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Hewitt T. Wheless

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Enshrined 2008

Hewitt Wheless was born in Menard, Texas in 1913. He attended the University of Texas as an Army ROTC student and received his degree in Civil Engineering in 1936 as well as a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. In 1939 he completed training as a pilot and joined the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron at March Field, California. In October of 1941, he was transferred to the 19th Bombardment Squadron to fly B-17 Flying Fortresses and went with them to the Philippine Islands. He was based there when war broke out with Japan. He participated in the desperate defense of the Philippines and his heroic actions in saving the lives of his crew earned him national attention. He was mentioned in a speech by President Roosevelt and the movie “Beyond the Line of Duty” was made about his exploits.

Hewitt continued his military service to the end of the war and beyond. He retired from the Air Force in 1968 with the rank of Lieutenant-General.

After his retirement, he moved to Tubac, Arizona and joined the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet. He was instrumental in bringing more of the company’s operations to Tucson. He served on the Board until 1980. General Wheless passed away in 1986 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.