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


389th Bomb Group - Sky Scorpions
2nd Lt. Lloyd Hughes

Flying his B-24 in the second wave into Target Red was 22-year-old Second Lieutenant Lloyd Pete Hughes. Born in Louisiana to Welsh immigrants [sic - see below], in his youth he moved with his mother and step-father, J. R. Jordan, to Corpus Christi. The Texas-reared pilot attended Texas A & M for three years before enlisting as an aviation cadet in San Antonio on January 28, 1942. Two days before earning his wings on November 10 he married his San Antonio sweetheart Hazel Dean Ewing.

There was little time for the newly weds to celebrate. Six months later Lieutenant Hughes was with the 389th Bomb Group when it was sent to England, and followed when it was temporarily transferred to Benghazi in support of Operation Husky and Operation Tidal Wave. The likeable young man was called "Pete" by his friends. The Ploesti raid was his fifth mission.

Flying into Romania behind Leon Johnson, the Sky Scorpions initially became confused when the flights parted for their separate attacks. Colonel Wood's inbound route on a path north of Floresti afforded few prominent ground features. Initially the formation began its approach down a valley which looked for the most part like scores of other such valley's in the Alpine foothills. The errant Sky Scorpions were actually headed away from their target and flying into Ploesti before Colonel Wood realized the mistake and executed a sharp turn in his lead bomber. The B-24s behind him followed to get into proper position for the bomb run. A few minutes later Wood's twenty-nine Liberators began entering their small target area at 205 miles per hour, fifty feet above the ground.

As the bombers neared the town alert enemy gunners filled the sky with deadly flak. Approaching targets only 30 feet above ground, machine gun fire was equally deadly, matched only by the courage and determination of Colonel Wood's young gunners. One Liberator, suffering extreme damage as it dropped its bombs, crashed just beyond the refinery killing all but the top turret gunner. While the stricken bomber burned on the ground, Staff Sergeant Zerrill Steen remained at his post to fire at enemy positions until his ammo was expended. Only then did he break through the Plexiglas bubble to race for safety. (Captured and interned as a P.O.W., Steen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while still listed as missing in action.)

Pete Hughes bomber was raked with enemy bullets and took repeated hits from anti-aircraft fire. Holes sprouted in his right wing tanks as he was approaching target, spewing a steady stream of aviation fuel behind him. Two separate holes in the Tokyo tanks in his bomb bay left a similar trail of volatile spray.

Recognizing the danger, at least one of his nearby comrades broke radio silence to warn the young pilot from Texas to abort the bomb run and bail out.

"This damage was inflicted at a time prior to reaching the target when 2nd Lt. Hughes could have made a forced landing in any of the grain fields readily available at the time," notes his subsequent Medal of Honor citation. "The target area was blazing with burning oil tanks and damaged refinery installations from which flames leaped high above the bombing level of the formation. With full knowledge of the consequences of entering this blazing inferno when his airplane was profusely leaking gasoline in two separate locations, 2nd Lt. Hughes, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of his assigned target at any cost, did not elect to make a forced landing or turn back from the attack. Instead, rather than jeopardize the formation and the success of the attack, he unhesitatingly entered the blazing area and dropped his bomb load with great precision."

As Hughes swept low over the burning refinery to add his bombs to those dropped by the men ahead of him, the intense fire reached out to ignite the trailing fuel mist from the B-24's wing and belly. Quickly the hot mass engulfed the fuselage as flames sprouted from the top turret and waist gun windows. Hughes knew there was no saving his aircraft, but had held his course long enough to preserve the integrity of the formation and to drop his bombs. With fire consuming his Liberator he headed for a dry riverbed in an effort to make an emergency, wheels-up landing. He almost made it. The unexpected appearance of a bridge forced him to pull up and then his bomber was falling over and cart wheeling [sic] into a spectacular death dance.

Lieutenant Hughes died in the cockpit, along with six [sic - five] of his crew. Amazingly two gunners, Staff Sergeants Thomas Hoff and Edmond Smith survived, along with badly injured bombardier, 2nd Lieutenant John McLoughlin. (McLoughlin died two days later in a Romanian hospital and the two gunners were interned as prisoners of war.)

A fourth (Medal of Honor) was added on February 26, 1944, when the Army approved award of the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Lloyd Pete Hughes. It was presented to his widow Mrs. Hazel Dean Hughes by Lieutenant General Barton K. Yount during a stirring ceremony at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. Present for the ceremony was Hazel's parents (left), and Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Jordan (right), the young hero's parents. Only Pete's step-brother [sic - half brother] James Jordan missed the event. James was overseas fighting the ground war to preserve freedom.


Corrections:

  • Robert Lee Wright, Pete’s roommate and wingman, said that the 389th Bomb Group was never known as the “Sky Scorpions.” (Source: Philip Wright, son of Robert Lee Wright)

  • Pete was not born to "Welsh immigrants." Not much is known about his father, Lloyd Herbert HUGHES, Sr., but Pete's mother, Mildred Mae RAINEY Hughes Jordan, was born in Josserand, Trinity County, Texas, USA. Her parents were born in Georgia, USA and Texas, USA. (Sources: family genealogy and 1930 U.S. Census) See Pete's genealogy.

  • This is the only reference of Pete's plane to "cart wheeling." There are no documents that I have found that use this description.

  • There were ten crew members: Six died in the crash, two died of their wounds within days, and two survived to become prisoners of war.

  • James Jordan was a half brother, i.e., they both had the same mother. (Source: family genealogy)

Source: Home of Heroes website with 2nd Lt. Lloyd Hughes

Created: November 20, 2007

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