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Hilary P Cole


Born to John and Mary Cole on May 5, 1920, Hilary was raised on the family farm near Tyndall, South Dakota, with strong Irish and Czechoslovakian influences. He was the sixth of seven sons.
During his early years he worked on the family’s 320-acre farm, a large farm in those days. Farm work in the 1920s and 1930s--the Depression and Dust Bowl years--was physical and hard. But it also offered the rewards of living close to the land in the South Dakota countryside, something that would deeply influence his decisions later as a husband and as a father. He graduated from Tyndall High School in 1939 and then attended two years of college at Southern State Normal in Springfield.
Hilary’s farm work paid dividends in his several careers that followed, as he went quickly from working the farm tractor in the fields to flying the most advanced war machines of the day under enemy fire.
With World War II imminent, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Aviation Training Corps (Aircraft Flying Corps) in October 1941, graduating in seven months as a qualified pilot and commissioned officer. He was shipped overseas to England in 1942.
Hilary was assigned to fly the A-20 attack bomber on medium- and low-altitude combat missions. Because the United States hadn’t completely geared up for the war at this time, his first missions were flown as a part of the British Royal Air Force. In many of his missions he was the squadron flight leader. All told, he completed 65 combat missions, defending England and France, including air support for the D-Day invasion. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Hilary’s plane was shot 48 times in those 65 missions. For his courage flying aircraft under intense enemy fire, among other military honors he was awarded the Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After a short time back in the States beginning in January 1945, he was assigned to the 51st Bombardment Squadron, as part of the Army of Occupation in Osaka, Japan, in 1948, flying surveillance missions taking photographs of military areas in Japan and South Korea. One mission assignment was to take photos along the 38th parallel in July 1949, in the runup to the Korean War.



  • Franklin Chvatal

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Aerial Gunner | 416th Bomb Group

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Units served with


Associated Place

  • Wethersfield

    Military site : airfield
    Planned in 1942 as an Eighth Air Force bomber base, Wethersfield was then supposed to be loaned to the RAF in 1943, but was re-allocated to the Ninth Air Force by the time it was complete. Built during 1943-44, it had three concrete runways, 49 loop...

  • Melun

    Military site : airfield


Event Location Date
Born Tyndall, South Dakota 5 May 1920
Lived in Tyndall, South Dakota 1 July 1941
Enlisted Fort Crook (Offut AFB), Nebraska 30 October 1941
First 416th BG Combat Mission Wisques, France 19 March 1944
Final 416th BG Combat Mission Kall, Germany 5 December 1944

Flew 55 combat missions

Died Rapid City, South Dakota 8 March 2019
Enlisted Sturgis, South Dakota 11 March 2019

Black Hills National Cemetery
Sturgis, Meade County, South Dakota, USA Add to Map
Col_B,Row_F, Site_138


Date Contributor Update
10 March 2021 20:37:47 466thHistorian Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations