When Major Billy C. Hall left high school to fight in WWII, he was so young that his recruiter had to lie about the vet’s age on his application.
“Men like [Hall] aren’t just ‘the greatest generation,’” friend and fellow veteran Dwight Hanson said. “They’re ‘men of legend.’”
With 27 years of service spanning three wars—which earned him a bronze star and other honors—the 96-year-old Hall is one of the few remaining veterans who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
At 15, he joined the Marines, made his way to Japan, and enlisted shortly before the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
“That was my growing-up phase. I grew up in the Marine Corps,” Hall told The Epoch Times.
At the time, Hall served as a radio gunner on the island of Guadalcanal, alongside Allied efforts to drive the Japanese back into the Pacific. There, the teenager served in a dive bomber squadron where he operated two single 30-caliber machine guns against hostiles, among other duties.
Already skilled in radio and communications, Hall also taught morse code to soldiers older than him during this time.
By the time he was 17 years old, Hall already flew over 150 combat missions on land and sea during World War II, shooting down enemy targets and launch torpedoes.
During one mission, Hall and his pilot narrowly escaped death after a Japanese hostile shot a 20-millimeter explosive round of ammunition right into Hall’s gas tank. However, in a “one in a billion” miracle, the round was discovered to be a dud.
“Those rounds are highly explosive, the fact that it went straight into our gas tank should have blown us out of the air,” Hall said.
Hall received the Air Medal with three stars for his acts of heroism in flight after WWII, but his fight didn’t end there.
Shortly after, Hall joined the California Army National Guard to serve as an Infantry and Communications officer during the Korean War.
At this time, his squadron’s communication lines were being cut by enemy forces on the ground.
Using his creativity, Hall devised a way to solve the issue by using bazookas to fire phone wires high into the air to hang them from hilltops on either side of their valley, thus preventing enemy forces from cutting the wires from below.
His innovation earned him a Bronze Star, along with an Infantry Combat Badge and a Korean Service Medal.
Hall later realized that his unit was not expected to make it out alive. He discovered this, he said, when hearing that at the time, monitors in charge of preventing troops from revealing their location in their letters home suddenly stopped censoring this information.
Hall said this was because his superiors received word that enemy forces were to annihilate his unit, and thus allowed soldiers to share where they were so that families “would know where to find [their] bodies.”
After the Korean war, Hall chose to remain in the army to train as a helicopter pilot under the Army Air Corps—later known as the U.S. Air Force.
In 1966, the then-fixed-wing pilot served 50 missions in the Vietnam War including inserting troops, medical evacuations, and more. He retired a year later and was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal.
Hall spent seven of his nearly 30 years of service in front-line combat and continues to share his story with younger generations across the state, including at his American Legion Post in Newport Beach.
He has a daughter and a son, who served in Vietnam and died following his battle with cancer years later.
Having traveled throughout the U.S. and the world in his RV, Hall now resides in Orange, having retired from a career in communications working with the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce and Santiago Canyon College in Orange, among others.
He has also volunteered for multiple veteran associations and Civilian Air Patrol, a non-profit aimed at providing relief and locating lost individuals during disasters.