Bill Hardy was born on March 2, 1920, in Corning, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 14, 1939, and served as an Aviation Machinist's Mate before entering the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. Hardy was commissioned an Ensign and designated a Naval Aviator on December 16, 1943, and then served as an F6F Hellcat pilot with VF-17 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) from February 1944 to June 1945. During this time he was credited with the destruction of 6.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 1 probable, and 2.2 damaged in the air. After World War II, CDR Hardy remained in the Navy, and was operations officer aboard the seaplane tender USS Corson (AVP-37) from March 1954 to March 1956, and as Executive Officer of VF-51 from April 1956 to April 1958. He retired from the Navy on April 1, 1959.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism as Pilot of a Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron SEVENTEEN, attached to the U.S.S. HORNET, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of Okinawa Shima, April 6, 1945. Participating in the interception of a large force of Japanese aircraft, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Hardy attacked an enemy fighter plane, causing it to crash into the sea. Sighting two hostile dive bombers, he shot both down in quick succession. Centering his fire upon a third dive bomber, he skillfully exploded it in midair after which he set off in relentless pursuit of another Japanese dive bomber, which crashed into the sea, exploding with terrific force upon impact. HIs courage and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Hardy and the United States Naval Service.