wwii world war ii

David Lee “Tex” Hill (July 13, 1915 – October 11, 2007)

(Photo taken October, 1944)

Tex Hill was a fighter pilot and flying ace in World War II, with later service in Korea.

Hill earned his wings as a U.S. Naval Aviator in 1939 and joined the fleet as a TBD Devastator torpedo bomber pilot aboard the USS Saratoga before joining a Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bomber squadron aboard USS Ranger. In 1941, he was recruited with other Navy, Army and Marine Corps pilots to join the 1st American Volunteer Group (better known by its later nickname of the Flying Tigers). He learned to fly the P-40 in the AVG training program in Burma, and did well as a fighter pilot in the 2nd Pursuit Squadron (Panda Bear) as a flight leader and then squadron commander, becoming one of the top aces under the tutelage of Claire Chennault.[1]

Hill landed his first [victories] on January 3, 1942 when he downed two Nates over the Japanese airfield at Tak, Thailand. He shot down two more on January 23, and became an ace on the 24th when he shot down a fighter and a bomber over Rangoon. In March, he succeeded Jack Newkirk as Squadron Leader of the Second Squadron. By the time the AVG was disbanded in the summer of 1942, Hill was a double ace, credited with 12 ¼ victories.

On May 7, 1942, the Japanese Army began building a pontoon bridge across the Salween River, which would allow them to move troops and supplies into China. To stem this tide, 2nd Squadron Leader Hill led a flight of four new P-40Es bombing and strafing into the mile deep gorge. During the next four days, the AVG pilots flew continuous missions into the gorge, effectively neutralizing the Japanese forces. From that day on, the Japanese never advanced farther than the west bank of the Salween. Claire Chennault would later write of these critical missions, “The American Volunteer Group had staved off China’s collapse on the Salween.”

On Thanksgiving Day 1943, he led a force of 12 B-25s, 10 P-38s, and 8 new P-51s from Saichwan, China, on the first strike against Formosa. The Japanese had 100 bombers and 100 fighters located at Shimchiku Airfield, and the bombers were landing as Hill’s force arrived. The enemy managed to get seven fighters airborne, but they were promptly shot down. Forty-two Japanese airplanes were destroyed, and 12 more were probably destroyed in the attack. The American force returned home with no casualties.

After the deactivation of the Flying Tigers in July 1942, Hill was one of only five Flying Tigers to join its USAAF successor, the USAAF 23rd Fighter Group, with the rank of major. He activated the 75th Fighter Squadron and later commanded the 23rd Fighter Group as a Colonel. Before returning to the states in late 1944, Hill and his P-51 scratched another six Japanese aircraft.

It is believed that he was the first to down a Zero with a P-51. Altogether, Hill was credited with destroying 18.25 enemy aircraft. The .25 [victoriy] comes from an assist; he and 3 other pilots worked together to shoot down a Japanese Nate fighter.

In 1944, Hill returned to the U.S. and took command of the 412th Fighter Group, America’s first operational jet fighter group flying the P-59 Airacomet and the P-80 Shooting Star. He separated from active service in the USAAF in 1945.

Postwar, in July 1946, Hill was asked by Texas Governor Coke Stevenson to activate and accept command of the 136th Fighter Group of the Texas Air National Guard. Hill activated Guard units throughout the Gulf Coast and became the youngest Brigadier General in the history of the Air National Guard. He once again saw combat during the Korean War with the Texas Air National Guard.

He ended his military career in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a Brigadier General. He holds the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, Chinese Order of the Cloud and Banner 4th, 5th and 6th grades, 2-Star Wing Decorations, Chinese Victory Medal, Legion of Merit, and British Distinguished Flying Cross.

(Photo courtesy of Owen Miller)

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January 27th 1945: Liberation of Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. One of the most notorious camps of Nazi Germany, Jews and others persecuted by the Nazi regime were sent to Auschwitz from 1940 onwards. During its years in operation, over one million people died in Auschwitz, either from murder in the gas chambers or due to starvation and disease. As the war drew to a close and the Nazis steadily lost ground to the Allied forces, they began evacuating the camps and destroying evidence of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed there. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the evacuation of the remaining prisoners at the camp as the Soviet Red Army closed in on the area. Nearly 60,000 prisoners from Auschwitz were forced on a march toward Wodzisław Śląski (Loslau) where they would be sent to other camps; some 20,000 ended up in the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. However, thousands died during the evacuation on the grueling marches, leading to them being called ‘death marches’. 7,500 weak and sick prisoners remained in Auschwitz, and they were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army on January 27th 1945. Auschwitz remains one of the most powerful symbols of the Holocaust and the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime against Jews and numerous other groups.

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The British battleship HMS Barham sinking after being torpedoed by German submarine U-331 commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen, 25 November 1941 in the Mediterranean Sea. As the ship rolled over to port, her magazines exploded.

Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all-African-American, all-female unit to serve overseas in World War II, take part in a parade ceremony in honor of Joan d'Arc at the marketplace where she was burned at the stake. Rouen, France. May 27, 1945.

(US National Archives)

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Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which officially catapulted the United States into the Second World War.

This illustration from 1943 depicts Doris “Dorie” Miller (1919-1943), an African-American sailor from Waco, Texas during that fateful morning in 1941 as he defends the fleet at Pearl Harbor from the USS West Virginia. Despite not being trained on the .50 caliber Browning, Miller impressively managed to shoot down an estimated 3 to 4 Japanese planes until he ran out of ammunition. At that point, Miller began to help moving injured sailors out of harm’s way before abandoning the ship.

For his efforts on that day, Miller was awarded the US Navy Cross and was lauded as one of the first American heroes in Second World War (as the pin shows).

Miller would unfortunately be killed in action onboard the USS Liscome Bay during the battle of Makin Island 1943.

(US National Archives, USAmericana)