12 October 2007

RIP: David Lee "Tex" Hill

David Lee Hill
13 Jul 1915 - 11 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Houston Chronicle
David Lee "Tex" Hill, a World War II fighter pilot who was the youngest brigadier general in the history of the Texas Air National Guard, died Thursday. He was 92.

Hill died at his home in Terrell Hills near San Antonio, longtime friend Tibaut Bowman said.


Hill graduated as a naval aviator in 1939, and in 1941, he joined the Flying Tigers, an American volunteer group based in China during World War II. He shot down 18 1/4 enemy aircraft during the war, Bowman said. The "quarter" came when four planes were involved in shooting down an enemy plane and each pilot was credited with one-fourth of the downing.

Hill emerged from the war a national hero. John Wayne based his character on him in the 1942 film, "The Flying Tigers," and Hill earned numerous medals, among them the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, the British [Distinguished] Flying Cross and six Chinese combat decorations.

Xinhua Net (China) says this:
David Lee "Tex" Hill, a renowned leader of the Flying Tigers -- a small volunteer force recruited to help defend China in the early years of World War II -- died at his home at the age of 92, media reports Friday.

Hill died of congestive heart failure at his San Antonio home Thursday with his wife and his two children at his bedside. Before he died, his wife told him, "You're free to go."

"We're going to miss him a lot, and he's definitely in a better place now," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Reagan Schaupp, Hill's grandson. "He was a hero to us and certainly to a lot of people."

And the San Antonio Express-News has a nice long article with a lot of background information:
Hill served as flight leader and then squadron leader of the 2nd Squadron, the Panda Bears, until the Flying Tigers were disbanded in July 1942. In seven months with the squadron, the young Texan, described by [author Daniel] Ford as a “raw-boned, shambling dispenser of one-liners that could be side-splittingly funny,” shot down a dozen enemy planes.

Flying a single-engine Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighter with a shark's mouth painted on the nose, Hill recorded his first aerial victory on Jan. 3, 1942, by shooting down two Japanese fighters over their base in Thailand.


Less than two weeks later, he shot down two more planes. Later that same month, Hill's downing of another fighter and a bomber over Burma made him an ace – a flier with at least five victories in aerial combat.

Four pilots, including Hill, shared credit for the destruction of a Japanese reconnaissance plane that smashed into a canyon wall after all the American aircraft fired into it.

With 12.25 victories, Hill became the second highest-ranking ace in the Flying Tigers. They were the first Americans to defeat the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and in time racked up a 15-to-1 kill ratio – a reflection of Chennault's decision to play to the strengths of his own planes and the weaknesses of his enemy.

According to the AVG page at Warbird Forum, there are 21 members of the AVG still alive, though only four of those (Charles Bond, Kenneth Jernstedt, Robert Keeton and J Richard Rossi) were combat pilots.

Left to right: Maj John Alison, Major "Tex" Hill, Capt "Ajax" Baumler
and Lt Mack Mitchell

My sister bought me a copy of The Flying Tigers, by John Toland, when I was a kid, and I remember reading about Hill's exploits.

No comments: