Our veterans who served our country: C.R. “Bill” Dill

Published 9:52 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

By Robin A. Edgar

Born in 1923, C.R. “Bill” Dill grew up in a house by the Ingleside Church along Highway 176 south of the Landrum city limits. He attended one year at Landrum Elementary, where the Presbyterian Church is today. In the first grade, he transferred to a school in Campobello, where he finished high school and worked at Milliken until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1942.


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“I chose to enlist to get in the U.S. Air Force. That way, I could go to the school of my choice and I wanted to be an aviation mechanic. At first, they sent me to Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., but I never had basic training. Instead, they sent me to Miami Beach, Fla. for four days for processing and then put me on a troop train to Central Oklahoma State Teachers College in Edmond to study engineering and operations training. I suppose they needed someone who could type and I had taken typing in high school.

“After I finished school, I went to a replacement center in Salt Lake City, Utah where they assigned me to Wendover Field in communications operations as part of the 7th Airdrome Squadron. Then we were shipped to Camp Stowman, California and from there on to Guadalcanal in the Pacific. We arrived July 1943 at the Carney Airfield where I worked in operations with the control tower and the squadrons, logging the planes out, and keeping up with where they went and when they returned. I also performed engineering inspections on the airplanes. I was disappointed at first until I realized how lucky I was that I got to work in a thatched hut with palm leaves for a roof and didn’t have to be out there on the airstrip in the dust and the heat.

“After a while, I was moved up the road a mile or so to work at the Koli Airfield. It rained a lot and the mosquitos were so terrible early in the morning and late at night. We had to take Atabrine tablets at the meals in the mess hall to prevent malaria and it turned our skin yellow. At night, the Japanese (we called them Machine Gun Charlie) harassed us but we just stayed put and listened to Tokyo Rose on the radio.

“Then I was assigned to Middleburg Island, a Dutch possession a few miles from the mainland of New Guinea. The airstrip was about a mile long and was so skinny, when the tides came in, the water came up at both ends of the runway.

“I remember meeting the Australian ace pilot, Lieutenant Westbrooks, who had taken down 20 planes. He flew a P-38 and a P-40, like most other Australians who came to our airfield for refueling or emergency landings. Unfortunately, he was killed in action.  Another pilot from the Australian Air Force flew to our airfield because his hydraulic system had failed. He fortunately survived the emergency crash landing. I made out the accident report and he told me his had flown over 150 combat hours in England, North Africa, and the Pacific!”

Dill served a total of three years and one month in the Army Air Corps before he was discharged in December 1945. He says he thinks every young man should serve in the military for the discipline that “gets the kinks out.”

After the military, he went back to work at Milliken for 15 months and then bought Bishop Garage in 1947 in Landrum. Dill married Lou Evelyn Brady in 1948. That same year, he opened Dill Automotive, an auto parts distribution warehouse business, near the filling station on US 176. The Dills had four children, Melinda, Melissa, Michael, and Michele. In 2011, Dill retired and sold his business. He is still active with the Masons, which he joined 62 years ago, as well as the Shriners and the First Baptist Church that he joined in 1953.

If you are a veteran and would you like to share about your experience in the US military please contact Robin Edgar at 2robinedgar@gmail.com or call the Tryon Daily Bulletin at 828-859-9151.