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2nd Lt. Lloyd Herbert "Pete" Hughes, Jr.
(12 Jul 1921 - 1 Aug 1943)


The Streets of Lackland AFB

Hughes Avenue takes its name from the World War II Medal of Honor winner, 2d Lt Lloyd Herbert Hughes. The 22 year-old lieutenant was one of five men to receive the Medal of Honor for the infamous Ploesti (Rumania) oilfield raid on 1 August 1943. Lieutenant Hughes was the only recipient below the rank of major.

The raid on the Ploesti oilfields was planned as a low level attack on a key German war resource. What began as a mission of strategic importance ended as a tragically costly operation. From the start the intelligence about the Ploesti defenses was severely lacking. Crews were briefed that only 80 heavy antiaircraft (AA)- and 160 light AA guns protected the refineries. Additionally, the guns were supposedly manned by Rumanian crews, renown for running for cover in an air attack. In actuality, the German's surrounded Ploesti with over 240 88mm heavy AA guns and hundreds of smaller 37mm and 20mm weapons, most manned by experienced Luftwaffe gun crews. This defense combined with several serious mistakes led to a disastrous mission.

The attack plan called for the first two waves to drop delay-fuzed bombs, thus enabling the subsequent waves to strike the target without flying through an inferno. However, the mission seemed doomed from the start. On 1 August 1943, 178 B-24 Liberators, representing five heavy bombardment groups, lifted off the dirt runways of Benghazi, Libya in northern Africa. The heavily laden bombers were barely airborne when the first of a series of problems that plagued the mission began. A B-24 developed engine problems and turning back, attempted to land on a runway still obscured by the dust of the takeoffs. The bomber slammed into a concrete post killing all but two of the crew. Three hours into the flight 10 bombers had turned back for various problems. Then the lead aircraft, carrying the mission navigator, began behaving peculiarly. As others in the lead formation scattered out of the way, the bomber dove, climbed, and then dove into the sea. Another bomber dropped low searching for survivors but found it could not regain formation altitude and had no choice but to return to Benghazi. This put the B-24 in the lead position and made the young navigator, William Wright the chief navigator for the mission.

Over Rumania, the bombers were to turn at the small town of Floresti, the second of two towns on the route. The Brewery Wagon passed the first town, but Brig Gen Uzal G. Ent, the mission commander, flying in second position on the Teggie Ann, ordered his aircraft to turn at the first town. The rest of the first wave followed General Ent, leaving the lone B-24 as the only plane in the first wave headed for the proper target. Just as the others were realizing their mistake, the Brewery Wagon made its run on Ploesti. A direct hit from an .88mm killed William Wright, the bombardier and seriously wounded the pilot. The pilot salvoed the bombs and crash landed. The real disaster at Ploesti had begun.

The first wave approached from the south instead of the west as planned. Breaking radio silence, General Ent ordered the bombers to take targets of opportunity. Meanwhile, the German guns began firing with deadly accuracy. The first group struck the target designated for the second wave, which reached Ploesti to find not only heavy AA defenses, but their target on fire. The last wave, the 389th Bomb Group, also made a wrong turn but quickly recovered and made their run on the untouched Steauna Romana complex. The 389th suffered the fewest losses. Of 21 attacking planes, six were lost. One of those was piloted by 2d Lt Lloyd Hughes.

Lieutenant Hughes's Liberator took several flak hits as it approached the drop point. The stream of fuel poured from the ruptured bomb bay tank, splashing out from the big plane like a liquid fuze. Lieutenant Hughes, on his bomb run, neither attempted to land nor avoid the wall of flame that stood in his path. As the bombs fell on the target the Liberator sprouted a sheet of white flame from the left wing. Still in control, Lieutenant Hughes headed for an emergency landing narrowly missing a bridge, but the bomber's wing struck the embankment and sent the plane into a death spin. Surprisingly, two of the crew survived the crash. For his dedication to duty, 2d Lt Lloyd H. Hughes received the Medal of Honor, posthumously.


Source: "The Streets of Lackland: The Memorialization of Lackland Streets," (pdf) Prepared by TSgt Tracy L. English and Edited by Kelly Anne Tyree, Page 24.

Created: August 25, 2008

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