But Hink, now 90, has clear memories of those who didn’t come back, settle in the American suburbs and grow big families. And every year on this weekend, “you have to think back on the past, to the guys I was flying with and serving with. I always say a little prayer for them.”
Then he goes further. “I have a habit of calling the wives” of his former fellow soldiers, Hink said, “and talking about the good old times we had.”
Hink now lives in The Fairfax at Belvoir Woods, a retirement community just west of Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County. He served in the Army, then the Army Air Corps, then the Air Force, and when he retired from active duty after 28 years, he joined another group with many alumni in this region: the civil service, working for the Federal Aviation Administration for 18 years until his retirement in 1987.
He remembers declaring his intentions to fly early on, making planes out of sticks in the yard of his home in Weatherford, Okla., and informing his father, “I’m going to fly one of these, one of these days.”
Hink was 19 and in college when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941. He enlisted in the Army soon after and was summoned to active duty in 1943, after he turned 21. He immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps, and after being trained to fly the B-17 bomber, he was one of three students chosen to learn and pilot the new B-29 “superfortress.”
The plane debuted in June 1944 and was used exclusively in the Pacific theater. Initially, American planes were launched from China and India, but the distances were too great. So Allied forces attacked and seized the Mariana Islands in the summer and fall of 1944 and built bases to launch attacks on Japan from there.
Hink landed in Guam in April 1945. With a crew of 11, he began flying 15-hour round-trip missions to northern Japan, targeting oil refineries and other war-
making machinery of the Japanese empire.
“It was something new to me,” Hink said. “I had to drop bombs on people.”
They also had to dodge Japanese fighter planes when they weren’t able to use their own high-powered guns to shoot them down. Hink said the Japanese planes weren’t as numerous or well-built as the German fleet, but the kamikaze mission of flying directly into an enemy aircraft occasionally found its mark.
“We were in the air, flying one day,” Hink recalled. “I looked over and one of our planes blew up,” its wing ripped off. “If they hit you, you didn’t have much of a chance.”