David Lee Tex Hill, a triple ace with more than 15 confirmed victories, served his country in the Navy, Army Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve! He was born in 1915 to American missionaries in Japanese-ruled Korea, but spent most of his childhood in Texas. After paying $1 for his first airplane ride, the love of flying captured Hill forever! He received a Bachelor of Arts degree and then joined the Navy as an aviation cadet. He pinned on his wings and ensigns bars in 1939 at NAS Pensacola. For two years, he first flew the Douglas TBD Devastator and then the Vought SB2U Vindicator from the latest carriers.
When the Japanese threatened to overrun China in mid-1941, Hill was discharged from the Navy to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) commanded by a retired Army Air Corps pilot, Claire Chennault. In January 1942, after the Japanese attacked American, British and Dutch forces in the Far East, Hill flew the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk in his first combat. He commanded the 2nd Squadron of the AVG, which would achieve fame as the Flying Tigers. John Wayne portrayed Hill in a 1942 film, Flying Tigers. When the AVG was disbanded in July 1942, Hill remained in China, accepted a commission as 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 and Major General Chennaults Fourteenth Air Force. Flying the North American P-51 Mustang, he commanded the 23rd Fighter Group. On 25 November 1943, over Formosa, he probably became the first Mustang pilot to shoot down a Japanese plane. In 1944, back stateside, he commanded the 412th Fighter Group equipped with the Bell P-59 Airacomet and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first American-built jets. In 1946, Hill accepted a commission in the Texas Air National Guard and commanded the 58th Fighter Wing.
At age 31, he was the youngest brigadier general ever to serve in the Air National Guard. By 1952, he joined the Air Force Reserve. He flew the North American T-28 Trojan at Brooks AFB, Texas and commanded the 8707th Flying Training Wing. Hill remained in the active reserve until 1958. A living legend among fighter pilots and a true hero, he retired in 1968 with over 3500 flying hours including more than 150 in combat over Burma, Indochina and China. His numerous combat decorations include medals from the United States, United Kingdom, and China. A former president of both the Flying Tigers Association and the American Fighter Aces, he was also vice commander of the Order of Daedalians, and is an avid sportsman.
After World War II, there were thousands of skilled pilots in the United States. Many were deactivated, never to fly again and some went on to careers in civil aviation. Many of those with a truly great love of flying, like Tex Hill joined the Air Force Reserves. He passed on that love of aviation and his skills as a pilot to many others while flying the North American T-28 Trojan from Brooks AFB. Many of today's generation of reservists have also seen combat and are a vital part of our defense as they routinely fly in Air Force operations around the world.