th, he flew over the anti-aircraft defended coast of Southern France in an airship that is devoid of protective armor and defenses on the French Riviera. This mission was performed in the hours before dawn, at an altitude of less than 500 feet, and where hostile enemy fire was encountered.
    "Returning to his airfield, 'somewhere in Italy' the Lt. took off again a few hours later towing a glider laden with troops and equipment. He again flew in over the ack-ack defended French coast, this time in broad daylight, and cut the glider loose over the designated landing zone. Enemy fire was prevalent once more, but Lt. Hitchcock returned safely to his home base.
    "Lt. Hitchcock's meritorious achievement called for a high degree of skill and courage and reflects great credit upon the Military Service of the United States.
    "He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hitchcock, who reside in Coleraine, Minnesota.
    "The airman has been overseas for more than 10 months. In addition to being awarded the Air Medal Cluster to the Air Medal he is also the wearer of the Distinguished Flying Cross, North African-European Theater Ribbon with three battle stars, the Asiatic Theater Ribbon with one star.
    "Lt. Hitchcock was a theatre manager previous to joining the Army Air Forces."
    The Roxy theatre joins this paper in its cheering."

    1945 New article:
    "Captain "Bill" Hitchcock"
    Wm. A. Hitchcock has been promoted from Lieutenancy to Captaincy, good news to his friends back home but nothing unexpected to those who know Bill. He is a member of the Twelfth Army air force and has been serving overseas since a year ago last November. He has seen quite a bit of the world since then, having been on transport duty in Africa, Sicily, Burma and Italy where he is now stationed.
    Bill will make a handsome Captain, is one of the army's best flyers, and this office has been expecting him to be a captain all along."

    1946 News article:
    "Wm. Hitchcock to Manage Rialto Theatre"
    "Wm. Hitchcock, who recently returned to Coleraine after being discharged from the Army Air Corps, has taken over the management of the Rialto theatre at Grand Rapids and assumed his responsibility this week. Hitchcock was a captain in the Army Air Corps, and before his enlistment in service he managed the local Roxy theatre. The Rialto is fortunate."

    News article (no date)
    "Cross and Air Medal"
    "Bill" Hitchcock, now a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, says you can "fly a plane with a wing shot off, one rudder gone, one engine dead and a Jap on your tail!" Bill is the last one to say so, but perhaps that is why he has received in recent weeks two honors from the War Department; the first an Air Medal, the second a Distinguished Flying Cross. The first citation reads:

    "The air medal is hereby awarded to Lt. W. A. Hitchcock of the 64th T.C. Group for meritorious achievement while participating in operational flights totaling more than 100 hours in unarmed heavily loaded transports, during which exposure to enemy fire was probable and expected. He has completed flights from upper Assam, providing food, clothing, mail, medical supplies and materials to our forward elements and to those Indian, British and Chinese Allies in the hills and mountains of upper Burma, undaunted by the hazards faced regularly and continuously. Lt. Hitchcock performed his duties in such a manner that the highest credit is reflected upon himself and the military forces of the U.S.A."

    In his letters home, Lt. Hitchcock says little of the honors which have come to him, but tells of being in that immense crowd of soldiers to whom the Pope spoke at Vatican City, a crowd which was pictured in the news reels of the world. Since he went overseas he has flown more than 800 hours, 240 of which were over the Jap lines in Burma. He is the oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hitchcock of Coleraine.

    Two Coleraine boys, both pilots, Art Pelletier and "Bill" Hitchcock, had to go across the world to meet and spend three days together in Italy. Lt. Hitchcock in writing home his thanks for the Christmas package sent by the Service Club, says: "Art Pelletier and I spent three days together at Christmas time. He is stationed not far from me and I hope to see him again soon. It seems a coincidence that two pilots from the home town should be stationed so close together and flying the same type of aircraft." About the package, he says it "took accurate timing to send a package and have it arrive at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas day....Every one of the articles will make life a lot easier over here."

    The following letter is from Lt. Wm. Hitchcock to the president of the Service Club:
    "Dear Mrs. Phillips, Please excuse my belated reply to the card and money order you sent me. Thank you very much. It came while I was in India but it was waiting with the rest of my mail when I came back. We had a pretty long stretch without any mail. Three months to be certain. So I had a rather nice bundle waiting when I came back. And as I'm in the Air Corps, we moved almost as soon as we arrived back in Sicily; We are now in Italy and just now getting settled and getting my mail answered.
    If I ever get back to the States, it will take a crow-bar and three Swedes to get me out again!
    Thanks again, Mrs. Phillips. I appreciate every bit of work you and your staff are doing for those who are overseas. You're doing swell! Sincerely, WM. A. HITCHCOCK."

    "This, the home town paper, has already printed the news of the promotion of Bill Hitchcock to captaincy and the citing of Sergeant Harold S. Strand, but now has received official announcement of both. These communications read as follows:

    Local Soldier Awarded Combat Decoration for Fighting in Italy

    With the Fifth Army, Italy--Sergeant Harold S. Strand, son of Mrs. Anna Strand of Coleraine, Minnesota, has been cited by the 85th Mountain Regiment of the 10th "Mountaineer" Division and awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge for actual participation in combat against the enemy on the Fifth Army front in Italy.
    Standards for the badge are high. The decoration is awarded to the infantry soldier who has proved his fighting ability in combat.
    The handsome badge consists of silver rifle set against a background of infantry blue, enclosed in a silver wreath.
    At the 13th C-47 Base in Italy--Captain Wm. A. Hitchcock, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Hitchcock, Coleraine, Minnesota has been promoted to his present rank with a veteran troop carrier group of the 12th Air Force.
    The group commanded by Lt. Col. John Thompson of Roslindale, Mass., transports vital supplies to the front lines by air, evacuates the wounded to rear station hospitals and hauls air-borne infantry and paratroopers to target areas. It participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and southern France and was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for distinguished supply-by-air service in the Burma-India theatre."

    News article (no date)
    "Bill Hitchcock Gets Another Stripe"
    Captain Wm. A. Hitchcock, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Hitchcock of Coleraine, has received his third overseas stripe after completing more than 18 months overseas with a veteran troop carrier group of the 12th Air Force.
    Captain Hitchcock is a pilot. The work of his group includes the flying of ammunition, arms, food and personnel up to the front lines, the air evacuation of the wounded, and during invasions, the towing of gliders carrying airborne infantry, and the dropping of paratroopers behind enemy lines.
    For service performed in the India-Burma Theatre, his group has been awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. His group has also given outstanding performances in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern France.
    Coleraine has a unique record in World War II for a small community, one to be very proud of. Two of our boys, Bob Mackie and Al Goudge, 17-year-old boys, spent four years in Jap prison camps. One of the notable nurses in service was Lt. Rose Morrow, with active duty in Africa, India, Italy and Germany. Captain Bill Hitchcock flew his transports over four continents. This paper has no roster of all the lieutenants and ensigns from Independent School District No. Two, but it claims the highest percentage in any area of America. Among officers it has Major Chas. Gundry and Commander (Dr.) James Kingston. To this glamorous setting we add the name of "Silent Mester" most colorful of American guerrillas in the Philippines."

    Combat Record: 71 combat missions, 213 combat hours
    Promotions: March 1, 1944 - First Lieutenant
    Promotions: February 27, 1945 - Captain

    Bill served overseas during World War II in North Africa, Sicily Italy, France, and India.

    The second picture is Bill sitting in the cockpit for a photo. The plane was piloted by Hal Scrugham when it downed the Zero in China-Burma-India

  • Wars Involved:
    World War II
    Korean Conflict
    Vietnam Era

  • MIA / POW:

  • Civilian Life:
    Post War
    May 26, 1945 - Deliveries of C-47B to Waller Field, Trinidad. (See the poem "Nothing is Lost Forever")
    June 23, 1945 - "Green Project" Caribbean Division, Miami, Florida
    September 26, 1945 - Initiation of separation from service and on to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin
    January 3, 1946 - Effective date of discharge from United States Army Air Corps
    October 6, 1945 to January, 1958 - Reserve status
    January, 1958 - accepted 'Regular' commission

    The Interim - 1946-1953
    1946-1950 - Employed by S. E. Heller & Company in Grand Rapids, Minnesota as manager of the Rialto Theater which included sign painting and advertising. (Merton Rima was the 'popcorn' boy!)
    1949 - married
    1950-1952 - Employed by Walt Erickson as semi-driver for the Rutabaga Canning Company. Deliveries were made primarily to the southern states, Alabama, Georgia, etc.
    1952-1953 - Owned and operated a 'Pure Oil' service station in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
    March, 1953 - Received recall orders from United States Air Force. Business was sold.

    Bill married Genevieve Ness on January 17, 1949, in Coleraine, Minnesota. He managed the Rialto Theater in Grand Rapids, Minnesota after World War II and re-entered the Air Force during the Korean War. He also served in Vietnam. He was the recipient of many medals and awards during his 27 year military career. He retired at Sheppard Air Force Base in 1969 with the rank of Lt. Col. He retired from International Paper Company in 1985.

    He was an active member of the Retired Officers Association, Order of Daedalions, Downtown Optimist Club of Wichita Falls, Texas serving as president from 1978 to 1979. He was also a member of the Optimist Club of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the Loyal Order of the Moose in Bovey, Minnesota, the Arrowhead Good Sam Chapter in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the 28th Bombing Wing Association of Rapid City, South Dakota, and 64th Troop Carrier Group.

    He and his wife were summer residents of Lower Balsam Lake for the past several years.

    He is survived by his wife, Genevieve; two daughters, Jennifer Kucera and Paula Chambless; a son, William; three sisters, Eldrey Willour, Alice Reid, and Clarice Hitchcock; two brothers, Paul and Richard; and seven grandchildren.

    Buried in Crestview Memorial Park at Wichita Falls, Texas.

  • Tribal Affiliation(s):