Lloyd “Pete” Hughes attended high school at Refugio, Texas, graduated from Corpus Christi Junior College, and went to Texas A&M prior to enlisting as an aviation cadet at San Antonio, January 28, 1942. He took pilot training at fields in Texas and Oklahoma, getting his wings and commission at the Lubbock Army Flying School, Texas, in November 1942. He attended Combat Crew School at Tarrant Field, Fort Worth and served briefly at Salt Lake City, Utah, and Davis Monthan Field, Arizona.
He joined the 389th Bomb Group, 564th Squadron at Biggs Field, Texas, and moved with it to Lowry Field, Colorado; Lincoln, Nebraska and finally to the European Theater in June 1943.
On his fifth mission, as pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber in an attack against the Axis oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania, he was killed August 1, when his plane was severely damaged from enemy fire prior to reaching the target. Although he could have made an emergency landing in grain fields, Lieutenant Hughes flew the crippled plane on to the target area and made his bomb run.
Upon completing the run, the left wing was aflame causing the plane to crash when he attempted a forced landing. The citation reads, in part: “…The target area was blazing with burning oil tanks and damaged refinery installations from which flames leaped 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, Lieutenant Hughes, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of his assigned target at any cost . . . unhesitatingly entered the blazing area and dropped his bomb load with great precision . . . rendering a service everlastingly outstanding.”
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On August 1, 1943, 2d Lt. Hughes served in the capacity of pilot of a heavy bombardment aircraft participating in a long and hazardous minimum-altitude attack against the Axis oil refineries of Ploesti, Rumania, launched from the northern shores of Africa. Flying in the last formation to attack the target, he arrived in the target area after previous flights had thoroughly alerted the enemy defenses. Approaching the target through intense and accurate antiaircraft fire and dense balloon barrages at dangerously low altitude, his plane received several direct hits from both large and small caliber antiaircraft guns which seriously damaged his aircraft, causing sheets of escaping gasoline to stream from the bomb bay and from the left wing. This damage was inflicted at a time prior to reaching the target when 2d Lt. Hughes could have made a forced landing in any of the grain fields readily available at that time. 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, 2d 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. After successfully bombing the objective, his aircraft emerged from the conflagration with the left wing aflame. Only then did he attempt a forced landing, but because of the advanced stage of the fire enveloping his aircraft the plane crashed and was consumed. By 2d Lt. Hughes’ heroic decision to complete his mission regardless of the consequences in utter disregard of his own life, and by his gallant and valorous execution of this decision, he has rendered a service to our country in the defeat of our enemies which will everlastingly be outstanding in the annals of our Nation’s history.
Article Courtesy of USAF