Bruce Hinckley was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1941. He entered Officer Training School with the U.S. Air Force on September 27, 1963, and was commissioned a 2d Lt at Lackland AFB, Texas, on December 20, 1963. Lt Hinckley next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Moody AFB, Georgia, in January 1965, followed by F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from April to September 1965. His first assignment was as an F-4 pilot with the 4th and the 40th Tactical Fighter Squadrons at Eglin AFB, Florida, from September 1965 to July 1967, and then as an F-4 pilot with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on January 18, 1968. After spending 1,883 days in captivity, Capt Hinckley was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries, and then pilot requalification training before serving as a Test Project Officer for Air-to-Air Missiles with the 4485th Test Squadron, Tactical Air Warfare Center, at Eglin AFB from December 1973 to July 1976. Maj Hinckley attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from July 1976 to July 1977, and then served as an F-4 pilot and Assistant Operations Officer with the 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, from July 1977 to May 1978. His next assignment was as Chief of the Weapons and Tactics Division with the 58th Tactical Training Wing at Luke from May 1978 to May 1979, followed by service as Commander of the 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke from May 1979 to October 1981. LtCol Hinckley served as Chief of the Force Structure Analysis Division on the staff of Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from October 1981 to July 1982, and then served as Assistant Deputy Director for Contingency Plans with the Tactical Air Command Operations Staff at Langley from July 1982 to May 1983. He attended Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, from May 1983 to July 1984, followed by service as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, from July 1984 to February 1986. Col Hinckley next served as Commander of the 11th Tactical Control Group and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations with Headquarters Alaskan Air Command at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from March 1986 to June 1988, and then as Commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, from July 1988 until his retirement from the Air Force on August 1, 1991.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain Robert B. Hinckley distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F4D Aircraft Commander over North Vietnam on 18 January 1968. On that date, Captain Hinckley delivered his ordnance on an important strategic target in the face of intense antiaircraft artillery fire, tracking surface-to-air missiles, and attacking hostile aircraft. With exceptional boldness and courage, Captain Hinckley then engaged the hostile aircraft in close air to air combat. As a direct result of Captain Hinckley's efforts, his target was heavily damaged, and one hostile aircraft was shot down. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Hinckley has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.