David Lee "Tex" Hill, a triple ace with more than 18 confirmed victories, was the first North American P-51B Mustang pilot to shoot down a Japanese Zero. Born in 1915, in Kwangju, Korea, to American missionaries, Hill grew up in Texas. Upon graduating from Austin College in 1938, he entered the US Navy as an aviation cadet. He earned his wings and commission at Pensacola NAS in 1939, and then served two years aboard the USS Saratoga, flying the Douglas TBD Devastator in Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3). Hill's next assignment was to Bombing Squadron Four (VB-4) flying the Vought SB2U Vindicator from the USS Ranger.
In March 1941, a shipmate talked Hill into joining Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as the famed "Flying Tigers." Hill left the Navy and made the six-week boat trip to Burma. Serving first as a flight leader and then as the commander of AVG's 2 Squadron, Hill flew the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk over Burma, China, and Thailand, and was credited with 12¼ aerial victories. On May 7, 1942, Hill led a flight of P-40Es on an attack against Japan's 56th Division at the Salween River Gorge. China's fate depended on stopping Japan's advance to Kunming. Hill's flight bombed the Japanese division with deadly precision and suffered no casualties. The strike was a success unequaled by any mission the AVG had yet flown.
When the AVG disbanded in July 1942, Hill remained in China and took command of the 75th Fighter Squadron. Hill returned to the States in November 1944, credited with 18¼ aerial victories and a total of over 20 probable victories. He spent the rest of the war as the commander of the 412th Fighter Group, the first jet unit in the US Army Air Forces (USAAF), flying the first American-built jets, the Bell P-59 Airacomet and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. He left the USAAF 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 history of the Air Guard.
Shortly thereafter, he joined the Air Force Reserve's 433d Tactical Airlift Wing at Kelly AFB, Texas. He retired in 1968, with over 3,500 flying hours, including more than 150 flown in combat. His numerous decorations include the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Air Medals. He also earned a British Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous awards and decorations from the Chinese government. On May 25, 2002, Hill was presented the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism against the enemy in the China Theater. He is an avid sportsman, a gourmet cook, and active member of the Flying Tigers Association, the Order of Daedalians, and American Fighter Aces. He is married to the former Mazie C. Sale. They live in San Antonio, Texas, and have four children.
On May 7, 1942, "Tex" Hill led a flight of Curtiss P-40E Warhawks on an attack against Japan's 56th Division at the Salween River Gorge. Tex and his flight spotted a huge column of enemy trucks, armored vehicles, and thousands of troops. China's fate depended on stopping this drive up the Burma road to Kunming. The Americans bombed the enemy with deadly precision and suffered no casualties. The strike was a success unequaled by any mission the American Volunteer Group had yet flown. The gorge became a graveyard for military vehicles and equipment. The enemy retreated to Burma, and the Japanese never tried to cross the river again.