A Famous WWII Fighter Pilot Stops In Tyler - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/28/06-Tyler

A Famous WWII Fighter Pilot Stops In Tyler

They call him an American legend. Some even call him a hero. In 1941, David Lee Hill, better known as Tex, became a member of the American Volunteer Group, which was a group of American fighter pilots that flew for China in WWII. The planes they flew were called Flying Tigers. Today, Tex made a stop at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler to talk about the Flying Tigers.

It's not a common story you hear when talking about WWII, how a group of American fighter pilots kept the Japanese from invading China.

"They came from all walks of life," said Ron Rimbey of the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum. Some of these men came from commercial airline, some came from the Air force, at the time it was called the Army Air core, some came from the Navy." They were a small group of pilots, never more than 100 at one time. Tex, who was raised in the hill country of Texas, was recruited to serve in the American Volunteer Group, or AVG in 1941. At that time, the Japanese were killing Chinese civilians by the thousands.

"The Chinese soldiers were in a gentle plan to retreat and they needed something to lift their spirits," said Rimbey. "The AVG not only fought the Japanese, but they gave the people of China something to bully their spirit."

The AVG was also formed to keep the Japanese from getting to the Germans, which in turn helped bring victory in WWII.  "Most people don't realize the United States came close to losing the war, particularly in the first six months," said Wallace H. Little, former Flying Tiger Shark. "Midway we almost had nothing, but the AVG." Tex was one of the top pilots, destroying more than 10 Japanese planes.  "He was the second most famous name that came out of China," said Little.

"Tex is a natural-born leader," said Rimbey. "He was the one that the pilots looked to for guidance." Thanks to the book Tex wrote two years ago, the story of the AVG Flying Tigers will never be forgotten. Tex's book, called Tex Hill Flying Tigers covers his life from the time he was born to the mid 90s. You can find it at any major book store.

Molly Reuter reporting, mreuter@kltv.com

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