Billy Hovde was born on April 4, 1917, in Crookston, Minnesota. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard on September 1, 1932, and served with the 205th Infantry until leaving service on April 17, 1937. Hovde then entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in July 1939, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Army Air Forces on January 19, 1943. He attended pilot training at the academy and was awarded his pilot wings on December 13, 1942. After completing P-47 Thunderbolt training, Lt Hovde joined the 358th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Group in England in May 1943, and was commander of the 358th from July to August 1944, and again from May to August 1945. During this time, Maj Hovde was credited with the destruction of 10.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 1 damaged, and another 2 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. He served as Deputy Commander of the 355th Fighter Group in Germany from October 1945 to March 1946, and then as Commander of the 357th Fighter Squadron from March to September 1946. Hovde then served with the 71st Fighter Squadron and then the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at March Field, California, from September 1946 to September 1948, when he went to Ecuador to serve as an advisor to the Ecuadoran Air Force. He returned to the U.S. in September 1950 and then served as Operations Officer, Executive Officer, and Commanding Officer for the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, and later as the Executive Officer for the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, in Korea, where he flew 44 combat missions and shot down 1 enemy aircraft between October 1950 and August 1951. After attending the Strategic Intelligence School at Fort Meyer, Virginia, he served as Air Attache to Mexico City, Mexico, from December 1951 to March 1955. His next assignment was as Director of Operations for the 4709th Air Defense Wing at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, from April 1955 to May 1956, followed by service as Commander of the 14th Fighter Group and as Base Commander at Ethan Allen AFB, Vermont, from May 1956 to August 1958. Col Hovde attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1958 to July 1959, and then served at Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1959 to September 1962. He attended the Attache Course at the Defense Intelligence School from September 1962 to February 1963, and then returned to Mexico City, where he served as Air Attache from June 1963 until his retirement from the Air Force on June 30, 1967. Billy Hovde died on March 13, 1996, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy, 5 December 1944. On this date, while acting as Group Leader on a bomber-escort mission Major Hovde directed an attack by his Group on superior numbers of enemy aircraft. Despite the fact that his aircraft developed mechanical difficulties and his fuel reserve was critically short, he relentlessly pursued the enemy, personally destroying five of them and sharing in the destruction of a sixth. The outstanding heroism and determination to destroy the enemy displayed by Major Hovde on this occasion are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States.