Colonel David Lee "Tex" Hill was born on 13 July 1915 in Kwangju, Korea, the son of American missionaries. He grew up in Texas, but returned to the Far East years later as one of the first pilots in General Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group (AVG)--the original "Flying Tigers." He entered the Navy as an aviation cadet in 1938 and earned his wings and commission upon graduation from Pensacola NAS in 1939. He was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 3, flying the TBD Devastator from the USS Saratoga, and then to Bombing Squadron 4, flying the SB2U Vindicator from the USS Ranger. In 1941, he was recruited to serve in China with the "Flying Tigers."
After a 6-week boat trip via Australia, the Philippines, and Dutch East Indies, he arrived in Burma in the fall of 1941. Serving first as a flight leader and then commander of the AVG's 2d Squadron, Hill flew a total of 250 combat hours in the P-40B Tomahawk over Burma, China, and Thailand and was credited with 12 1/4 Japanese aircraft destroyed. The AVG was disbanded in July 1942 and Hill accepted a battlefield commission to major in the Army Air Force. He remained in China until late 1942 as the first commander of the newly formed 75th Fighter Squadron. After a short tour at Eglin Field, Florida, Chennault personally recalled him to China to take command of the 23d Fighter Group.
He returned to the States in November 1944, credited with 18 1/4 aerial victories and more than 20 probable victories. Hill spent the rest of the war as commander of the 412th Fighter Group, operationally testing the first American-built jets, the Bell YP-59 and the Lockheed P-80. He left the Army Air Force in 1945 and joined the Texas Air National Guard to command the newly formed 58th Fighter Wing--becoming the youngest brigadier general ever to serve in the Guard. He later resigned his commission and went to central Africa to trap gorillas for the movie " Mighty Joe Young." Returning to the States, he joined the Air Force Reserve's 433d Tactical Airlift Wing at Kelly AFB, Texas.
He retired in 1968 as a colonel after serving his country in the Navy, American Volunteer Group, Army Air Force, Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserves. In addition to the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Air Medals earned in the Army Air Force, he earned a British Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous awards and decorations from the Chinese government. Hill is an active member of the Flying Tigers Association and the American Fighter Aces Association. He lives with his wife, Mazie, in San Antonio, Texas.
In 1941, before the United States entered World War II, a unique group of American pilots, eager for combat, joined Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group. Flying obsolete P-40B Tomahawks for the Chinese government, they repeatedly rose to meet superior Japanese armadas despite acute shortages of fuel, spare parts, and ammunition. The "Flying Tigers" never had more than 70 trained pilots or 49 aircraft in commission at any one time, but they valiantly defended China from December 1941 until disbanded in July 1942. These outstanding airmen faced an enemy that outnumbered them 10 to 1, but they compiled an incredible record of 299 enemy planes destroyed and another 153 probably destroyed--only 4 " Flying Tigers" and 12 P-40s were lost in aerial combat!