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 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.
The unit escorted merchant convoys from Bermuda to the Azores, flying ahead of British task forces to spot hostile submarines. In 1941, he was recruited to serve in China with the "Flying Tigers." After a six-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's 2nd 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 Force. He remained in China until late 1942 as the first commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron.
After Hill served a short tour at Eglin Field, Florida, Chennault recalled him to China to take command of the 23rd 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 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 433rd 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. Hill is an active member of the Flying Tigers Association and the American Fighter Aces Association.
With World War II looming, the US Navy fought to fortify key locations in the Pacific. A large exercise, called "Fleet Problem 2l," demonstrated integration of the new air arm. The scenario depicted a foreign power invading key locations such as Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines. The TBD Devastator was part of the Navy's integrated air task force. Dive-bombers created a diversion for the Devastators, who flew in below 5O feet to deliver their torpedoes, while fighters fended off enemy attackers. Successful execution of "Fleet Problem 2l" demonstrated the increasingly important role the aircraft carrier was to play in the coming war with Japan.