Just four days after Roy Hild was deployed overseas, he was part of an 11-man crew sent up in a B-29 bomber on a short search mission.
It was the start of 30 missions that the North Platte resident and Air Force pilot was part between April 15 and Aug. 6, 1945, the majority of which were bombing raids in Japan during World War II.
“They didn’t let us sit around a lot,” Hild said recently while sitting in his living room.
He has a copy of the mission list noted by a bombardier for a crew that Hild served with, the 458th Bombardment Squadron. The group was part of the brigade that flew B-29 Superfortress planes, which were used for high-altitude strategic bombing and low-altitude incendiary bombing during the war.
“We hit Tokyo several times and cities just west of there,” said Hild, 99, who celebrated his 75th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lily, in September.
Each mission would take off and land at the home base in Guam, last about 15 hours and use roughly 6,000 gallons of fuel.
The crew flew 13 missions in June 1945 alone — fire raids on 10 Japanese cities.
“Every time we went up, they shot at us,” Hild said, “but we were lucky. We had a few moments; they knocked out our hydraulic line one time.”
The mission list from a fire raid over Tokyo and Honshu on May 23-24 notes that it was an intense risk as the plane was momentarily caught in the Japanese searchlights at night and was fired on.
Another note from a raid on Osaka and Honshu says the B-29 was “nearly rammed by a Tony,” the Allies’ nickname for a Japanese fighter aircraft.
“I don’t remember ever being scared (for a mission),” Hild said. “It was almost like going to work. It was a military assignment and it was what you did.
“You didn’t really think much of it,” Hild said. “You took off on the mission and just hoped that hoped that you would make it back. We didn’t have much opposition from the Japanese most times. The guys flying those B-17s and B-24s in Germany and Africa had it a lot tougher than we did.”
One of the B-29s that Hild was a crew member on — the “Sentimental Journey” — is housed at the Pim Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. He has taken a pair of trips to see the plane, and his former crew has had about a dozen reunions over the years.
Hild was drafted on June 12, 1942. His training took him from boot camp at Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to airplane mechanic school in Lincoln, and to propeller specialist school in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.
Pilot training then took him from Phoenix, Arizona, to Lancaster, California; Marfa, Texas; and Jamestown, North Dakota.
Hild earned four aviation medals and Distinguished Service and Good Conduct medals during his service. He had an offer to be a pilot for United Airlines after the war, but declined.
“I thought I wouldn’t be flying a lot in the United States and instead they would have me going overseas or somewhere else,” Hild said.
Instead, he landed a job with Pearson Appliance in 1946. Nine years later he started his own business, Hild Service Co., and Lily was office manager. In 1962 he formed a partnership, Coen-Hild LP Gas Co. Roy became the sole proprietor in 1975 and that company became Hild Propane Co., Inc., in 1991.
He retired in December 2017 after 72 years in the workforce.
As he looked around at the mementos and artifacts of his military career, he said one thing stands out from his service:
“That I was able to wear the uniform,” Hild said.