b. 04/10/1894 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. d. 07/12/1941 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/12/1941 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Hill enlisted in the United States Navy in 1912, rising to the rank of Chief Boatswain. He is a first cousin to Captain (later Rear Admiral) Herman J. Kossler, commander of the submarine USS Cavalla (SS-244) during World War II and a recipient of the Navy Cross and three Silver Stars.
During the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was serving on board USS Nevada (BB-36). The Nevada was the only battleship that morning to attempt to make its way out of Pearl Harbor. In the midst of the attack, Hill led the ship's line-handling detail in casting off from the quays alongside Ford Island so that Nevada could get underway.
In particular, Hill is noted for having dived off the back of the Nevada into the harbor, climbing onto the dock to release the battleship from its mooring, diving back into the harbor to swim after the ship as it steamed away, and climbing back up the Nevada to resume his duties onboard during the attack.
Hill was attempting to drop anchor at the end of the battleship's brief sortie when he was killed by enemy bombs that struck the bow of the ship, claiming the lives of Hill and 46 other Nevada crewmen. Hill's body was found impacted with bullet wounds, suggesting that he may have been killed by gunfire; whether or not these wounds were sustained before or after the bomb blast will never be known; his Medal of Honor citation reports the bomb blast as being the cause of death.
Several surviving Nevada crewmen, who at time were young men of 18 and 19 years old, credit Hill with saving their lives by ordering them during the action to take protective cover behind the ship's gun turrets. (Presumably the veteran Hill recognized that these younger sailors, being completely mentally unprepared for a sudden full-scale sneak attack, would have been at great risk of becoming "cannon fodder", prompting his order for them to take cover.) These former sailors mention that Hill, who was 47 years old at the time of the attack and had 30 years of naval service, had a level of respect on par with the captain of the Nevada himself.
For his heroism during the Pearl Harbor action, Chief Boatswain Hill posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Hill led his men of the linehandling details of the U.S.S. Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to his ship. Later, while on the forecastle, attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs.
BURIAL LOCATION: NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF PACIFIC, HONOLULU, HAWAII.
Section A, Grave 895