Bill Hardman was born on November 16, 1933, in Saint Albans, West Virginia. He enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 24, 1957, and was assigned to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for Naval Flight Officer training from October 1957 to April 1959, followed by Bombardier/Navigator training on the A3J-1 Vigilante (later redesignated the A-5 Vigilante) with VAH-3 at NAS Sanford, Florida, from April 1959 to April 1960. His next assignment was as an A-5 Bombardier/Navigator with VAH-7, also at NAS Sanford, from April 1960 to June 1961, and then with VAH-5 at NAS Sanford and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forestal (CVA-59) from June 1961 to April 1963. LT Hardman next served with RVAH-3, flying aboard the RA-5C Vigilante, at NAS Sanford from April 1963 to April 1966, followed by Replacement Air Group training in the A-6 Intruder with VA-42 at NAS Oceana, Virginia, from April to November 1966. LCDR Hardman served as an A-6 Navigator/Bombardier with VA-196 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64) from November 1966 until he was forced to eject while flying his 59th combat mission over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on August 21, 1967. After spending 2,033 days in captivity, CDR Hardman was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and then served with the Naval ROTC detachment at the University of Florida from September 1973 to April 1975. CDR Hardman's final assignment was as Director of Aviation Indoctrination with Naval Aviation Schools Command at NAS Pensacola from April 1975 until his retirement from the Navy on November 1, 1977. Bill Hardman volunteered at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola until his death on May 27, 2008. He was buried at Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola.
His 1st (of 3) Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 21 August 1967 as a naval flight officer in Attack Squadron ONE NINE SIX, embarked in USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64). Demonstrating outstanding leadership and planning ability, Commander (then Lieutenant Commander) Hardman participated in a coordinated air-wing attack against the Duc Noi Rail Yard, situated five miles north of Hanoi, North Vietnam. As pathfinder navigator, he led his force through cloud-shtrouded mountainous terrain to the target area. Encountering intense antiaircraft-artillery and missile fire about fifteen miles from the target, Commander Hardman assisted his pilot in commencing the bombing run, well aware that his aircraft was being tracked by a surface-to-air missile. Seconds later, his aircraft received a direct hit and was soon engulfed in flames. After the bombs were released, Commander Hardman ejected from the severely damaged aircraft. The remaining strike aircraft dived through the heavy enemy fire to deliver extremely accurate and highly devastating attacks on the target. By his indomitable leadership and courage, Commander Hardman contributed materially to the major damage inflicted on this vital North Vietnamese transportation facility. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.