Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

HUGHES, Charles W

HUGHES, Charles W

United States fighter group Kittyhawks (49) over Darwin.


Charles Hughes was born in Massachusetts, United States of America, in 1910; he was a hotel clerk working in Baltimore City, Maryland, before enlisting as a Private in the Air Corps at Macdill Field, Florida, on 24 June 1941.

On 19 February 1942 Darwin would have been without any air defence if ten P-40 Kittyhawks of the US 33rd Pursuit Squadron, led by Major Floyd Pell, had not turned back from their flight to Koepang due to bad weather. Five of these aircraft landed while the remaining five stayed in the air.

Lieutenant Charles Hughes was among the five pilots who landed just as Japanese fighter planes, Zeros or Zekes, were spotted in the air. Hughes turned his plane around and followed his commanding officer Major Pell back down the runway to defend Darwin. Hughes had just cleared the field and was heading north above the treetops when he was targeted by a Zero. Hughes escaped the Zero’s first pass unscathed but the Japanese plane did a complete 360 degree loop and came in behind Hughes again; this time he was not so fortunate. His plane riddled with fire, Hughes crashed into the bush about 3 kilometres north of the RAAF station.

Parts of Hughes’ aircraft were found during roadworks in the mid 1960s; however, his remains have yet to be located. There is a monument to his death at Fort William Mckinley, Manila, and in the Philippines.

Charles Hughes was awarded the US Purple Heart Medal, in addition to receiving a posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Cross from General MacArthur.

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