His is a hero’s story with lots of action, battles
and bravery. It’s one where words catch and snag on the stories of
others to tangle time and the memories of brothers, soldiers and
Yet, even 65 years later, the untangling of Pete’s
story has a way of untangling the other people in it.
Lloyd Herbert “Pete” Hughes ’43 was born in
Alexandria, La., on July 12, 1921. That was the same year the Tomb
of the Unknowns was dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery and
that first unknown was awarded the Medal of Honor. Hughes would
become a soldier, too, and upon his death in 1943, would have the
same Medal of Honor drape the corners of his memory. Hughes,
however, remains very much known. As the first of seven Aggies to be
awarded the Medal of Honor, he remains remembered.
The people filed in for just that purpose, to be in
attendance as Hughes’s Medal of Honor was formally presented to the
Sanders Corps Center. Men in suit coats and women in heels; there
were enough of them that March 30 that most every chair in the Corps
Center was filled. It was a mixed group: Hughes’s family, Aggie
Classmates, members of Hughes’ 389th Bombardment Group, and current
students not wanting to miss the chance to listen once more to the
As the contagiousness of smiles spread around the
room, Col. James Woodall ’50, Corps of Cadets commandant from 1977
to 1982, stepped up to the microphone to serve as narrator.
“In the fall of 1939, the handsome, 6-foot-2,
184-pound young man enrolled at the Agricultural and Mechanical
College of Texas,” Woodall started.
In high school, Hughes was captain of the basketball
squad and football team; in college, he studied petroleum
engineering and was a member of the Corps of Cadets Company G,
School was hard. Life was hard. Hughes withdrew from
TAMC briefly for both reasons. Once to work on scholastics at a
junior college, and then, shortly after his return in 1941, to help
support his family after his father became ill.
“Four days after leaving College Station, Pearl
Harbor was bombed and America was at war,” Woodall said. Hughes was
20 years old when he enlisted as an aviation cadet in January 1942
and 22 when his group took flight as part of Operation Tidal Wave,
the most highly decorated military mission in U.S. history,
according to U.S. Air Force records.
Hughes was assigned to bomb a Nazi-held oil refinery
in Campina. It was an 18-hour, 2,400-mile round-trip mission, and
Hughes’ plane received several direct hits as it flew closer to the
target. “Sheets of escaping gasoline streamed from the left wing and
the extra fuel tanks,” Woodall said.
Flames from burning oil tanks leaped in the plane’s
path. Woodall said Hughes could have made a forced landing in any of
the grain fields, but rather than jeopardize the formation and the
success of the mission, Hughes flew through the fire and put his
bombs on target to have his plane crash in flames.
Hughes’s widow, Hazel, accepted the Medal of Honor
on Hughes’ behalf April 18, 1944. And, Aggies accepted it this year
to remember, tell and untangle the story of freedom.
Stephanie Jeter ’06 is a reporter, writer and
photographer for Texas Aggie magazine and AggieNetwork.com.