Boris V. Hidalgo 1924 – 2014
Boris V. Hidalgo died of natural causes on Oct. 7, 2014, in Round Rock, Texas, surrounded by his family, just days after celebrating his 90th birthday.
Boris was born to Vicente Vega Hidalgo and Raquel Lopez Hidalgo in 1924, in Brownsville, Texas. In 1929, he moved with his parents and siblings, Hector and Xochitl, to Detroit, Michigan, where his father began work for the Ford Motor Company. Two years later the family returned to Brownsville, where Boris attended local schools and graduated from Brownsville High School in 1942.
After high school, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corp (predecessor to the United States Air Force). He served in the 307th Bombardment Group/13th Air Force, and in the 424th Bomb Squadron as a flight engineer/gunner aboard B-24 bombers, and flew over 40 bombing missions in the Pacific Theatre.
On April 4, 1944, his plane, along with 47 other bombers, embarked on a bombing raid over the Truk Islands. Only 12 of the 48 planes returned from that mission. Boris’ B-24 bomber was shot down by enemy fire. He and the rest of his 10 man crew parachuted over the Pacific Ocean amid intense strafing fire from Japanese planes. They remained adrift in heavy seas for 12 hours until they were rescued by the destroyer USS Anthony. Following that rescue, his crew was ordered to Sydney, Australia, for recuperation, but instead, he and one other crew member immediately volunteered for the next bombing mission. At the end of the war, he re-enlisted and served in the Berlin Airlift. He attained the rank of staff sergeant and received the Air Medal with 3 Oak Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asian-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal (with C-54 Aircraft Clasp signifying service in the Berlin Airlift).
After discharge from the Army Air Corp, he returned to Brownsville and married Sara Klahn, the daughter of Henry James and Francisca Klahn. Together, they had five children.
He then began a long and proud career with the US Civil Service. His first assignment was as a US Customs officer in Laredo, Texas. But when President Eisenhower implemented government budget cuts, Boris, along with other recently hired service men were temporarily laid off. He returned to Brownsville, and joined Pan American World Airways while awaiting reassignment in the civil service system. Within months, he was reassigned to the US Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas. Four years later, he transferred to the US Postal Service in Brownsville, Texas. Then, in 1963, he accepted a new assignment as a US Customs Inspector in Hidalgo, Texas.
His wife and children remained in Brownsville while he commuted to work in Hidalgo. Eventually, he would be transferred to Brownsville and would later be promoted to the newly created position of District Intelligence Officer for the US Customs Service’s South Texas region. His pride in his work and his sense of duty and dedication to government service are reflected in the fact that he did not retire from the US Customs Service until 1997 at the age of 73.
Throughout his career, he worked tireless hours, holidays, and double-shifts to provide support and college tuition for his five children so that they could earn the university degrees which he had never attained for himself. He often said that he would not retire until he had put all 5 of his children through college. He stuck to that promise. His children are grateful and duly proud of his commitment to their education and to the lessons he taught them about the importance of strength of character and work ethic.
In 2009, Boris and his wife Sara moved to Round Rock, Texas, to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
A heartfelt memory of Boris: An exherpt from the Brownsville Herald (March 6, 2005)
The Brownsville Herald
A storm was out when Boris V. Hidalgo was returning with the rest of the B-24 squadron from Truk Atoll in Micronesia. Japanese fighter planes were hot on their tail. A few bullet holes later and Hidalgos bomber was going down into the choppy waters of the South Pacific.
Hidalgo is glad that, 60 years later, he is able to tell the tale.
During his Army career, from 1942 to 1949, he ascended to the rank of staff sergeant and earned a presidential citation, and medals for good conduct and the various missions he flew.
But all those material accolades have been mere memories since a devastating hurricane struck South Texas in 1967.
“I lost them during Beulah, said Hidalgo, an 80-year-old Brownsville native. My mother had them in the garage so they got so soaked and mildewed.”
Four decades later Hidalgo has been reunited with his medals.
On Saturday afternoon his family from Harker Heights visited his Brownsville home and presented him with a replacement set that they collected at military surplus stores and antique dealers.
“We’re just acknowledging a first-class hero,” said Hidalgos son-in-law Randy Van Dusen, as he presented the medals and a plaque of recognition. Hidalgo replied modestly, “Now, dont over do it.”
Van Dusen, an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s, said he admired Hidalgos military service. This admiration prompted he and his wife Sara Van Dusen to research which medals Hidalgo earned and try to track them down.
Presented with the plaque, Hidalgo was almost at a loss for words.
“Now I have something to leave the grandchildren,” he said.
Hidalgo and his wife Sara Klahn have five children and 13 grandchildren, all of whom have heard bits and pieces of his military history. Hidalgo wanted to make sure they remembered their family history and why he did what he did.
Hidalgo enlisted in 1942 as soon as he graduated from high school.
My brother was already in the Air Force, and at that time everybody wanted to do their part and I always wanted to be in the thick of things, Hidalgo said.
He got his wish. During World War II Hidalgo flew 600 hours of combat time serving as an aerial engineer gunner on several B-24 Liberators.
After two years working with various training schools in the Army, Hidalgo was sent to the South Pacific in February 1944. On April 4 of that year his plane and 47 other B-24s were called for a bombing raid on Truk Atoll.
By the time they reached the rendezvous only 17 planes had enough fuel to complete the mission. Four of those were shot down on the way back, including Hidalgos plane, he said.
We got shot in our number two engine, he recalled. We got caught in a squall, and thats what saved us.
The sudden thunderstorm kept the Japanese fighter planes at bay while Hidalgo and the rest of the flight crew parachuted out of the crashing bomber.
The zeroes (Japanese fighter planes) were strafing us as we were coming down, he said. We didnt want to give them a fixed target so we started swinging in our chutes like we were trained to.
All 10 men from the B-24 survived the descent and survived for 12 hours at sea thanks to their May West life preservers.
At around 6 oclock in the evening it started getting dark, Hidalgo said. I thought we would never get rescued and I still had my .45s so I thought I might blow my brains out. Of course, all my ammunition was soaked.
The strong weather conditions continued as the U.S.S. Anthony, a Fletcher class destroyer, came to rescue the crew of the downed plane.
The waves would go 30 feet high, Hidalgo said. Sometimes the destroyer would be up there, sometimes it would be below us.
All 10 men were eventually brought aboard the ship and given the option of leave in Australia.
My assistant engineer Charles Hafko and I decided to go on a mission the very next day because we decided if we waited, we would lose our nerve, Hidalgo said. Since Chuck and I already knew each other, we became great friends.
Hidalgo kept in touch with Hafko, off and on over the years, but he loves sharing stories with veterans he meets at reunions and in veterans organizations.
Boris is survived by his beloved and devoted wife of 63 years, Sara Klahn Hidalgo; 5 children, Boris A. (Norma) Hidalgo of Kingwood, Texas, Sara A. Van Dusen of Harker Heights, Texas, Cynthia A. (Carlos) Rodriguez of Coppell, Texas, Judith A. “Judy” (Joaquin) Hinojosa of Round Rock, Texas, and Henry J. “Rick” Hidalgo of The Colony, Texas; 12 grandchildren, Marc D. (Anne) Hidalgo, Melinda E. (Kyle) North, Joshua K. (Isabella) Van Dusen, Nicolas D. (Marissa) Rodriguez, Victor A. (Rachel) Rodriguez, Briana C. Rodriguez, Lisa N. Hinojosa, Aaron J. Hinojosa, Kevin T. Hinojosa, Christopher R. Hidalgo, Michael A. Hidalgo, and Stephen J. Hidalgo; and 4 great-granddaughters, Sienna K. Van Dusen, Emilia L. Van Dusen, Harper R. Hidalgo and Hayden G. Hidalgo; his younger sister, Xochitl Vega Hidalgo; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins in the extended Hidalgo, Vega, Lopez, Klahn, Zarate, Rodriguez, and Leandro families.
He was predeceased by his parents Vicente Vega Hidalgo and Raquel Lopez Hidalgo, by his brother Hector Vega Hidalgo, and by his granddaughter Analisa Hidalgo.
Boris was buried in Buena Vista Burial Park, Brownsville, TX