Ace of the Day: Cmdr. Willis E. Hardy, USN (Ret)


Commander, USN (Ret)

WWII :: Confirmed Kills- 6 1/2, 1 probable, & 2 1/5 damaged 



Bill Hardy #2Willis Everett (Bill) Hardy was born on March 3, 1920, near Corning, California. After attending local schools and Southern California Junior College, he left the farm and enlisted in the Navy on February 13, 1939. After working up through the ranks as an aviation machinist’s mate, he applied for flight training and subsequently graduated with an ensign’s commission at Corpus Christi, Texas on December 16, 1943.


Ensign Hardy was assigned to VF-17 in February 1944 and in early 1945 participated in the Tokyo strikes, the Iwo Jima invasion, and the Okinawa/Kyushu campaigns. His most memorable day came on April 6 when he downed two Zekes, one Val, and two Judys in the Chichi Jima area north of Okinawa to become an “ace-in-a-day”. That day culminated in his first night carrier landing, after Hardy and his wingman stayed airborne too long heading off kamikazes. Six days later he shared in the destruction of a Tojo with Marine Second Lieutenant Wendell M. Browning, and was credited with another Tojo “probable” and a damaged Frank 10 miles north of Kikai. He scored his last victory, a Frank, on May 14.

Remaining in the Navy following the war, Hardy served as operations officer on the USS Corson (AVP-37) from March 1954 and as executive officer for VF-51 from April 1956. He retired from the Navy on April 1, 1959, as a commander and then pursued a career in the aerospace business until his retirement from Collins Radio in 1983.

Decorations: Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 4 Gold Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation

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