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Today in Aggie History, July 11: Aggieland welcomed home two war heroes

Today in Aggie History, July 11: Aggieland welcomed home two war heroes

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George Gay and John Hilger

Ensign George Gay Jr. (second from left), class of 1940, was the sole survivor from his squadron at the Battle of Midway. Maj. John A. Hilger (fourth from left), class of 1932, was a pilot and second in command to Capt. John Doolittle during the April 1942 raid over major cities in Japan. Gay and Hilger visited campus after they returned to the U.S. in 1942.

July 11, 1942: Two Aggie war heroes returned home to Aggieland.

Maj. John Hilger was a part of the first mission to bomb Tokyo in April 1942. He and Ensign George Gay, class of 1938, who was the sole survivor of his torpedo squadron during the Battle of Midway, addressed the Corps of Cadets upon returning, according to Keepers of the Spirit: The Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University.

After being shot down, Gay spent more than 30 hours floating in the Pacific Ocean, hiding under a seat cushion, to avoid being seen by Japanese planes.

Gay recounted the tale during interviews after the war, one of which is on record with the U.S. Naval Library:

"I dropped the torpedo and was fortunate enough to get away from the anti-aircraft fire although everything was shooting at me. I flew right down the gun barrel on one of these big pom poms up forward. I think it must have been about 20 mm [anti-aircraft guns] stuff. I looked in the sights and tried to get a shot at that fellow but my gun was jammed by then and I figured the only way that I could evade all that anti-aircraft fire was not to throw my belly up in a turn away from the ship, but was just to go right straight to her and offer as small a target as I could."



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