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 first assigned to Torpedo Squadron 3, flying the TBD Devastator from the USS Saratoga. His next assignment was 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 the Dutch East Indies, he arrived in Burma in the fall of 1941. Serving first as a flight leader and then as Commander of the AVG 2d Squadron, Hill flew 250 combat hours in the P-40 Tomahawk over Burma, China, and Thailand and was credited with l2 1/4 Japanese aircraft destroyed. The AVG disbanded in July 1942, and Hill accepted a battlefield commission to major in the Army Air Forces. He remained in China until late 1942 as the first commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron. After serving a short tour at Eglin Field, Florida, Chennault recalled him to China to take command of the 23d Fighter Group.
He returned to the US in November 1944, credited with 18 1/4 aerial kills 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 Shooting Star. He left the Army Air Forces in 1945 and joined the Texas Air National Guard to command the 58th Fighter Wing, becoming the youngest brigadier general ever to serve in the National 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 Reserve. 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. Most notably, in 2002, Hill was presented the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism against the enemy in the China Theater. Hill is an active member of the Flying Tigers Association and the American Fighter Aces Association.
On 7 May 1942, "Tex" Hill led a flight of Curtis P-40E Warhawks on an attack against Japan's 56th Division at the Salween River Gorge. Tex and his flight came upon a huge column of enemy vehicles and thousands of troops, which trailed from the river's edge to the top of the gorge and well out onto the plateau beyond. China's fate depended on stopping the Japanese drive up the Burma Road to Kunming. The Americans bombed the enemy with precision and suffered no casualties. Tex's strike was the most successful flown to date by the AVG and effectively forced the Japanese retreat back to Burma--playing a key role in the outcome of the war.