John A. Hilger, 0-20437, Brigadier General
Pilot Crew 14

Graduated from Sherman High School in June, 1926 and attended Texas A&M College, College Station Texas, graduating with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1932.  Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry, he resigned the commission to enter the Army Air Corps as a Flying Cadet in February, 1933.  Received wings and was placed on active duty as a Flying Cadet in February, 1934.  Was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in February, 1935.  Was commanding officer of the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron when the Tokyo Raid was planned.  After the raid, he returned to the China-Burma-India Theater as a commander of a Bomb Group.  During the last eighteen months of the war, he served on the staff of Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Area.  Attended Air Was College and National War College and has served in various operational and staff assignments.  During Korean War was commander of 307th Bomb Wing located on Okinawa.  Also served in Turkey and Norway.  Was assigned Chief of Staff, Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.  Retired August, 1966.  Decorations include Silver Star, Legion of Merit with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Chinese Order of Yung Hui, 4th Class.

Decoration of Tokyo Fliers at Bolling Field, D.C., by Lt. General Henry H. Arnold.
Mrs. Hilger admires medal which has been presented to her husband, Major John A Hilger. 27 June 1942

Born January 11, 1909, Sherman, Texas
Died February 3, 1982

Ashes scattered off the coast of Newport Beach, CA

Inducted Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, Galveston, TX

Take-off was made at 09:15 and approximately five minutes after previous ship had taken off. No difficulty experienced on take-off.

A course of 268 Magnetic was flown from the carrier and landfall was made near the cliffs south east of Tokyo. Course was then changed to parallel the coast until a point five miles off shore and south of Nagaya was reached.

One enemy patrol plane (similar to B-26 in appearance) was encountered 600 miles east of Tokyo but it is believed he did not see our planes.

The bombing attack was delivered at 15:20 (-10 zone time) and the targets attacked were (1) Military Barracks in Nagaya Castle Grounds, (2) Oil and Storage warehouse, (3) Military Arsenal, (4) Mitsuibishi Aircraft plant south of Nogaya. All the targets were the originally selected ones and all were squarely hit with incendiary clusters. Bombing approach was made at minimum altitude and bombs were dropped at 1500 feet and 200 m.p.h. Indicated. The rear gunner saw many small fires start and when we were thirty miles south on and way out and approximately 10 minutes after the bombing we could see a tall column of heavy black smoke over the city. I would estimate the height of the column to be 5000 feet and the mushroom head on the column would indicate very intense fires.

After the bombing only one enemy plane was seen to take off. It was a small monoplane but never attacked our ship and disappeared soon after it was sighted.

The volume of A.A. fire was moderately heavy but accuracy was very poor. Only two or three shots were close enough to be uncomfortable. The size of the bursts indicated that the shells were of 37-40 mm in size. No machine gun fire was encountered. No barrage balloons were encountered.

While over Japan our entire crew was impressed with the drabness of the cities and the difficulty of picking out targets. All building were grey and very much the same in appearance. The cities did not look at all the way we expected them to look from the information in our objective folders and on our maps.

The maps which we used were misleading because the contour interval was too great. We had expected to make a very low approach from the sea into Nogaya but were forced up to almost 1000 feet at times by low hills which did not show on the charts.

After the attack a course of 180 was flown until 15:45 at which time we were 20 miles off shore. Course was then changed to 225 and held until 16:00 at which time course was altered to 252. The southern tip of Japan was passed at 19:18 and altered course to 262.

After leaving Nogaya six cruisers and one aircraft carrier were sighted. Three cruisers and one carrier were in one group and three cruisers were in another group. These two groups were about fifty miles apart off the south coast.

About 300 miles off the China Coast we encountered rain squalls and lowering ceilings and about 100 miles off the coast at 20:15 the weather got so bad that we pulled up to 1000 feet and went on instruments. At 21:05 we estimated we should be over the coast line and started climbing to 7,000. We saw a few breaks but very few lights on the ground. At 22:20 we estimated we were over Chuchow and still on instruments. We had about 40 gallons of gas left and I changed altitude to 8,500 and ordered the crew to jump. The crew abandoned the ship quickly and with no confusion. After the co-pilot jumped I trimmed the ship for flight at 170 m.p.h. (A.F.C.E. Not operative) and abandoned ship.

I heard the plane crash shortly after my chute opened and the site was later visited by the co-pilot. The ship was badly smashed and had been stripped by vandals.

No injuries to crew members other than bruises and sprains.

The entire route was flown at 100' except when making the bombing runs and when on instruments near the China coast.

Only a few of those who jumped managed to save any rations, etc. and it might be advisable to construct as an integral part of the parachute harness a pouch that will carry matches (waterproof), condensed ration and a sheaf knife. Each crew member carried a compass and very few of these were lost. The gun belts carried the gun, canteen, first aid packet and twenty rounds of ammunition. Only two of these were lost in jumping.

When I landed from my jump I was shaken up but not seriously injured I was on a very steep mountain so I made a tent of part of chute and rolled up in the rest of it and spent the night there. The next morning I discovered a small village at the foot of the mountain and one of the villagers took me to a road where I met a military party out searching for us. I was taken to Kwang Feng, about 15 miles from where I landed and then sent to Chuchow the next night.

Pilot - Major John A. Hilger
Co-pilot -- Lt. Jack A. Sims
Navigator-Bombardier -- Lt. James H. Macia
Engineer -- S/Sgt. Jacob Eierman
Gunner -- S/Sgt. Edwin V. Bain

Major, Air Corps,
Pilot 40-2297
A.S.N. 0-2437
89th Reconn. Sq.
17th Bomb. Group


Chunking, China
May 5, 1942.
Subject: Brigadier General J.H. Doolittle.

Airplane No. 40-2297
Pilot -- Major John A. Hilger
Co-Pilot -- 2nd Lt. Jack A. Sims
Bomb-Nav. -- 1st Lt. James H. Macia
Eng. -- S/Sgt/ Jacob Eierman
Gunner -- S/Sgt. Edwin V. Bain

To proceed from Columbia, S.C., to Eglin Field, Fla., for installation of special equipment and completion of specialist training program. From Eglin Field, Fla., to Sacramento Air Depot for installation of more special equipment and final checks and then to Alameda Naval Air Station to be loaded aboard the U.S.S. Hornet. After sailing, all information was given out as to targets, routes, and probable time of attack. Take-off was ordered by the Naval Commander, however, ten hours prior to contemplated take-off due to interception of the naval force by an enemy sea craft. Take-off position was at Lat. 35I O N, Long. 153 23' E. Due to suddenness of orders no weather data was available and no new instructions were given. Each pilot took off on his original orders to bomb his individual targets and proceed to Chuchow for fuel and thence to Chunking. Definite orders were issued not to go to Russia.

Time of Takeoff: 09:13 April 18, 1942.

From take-off to within 200 miles of Japanese coast: scattered clouds with occasional rain showers. Visibility unlimited except in rain showers. Wind SW 12.
From 200 miles east of Japan to 300 miles east of China coast: Clear to high thin scattered clouds. Visibility unlimited. Wind varied from light shifting winds to E20 after passing the southwestern tip of Japan, then slowly swung to S5.

From 300 miles east of China to destination: Overcast lowering to 300 feet with heavy intermittent rain. Visibility fair except in rain squalls. Instrument conditions from 100 miles off shore to destination with heavy rain. Ground winds at destination NE gusty up to 15 m.p.h.

Altitude desired:
Approach: minimum
Bomb: 1500'
Withdrawal: minimum

Actual Altitude:
Approach: below 100'
Bombing: 1500'
Withdrawal: below 100 ft.

Bombs: 4 - 500# incendiary clusters.

900 rounds .50 cal. 3 AP, 2 incendiary, 1 tracer
500 rounds .30 cal. 3 AP, 2 incendiary, 1 tracer

Military Barracks at Nagoya Castle
Oil storage warehouse NW of business district
Military Arsenal in center of Nagoya
Mitsubishi Aircraft Works on waterfront

Any military objective

Targets Bombed:
Primary targets.

Anti-Aircraft Opposition:
Moderate AA fire was encountered when we pulled up east of Nagoya to get our bombing altitude. Accuracy was very poor but altitude of bursts was exact. AA fire continued for ten minutes after we departed the target area. Size of bursts indicated 37-40 mm shells.

Pursuit Opposition:
Only one plane was seen in the air over Nagoya and it was not identified as to type and offered no attack.

Mission Report:
All primary targets were squarely it and when we were 20 miles south on our way out we observed a tall column of heavy black smoke with a mushroom head standing over Nagoya. The rear gunner saw many fires start in the military barracks. Speed of bombing run 220 m.p.h. Indicated.

Arrival in China:
When it became apparent that no landing could be made at Chuchow I warned the crew to get ready to abandon ship. When over the estimated position of Chuchow I had the rear gunner, Engineer, Navigator and Co-pilot jump in order. After they were free of the ship I trimmed it for level flight (A.F.C.E. Not operative) and abandoned ship.

I landed on a very rough mountain-top with only minor bruises. I wrapped in my chute and spent the night where I landed. The next morning I walked to a village at the foot of the mountain where I had landed and one of the villagers guided me to a road where we were met by a truck load of soldiers. I identified myself and showed them on the map the approximate location of my plane and the rest of the crew. They took me to Kuang Feng where I met three of my crew and spent the night. During the night my other crew member came in and the next morning the five of us proceeded by motor to Shang Jao and from there to Chuchow by train. We remained at the Chuchow air station until April 28 when we departed by train, bus and plane for Chunking. We arrived at Chunking on May 3, 1942 at 12:40.

Major, Army Air Corps.


The following article was found at

Retired Nov. 30, 1966, Died Feb. 3, 1982

John Allen Hilger was born in Sherman, Texas, in 1909. He graduated from Sherman High School in June 1926 and attended Texas A&M College, College Station, Texas, graduating in 1932 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.

Gen. Hilger's military career began in May 1932 as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve. Lieutenant Hilger entered the Army Air Corps flying school in February 1933 as a flying cadet. He received his wings and was placed on active duty in the Air Corps in February 1934 as a flying cadet. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps, in February 1935, and in October 1936 received his regular commission as a second lieutenant.

Lieutenant Hilger's first duty assignment after completion of pilot training was at March Field, Calif., where he served as a pilot, assistant base adjutant and commander of the base photographic section. He was promoted to first lieutenant in October 1939.

In May 1940 Lieutenant Hilger was transferred to McChord Field, Wash., and became commander of the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron in September of that same year. He remained at McChord Field flying antisubmarine patrols until February 1942. During this period he was promoted to captain and later to major.

Major Hilger was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1942 and assigned as deputy commander and pilot with the famed Doolittle mission and participated in the April 18, 1942 raid on Tokyo. In September of that same year he was promoted to colonel.

In July 1943 Colonel Hilger took command of the Chinese-American bomb group in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.

During the last 18 months of World War II he served in the Western Pacific as special plans officer on the staff of the commander-in-chief Pacific area, Admiral Chester A. Nimitz.

In January 1946 Colonel Hilger was assigned to Army Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon where he served as chief of internal policy - a branch of the plans division - until August 1948. He then attended the Air War College and, after graduation, was assigned as commander of the 307th Bomb Wing located at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and later moved to Okinawa during the Korean conflict. He then served as director of operations in the headquarters of the Sixth Air Division, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., until he entered the National War College at Washington D.C., in August 1951.

In July 1952 Colonel Hilger was assigned as chief of the allocations division - directorate of operations - in the Pentagon until July 1955 when he was reassigned as commander of the Air Force Operational Test Center, Air Proving Ground Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He was promoted to brigadier general in October 1956 and continued to command the operational test center until June 1957.

General Hilger's next assignment took him to Turkey where he served as commander of the U.S. Air Force Group, Joint U.S. Military Mission for Aid to Turkey in Ankara, from June 1957 until June 1959.

In July 1959 General Hilger was assigned as chief of staff, Allied Air Forces Northern Europe (NATO) in Oslo, Norway, and served there until July 1961.

General Hilger assumed his present position as chief of staff, Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, Aug. 16, 1961.

(Current as of March 1962)


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