SAN DIEGO — American Legion Post 460 in Kearny Mesa is named after U.S Navy pilot Albert J. Hickman, a pilot who sacrificed his life to save hundreds of others when his plane malfunctioned in 1959.
“The plane was going down. There was a school yard full of kids and he took it to the ground to save the children,” Post 460 Commander Bryan Trum said.
Hickman was 21 years old when his aircraft went out of control as he was headed back to his home base in Miramar. Hickman realized he was headed toward Hawthorne Elementary School in Clairemont and decided to steer the plane away.
“If he bailed out, he didn’t know what would have happened to the plane, but he is a hero,” said Trum.
According to Post 460, Hickman was too close to the ground to eject and died in the crash, saving hundreds of lives in the process.
“When we had a dedication at Mount Soledad, one of the little girls — that was a little girl on the playground — was there to eulogize him,” said Trum.
Hickman Elementary in Mira Mesa was named after the pilot. It says on their website: “Our school remembers and honors his sacrifice and seeks to continue his legacy of heroism.”
Hickman crashed on December 4, 1959 and a piece of the aircraft is still inside American Legion Post 460.
“The aircraft archeologist group said that must be part of that plane left, but they found that piece of the cockpit,” said Trum.
Hickman was awarded the highest non-combat decoration for heroism, the Navy and Marine Corps medal.
On this Memorial Day weekend, Trum hopes Americans can pay tribute to fallen heroes.
“I just want you to think about all the people that never came home and think about, freedom isn’t free,” said Trum.