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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Cass S. Hough
Col. Cass S. Hough was born in Plymouth, Michigan in 1904. He developed an early interest in flight, and in the 1920s, he became one of the earliest licensed pilots in Michigan.
Hough joined the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve in 1939 and flew many hours in single and multi-engine aircraft from Selfridge Field on weekends. He was called to active duty in 1941, prior to Pearl Harbor. He and three other pilots were selected to fly P-38s as escorts for Gen. F.O. Hunter, commander of the XIII Fighter Command, in a B-17 on a secret flight over the Atlantic to Goxhill, England.
The P-38 Lightning was having difficulty recovering from the high-speed dives necessary on attacks from above in combat, and was being out-performed by the British in mock dogfights. Hough worked to determine how P-38s could pull out of such dives. In September, 1942, he piloted a P-38 on the longest terminal velocity dive then known, recovering by use of trim tabs on the tail. At the time, it was believed the dive had exceeded the speed of sound. In February, 1943, he performed a similar terminal velocity dive in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for each of these dives.
Hough was assigned by Gen. Doolittle, commander of the 8th Air Force, to lead a small unit to develop solutions to operational problems as well as continuing to fly regular escort missions. This group helped develop lightweight droppable external fuel tanks of a paper-mache-like material to extend the range of fighters; the "droop-snoop" P-38 with a Plexiglas nose for a bombardier, bomb sight and ability to carry two 2,000-pound bombs; a rocket-propelled bomb to penetrate concrete German submarine pens; and the tactic of skip-bombing napalm-filled fuel tanks into enemy positions.
Hough continued to fly missions in support of ground troops until the surrender of Germany when he was transferred to Peterson Field in Colorado, awaiting assignment to the Pacific. He was released from active duty shortly after the end of the war. He rejoined Daisy Manufacturing and continued to fly after he became company chairman with more than 26,000 accident free hours. He also served as a member of the Michigan Aeronautics Commission as acting director and as chairman of the Commission. Cass S. Hough passed away in September of 1990.
Among his other numerous awards and decorations were two U.S. Legion of Merits, six U.S. Air Medals, the American Defense, European, African, Middle East Campaigns with seven battle stars and the Distinguished Unit Citation.
Cass S. Hough was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on May 19, 2012.