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Hugh R. Wilson, Jr.

Hugh R. Wilson, Jr.

No. 63353814 Apr 1930 – 30 Dec 1951

Died: Died in an airplane crash near Phoenix, AZ
Buried: Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

On 30 Dec 1951, Hugh Wilson’s short military career came to a tragic end. In an airplane crash in the Superstition Mountains northeast of Phoenix, AZ, he and 18 other cadets returning from Christmas leave on an Air Force C-47 all perished. Eleven of the 19 were members of the Class of 1954. The entire Corps witnessed an emotional memorial service at the Post Cemetery as Hugh and two other classmates were returned to West Point. In the year and a half Hugh was with us, I-2 companymates came to appreciate his calm and sunny disposition. He was a man of great potential with broad interests and talents.

HUGH ROBERT WILSON, JR. was born in Alliance, OH, on 14 Apr 1930 to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Wilson. The family moved to Tulelake, CA, when Hugh was seven. He was active in the Boy Scouts, earning Eagle Scout and serving as a Junior Scoutmaster. Tulelake citizens remember his beautiful tenor voice and his athletic involvement in high school football, baseball, and basketball. Hugh was also active in several school clubs. His classmates from Tulelake still fondly remember his achievements and attitude. In 1948, he graduated as valedictorian.

After graduation, Hugh attended Mount Union College in Alliance, OH, for two years before he received his appointment from California congressman Claire Engle to enter West Point. At Mount Union, he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and the fraternity later established a Memorial Pledge Award in his honor. A scholarship fund in Tulelake was also established in his name.

Hugh was admitted to the Academy on 5 Jul 1950 and, after surviving Beast Barracks, was assigned to Company I-2. Entering with two years of college under his belt, he had an easy time with academics and helped roommates with Plebe math and English. He participated in intramural lacrosse and swimming and was well liked by all.

Hugh was looking forward to Christmas leave in 1951. Since entering West Point, he had not spent Christmas in California. He and 23 other cadets were able to get a ride on an Air Force C-47 from Stewart Field to Hamilton AFB in California. After relaxing at home, he made his way back to Hamilton from Tulelake in time to catch the return flight to Stewart. There were 19 cadets on the return flight; the remaining five had found other transportation. On 30 Dec 1951, as a result of bad weather and navigation problems, the C-47 hit the side of Armer Mountain at 6,500 feet.

On 5 Jan 1952, Superintendent MG Frederick Irving issued General Orders Number 8, Announcement of Death, which stated: It is the sad duty of the Superintendent to announce the death of Cadet Hugh Robert Wilson, Jr., a member of the Class of 1954, United States Corps of Cadets, whose death occurred in an aircraft accident in the State of Arizona on 30 Dec 1951.

Throughout his cadetship at West Point, Cadet Wilson was a most popular and highly regarded member of his class. He at all times justified his appointment to the United States Military Academy and was in all respects a credit to the Corps of Cadets.

The Superintendent, personally and in behalf of the Corps of Cadets, the Officers and Enlisted Men of the United States Military Academy, desires to convey to the bereaved parents and relatives of Cadet Wilson, the sincere condolences of all at West Point who knew this splendid young gentleman. His regrettable and unfortunate demise is a very definite loss to this institution and to the United States Army.

F. A. Irving
Major General, U.S.A.

Hugh will be remembered by all who knew him. We can only speculate at what he might have achieved had he been provided the opportunity to add to his record.  

— An I-2 classmate

Originally published in JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2007 TAPS.

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