Hondo Fly-In, Honoring Those Who Served!

Tex Hill

  Honoring Service 

  In The Air  and On The Ground

    Published in the May 2013 Issue of the Texas Aviator Magazine

    By Harry and Linda Kaye Perez


   There is something about South Texas hot weather and airplanes, especially War Birds. Those summer day thermals bring back memories of the distant past, and of another kind of thermal that caused these flying machines to rock and roll and behave in an erratic manner. Out of sheer necessity they would weave and turn, sometimes 180 degrees or even upside down, to avoid being hit by enemy fire in those turbulent days at the height of the conflict during World War II. 


                                               On This Day,

       May 18, 2013, 50 Commemorative Air Force (CAF) War Birds of various types were in town to commemorate the service that these great aircraft provided our country in times of war. More importantly it was a day to honor the greater service and sacrifice of the men and women who built, maintained and flew them. If not for their courage, we may not have been able to celebrate the freedoms we have today and to extend the honors to those who so unselfishly gave of themselves.


     The Tex Hill Wing of the CAF sponsored this annual Fly-In. “On Armed Forces Day each year, the Wing hosts a Fly-In, giving the public an opportunity to see, hear and touch some of the famous aircraft from World War II.” It was estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 people attended the event; some pilots, but mostly ordinary citizens with their children, there to share in the moment. Some were able to ride in the B-17 Flying Fortress (Texas Raiders), some in the C-47 Skytrain (Blue Bonnet Belle) and some in the B-25 Billy Mitchell, the type bomber that Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s Raiders flew onto Tokyo, Japan in April of 1942.


       Besides the bombers, there were AT-6 Texans (trainer), a BT-13, a P-63 King Cobra, and several of the Liaison-type aircraft (L4 and L5) among others. But most importantly there was a P-40 of Flying Tiger fame and a P-51 Mustang in attendance, both types were flown by David Lee “Tex” Hill during World War II. The local Hondo unit of the CAF, the Tex Hill Wing, was so named to commemorate this legendary aviator who received numerous accolades, recognitions and awards for his service in defense of freedom.

      On Friday night as a gracious host, the Tex Hill Wing entertained the various volunteer pilots and crews that accompanied the aircraft for the fly-in event. It also served as another opportunity for the CAF to honor all war Veterans, including those who suffered through the POW/MIA trauma.


                        Who Was He?

       David Lee Hill was born in 1915 in Korea, the son of Presbyterian missionaries. A year later, the family returned to the United States and after several more moves, settled in San Antonio in 1921. At the age of 19, he acquired the nickname “Tex” and would identify him for the rest of his life. He attended Texas A&M University for two years and graduated from Austin College in 1938 at the age of 23. He joined the Navy and in 1939 earned his wings as a U.S. Naval Aviator, and shortly thereafter found himself aboard the USS Saratoga as a torpedo-bomber pilot and later on the USS Ranger as part of the Vindicator dive-bomber squadron.


                 He Was A Flying Tiger!

       In 1941, he was approached by a retired Navy Commander who encouraged him to join the American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers; its mission was to defend the Burma Road, China’s major supply line, from Japanese attack. The opportunity for adventure made the decision easy for him, and using a fake passport, purporting to be a Texas rancher, left the U.S. and arrived in Burma in September that same year. Hill was credited with over 18 kills, making him a Triple Ace, and is thought to be the first pilot to down a Japanese Zero with a P-51. He flew more than 3,500 hours and completed 150 combat missions over Burma, India and China. He served a total of 29 years in various service branches, attained the rank of Brigadier General, and participated on combat status in both World War II and the Korean War. He ended his military career in 1965 as a highly decorated officer. In 1968 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and in 1999 the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame.


      David Lee “Tex” Hill died at the age of 92 on October 11, 2007 and was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. As full and rich a career in aviation that Tex Hill lived, he still fostered his happy-go-lucky personality throughout his life. Even into his later years he maintained a humble attitude toward his achievements and would not consider himself any more special than the other guy. As Matt Bates of the Tex Hill Wing said, “We are all in it together-it’s a team effort.” This is exactly how Tex looked at it as well. Tex Hill will forever be a hero!



                                                                High Flight

            "Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

           And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; ……….

   © Harry Perez 2012