By: SSgt Erik Cardenas, DPAA
Bill Hill didn’t want his son Billy to go to war in Vietnam, but the need to keep his younger brother Bobby safe was too strong for his eldest son.
“Billy was afraid Bobby would go to Vietnam and get himself killed, and it turned out to be just the opposite,” said Hill.
On Jan. 21, 1968, Sgt. 1st Class Billy D. Hill, assigned to the 282nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade in his second tour to Vietnam, volunteered to be the door-gunner in the lead helicopter on a mission to Khe Sanh transporting South Vietnamese soldiers into the advisory headquarters. As the helicopters approached the landing zone, the lead helicopter was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade. Hill was believed to have died in the initial attack and was declared missing in action shortly after.
Nearly 57 years after that fateful day, Billy Hill’s remains were recovered and identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Billy Hill was then returned to his family and buried at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, Killeen, Texas, where nearly 1,000 mourners came to honor him.
“It’s been a long time,” said Dick Messer, a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2. “I was there that day, flying, and saw all the action going on. Just to have him back is pretty special.”
Billy Hill was buried on what would have been his 69th birthday. And though his father said the ceremony did not provide him closure over his son’s death, it was at least one last opportunity to celebrate his birthday and who he was as a man.
“It’s something I never expected in my entire life,” said Bill Hill. “I figured I’d be dead and gone before they found him.”
Luckily Bill Hill was proven wrong on his assumption of never seeing his son return home. Already 91 years old at the time of his son’s funeral, he did not have much more time to wait. Five days after his son was laid to rest, Bill Hill passed away in Gatesville, Texas.
“I was very proud that he served; he was a gung-ho soldier,” said Bill Hill.
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Billy D. Hill, 21, of Wichita, Kan., will be buried Dec. 17, in Killeen, Texas. Hill was assigned to the 282nd Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade, as a gunner on a UH-1D helicopter. On Jan. 21, 1968, the helicopter he was in with five other soldiers was struck by enemy fire and crashed near Khe Sahn, Vietnam. One of the two crew members who survived the crash stated he believed Hill was struck by enemy fire just prior to the crash. Hill was declared missing in action following the crash.
On April 8, 1968, soldiers searched the crash site area and recovered the remains of two of the soldiers of the helicopter. The remains of Hill and one other soldier remained unrecovered. On Dec. 12, 1975, a military review board amended Hill’s status to deceased.
Between 1993 and 2014, seven investigations were conducted regarding the whereabouts of Hill, but no remains were attributed to him.
In 2014, members of DPAA’s predecessor organization, the Joint Personnel Accounting Command, reanalyzed unknown remains returned from Vietnam during a unilateral turnover in 1989, which were reportedly recovered in the vicinity of Khe Sahn.
To identify Hill’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and two types of DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched two cousins, and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA and autosomal DNA analysis, which matched his father.
The support from the government of Vietnam was vital to the success of this recovery mission.
Today there are more than 1,600 American service members that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.
Time is almost here to celebrate the 50th
Anniversary of the 282nd!!!
The date of our reunion celebration is October 8 – 10, 2015. The
reunion will be at the
Holiday Inn Columbus North
2800 Manchester Expressway
Columbus, Georgia 31904
Registration form is in the latest newsletter.
The rate of $89.00 is available three days before October 8 and three days after October 10, 2015, and includes a full hot buffet breakfast each day. Reservations must be received by September 8, 2015. After this date, reservations will be accepted on a space and rate available basis.
Activities are as follows:
Hospitality Room October 8 -10: Will be open 8:00am to 11:00pm.
October 8 : Visit with friends in hospitality room and explore City on your own.
October 9: Social Gathering – 5:00pm – 7:00pm with a 50/50 raffle.
October 10: Helicopter Ride – Leave hotel (?? TBD) Hopefully helicopter rides will start at 9:00am.
6:00pm: Seating for dinner and photos for album. Dress casual.