Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1983 1988 1992 1997 1998 1999 2003 2005 2006

Eagle Biography

David Lee Hill

David Lee "Tex" Hill, one of America's legendary aces, began his military career flying scouting bombers in the U.S. Navy. He was born on 13 July 1915 in Kwangju, Korea, the son of American missionaries. Hill grew up in Texas and after paying $1 for his first airplane ride, wanted to become an aviator. Graduating from college in 1938, Hill entered the Navy as an aviation cadet and earned wings and a commission at Pensacola NAS in 1939. He served for a year aboard the USS Saratoga, flying the Douglas TBD Devastator in Torpedo Squadron 3. Hill's next assignment was to Bombing Squadron 4, flying the Vought SB2U Vindicator from the USS Ranger .

In March 1941, a shipmate talked Hill and another pilot into joining the American Volunteer Group (AVG). Discharged from the Navy, he made a six-week boat trip to Burma, and arrived in late 1941. Serving first as a flight leader and then as Commander of the AVG's 2nd Squadron, the "Panda Bears," Hill flew the Curtis P-40 Tomahawk over Burma, China, and Thailand and was credited with 12 ¼ aerial victories. The AVG became famous in the 1942 film, Flying Tigers, in which John Wayne portrayed Hill. When the AVG disbanded in July 1942, Hill remained in China, became a major in the Army Air Force, and took command of the 75th Fighter Squadron.

After a short assignment as Commander of the Proving Ground Group at Eglin Field, Florida, he returned to China to lead the 23rd Fighter Group. On 25 November 1943, he led a force of North American P-51 Mustangs and B-25 Mitchells on a surprise raid against a Japanese airfield on Formosa. On that mission, he became the first P-51 Mustang pilot to down a Japanese Oscar. Hill returned to the States in November 1944, credited with 18 ¼ aerial victories and more than 20 probable victories. He spent the rest of the war as Commander of the 412th Fighter Group, flying the first American-built jets, the Bell P-59 Airacomet and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star.

He left the Army Air Force in 1945 and joined the Texas Air National Guard to command the 58th Fighter Wing. At age 31, Hill became the youngest brigadier general in the Guard. He later resigned his commission and went to Africa to trap gorillas for the movie, Mighty Joe Young. Returning home, Hill joined the Air Force Reserve's 433rd Tactical Airlift Wing at Kelly AFB, Texas. A living legend among fighter pilots and a true hero, Hill retired in 1968 with over 3,500 flying hours including more than 150 combat sorties over Burma, Indochina, and China. He is an avid sportsman, a gourmet cook, and an active member of the Flying Tigers Association, the Order of Daedalians, and the American Fighter Aces. Hill and his wife of 56 years, Mazie, live in San Antonio, Texas.

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