|Born||11 Feb 1900|
|Died||19 Apr 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThomas Hitchcock, Jr. was born in South Carolina, United States to Thomas Hitchcock, Sr., who was a US Racing Hall of Fame horse trainer, was involved in the founding of the Meadowbrook Polo Club at Long Island, New York, United States, and was the captain of the American team at the 1886 International Polo Cup. The younger Hitchcock learned the sport of polo from his father, and played in his first tournament at the age of 13. In 1916, he was a member of the winning team at the US national junior championship. He attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, United States, where he was involved in football, hockey, and crew. At the age of 17, he volunteered for the Lafayette Flying Corps and became a fighter pilot in France during WW1, where he was shot down and captured. While he was being transported from one prisoner of war camp to another, he stole a map from a guard and jumped from a moving train; with the map as a guide, he hiked over 100 miles over the span of 8 days to reach neutral Switzerland. During the inter-war years, he enrolled in Harvard University and returned to the sport of polo. In 1921, he was a member of the winning US team at the International Polo Cup. In 1924, he was a member of the US Olympic polo team which won the silver medal. In 1928, he married Margaret Mellon in New York City, New York, United States, with whom he would later have four children. Between 1922 and 1940, he carried a 10-goal handicap, which was the highest rank in polo, and was often credited as one of the reasons for polo's raising popularity as a spectator sport in the United States. In 1937, he joined fellow polo player Robert Lehman in the formation of the Lehman Brothers Wall Street investment firm.
ww2dbaseWhen the United States entered WW2, Hitchcock, aged 41, decided that he would join the US Army and become a fighter pilot. Although he was told that he was too old to fly, his connections allowed him to be accepted into service at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was initially an air attaché to London, England, United Kingdom, in which position he saw the promise of the P-51 Mustang fighter and lobbied for it to be mated with British Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for greater performance. As the fighter was finally accepted into general service in Europe, he became a member of the research and development board that oversaw the improvement plans for the P-51 design. After the fighters became equipped with drop tanks to increase range, at times pilots would report mysterious uncontrollable dives. Testing the aircraft himself a number of times to address this mystery, he crashed into the ground during one such test flight near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom. US Ambassador John Winant, a family friend, wrote Hitchcock's wife shortly after the death, noting that Hitchcock had worked for the American war effort as aggressively as he had played polo on the field. He was buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery, in Cambridgeshire, England.
ww2dbaseIn 1990, Hitchcock was inducted posthumously into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.
Lynne Olson, Citizens of London
Last Major Revision: Oct 2011
Thomas Hitchcock Timeline
|11 Feb 1900||Thomas Hitchcock was born in Aiken, South Carolina, United States.|
|15 Dec 1928||Thomas Hitchcock married Margaret Mellon in New York City, New York, United States.|
|19 Apr 1944||Thomas Hitchcock was killed while test-flying a P-51 Mustang aircraft.|
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