Guy Dill describes himself as a 1942 Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”. He enlisted in the army as a United States Navy fighter pilot on January 1, 1942, less than a month after the Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor during World War II. He was only 19 years old.
In December, Dill returned to Hawaii for the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon his return, he shared his wartime experiences and his return trip to Pearl Harbor.
Join the navy
Dill graduated from high school just seven months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“It was either get in or get drafted, so I joined the Navy Air Corps,” he said. “I asked if I could be a pilot, so they put me in a flight training program in Pensacola, and that’s where I started. I told my sergeant that the war would be over when I received my training.
But that was not the case.
During the latter part of 1942, Dill was assigned to a squadron in the South Pacific. By the time he arrived, there were still sunken ships in the Pearl Harbor Channel, so his squadron was based on the Hawaiian island of Maui. He was stationed aboard the USS Manilla Bay, a Casablanca-class escort carrier.
“I’ve flown in these fighter jets a lot with the Navy. I’ve landed and taken off from this aircraft carrier many times – I don’t see how I did when I look back now,” Dill said. “We didn’t have jets back then; we had propeller planes, and there were about 12 wires of cable to hook us in when we landed. [on the carrier]. We would take off and fly in that direction if the wind was good. Otherwise, they fired at us with a catapult. It was quite an experience.”
Dill spent most of his time in the air, completing his training and performing reconnaissance missions over Pearl Harbor, protecting heaven and earth.
Its main job was to provide air cover and bomb support to US Marines retaking islands occupied by Japanese forces, including Okinawa, Midway, and the Guadalupe Islands. Dill would fly over and bombard the islands to fight his way out.
“If they got bogged down, they would call in air support, and that’s when they would send in the fighters so they could advance on the island.”
Dill remained in office from 1942 to 1945. The United States was two days away from bombing Japan when the treaty was signed to end the war. Dill said the Lord was with him and kept him safe during the war, allowing him to return home.
life after the army
After five years of active duty, Dill transferred to the active reserve and worked for L&N Railroad, where his grandfather was an engineer.
“I worked for them for about six months before I entered the service, and they kept my job until I came back from the war,” Dill said. “I worked for them again for about five years.”
Dill believed that all freight would soon be transferred to trucking lines, so he went to work for Malone Freight Lines. The company created a sales department and asked Dill to take it over. He hired about 15 salespeople from across the country and made the company over $30 million in the first year.
He said he loved the job and added that the best thing he could do was talk to people. He retired as Vice President of Sales after 16 years with the company. He also retired from the US Navy Active Reserve as a Lieutenant Commander after 23 years of service.
The Dill family made Indian Springs their home for over 40 years, where Dill served on the Indian Springs Council. He remained there until his wife died more than five years ago, and he now lives at Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City.
Back to Pearl Harbor
Dill was one of 62 veterans who recently made the trip to Pearl Harbor for the 80th anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack. The trip was organized by the Best Defense Foundation, which was founded in 2018 by former NFL linebacker Donnie Edwards.
The non-profit organization celebrates veterans of past conflicts – including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and those who have recently retired – with the goal of “caring for those who cared for we”. The foundation also brings World War II veterans back to the battlefields where they served.
Dill and his son Butch, also a veteran and an Associated Press photographer, made the trip to Hawaii together.
All veterans flew to Dallas on December 2, where they were welcomed as heroes. That evening, they enjoyed dinner prepared by Food Network chef Robert Irvine and danced to big band music.
The next morning, they boarded an American Airlines 787 plane for their private flight to Hawaii. American Airlines provided the flight for free, and the pilots and crew volunteered their time for the trip.
“When we got on the plane, there were letters and posters from kids all over the country, and on every seat was a welcome letter written by an elementary school student,” Butch Dill said.
Upon arrival in Hawaii, the group headed to Ford Island for a “liberty luau” at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
During their second day in Hawaii, they visited Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Airfield, which was the primary target and site of the first Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. They had lunch with active duty U.S. Army soldiers and hosted a block party in Honolulu. that night.
During their third day, the group had lunch on the deck of the USS Missouri, the site of the official Japanese surrender in World War II. Many veterans had spent time on the ship years ago.
On board, Butch Dill said he was struck by a realization.
“It was only then that I realized that the ship had fought in World War II in the South Pacific and that my father’s aircraft carrier had fought alongside her during her battles,” said Butch Dill. “It was also the ship where the treaty was signed to end the war. They brought it back to fight in the Desert Storm, and it was in my battle group that I was fighting. My father and I got to see him in action, fighting in two different wars in two different parts of the world.
The next morning, the veterans split into three groups and toured an elementary, middle, and high school on the island before meeting with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines at Kaneohe that afternoon.
On December 7, the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, veterans were taken to a memorial event where they were recognized, honored and celebrated for their service and sacrifice. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade took place that evening, and the streets were lined with thousands of people who came out to pay their respects to the band.
“We went about 2 miles down the road, and there were 20 to 30 people on either side of the road,” Butch Dill said. “Everyone was waving American flags. It was packed.
Butch Dill said he asked his father what he remembered about his time there in the 1940s, and Guy Dill shared his experiences flying over the island and taking the ferry to Ford’s base Island.
“Most of the time he remembers it from the air, seeing damaged ships in the harbor,” Butch Dill said. “Look from above and see all the sunken ships.”
It was a special trip for the father-son duo. Butch Dill said it was the first time he had seen his father since the pandemic began. Being also in the army, they were able to experience this special event together.
Guy Dill called the trip wonderful and said he appreciated the people who made it possible.
“They had a banquet every night for us,” Guy Dill said. “They were great with us. They did everything for us and truly honored WWII veterans.
Guy Dill, who turns 100 in May, said of his experience: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it, but I would take a million to do it again.”