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Philip Herschel Hazelett

Huntington Advertiser

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Philip Herschel Hazelett

"Courage is found in unlikely places."

J. R. R. Tolkien

Although West Virginia is but a small state in the powerful United States, it is mighty in its ability to produce selfless American heroes. One of these honorable heroes is veteran Philip Hazelett. Philip Herschel Hazelett (known as "Phil" or "Herschel" to friends) was born in 1921 to Herschel and Vesta Hazelett in rural Cabell County. A few years later, Hazelett's younger brother Joe was born. During Hazelett's adolescence, the family lived in Ohio for a brief period of time, most likely due to the fact that both Herschel and Vesta hailed from there.

High School photo

Huntington High School Huntingtonian, 1939

Eventually the family settled in Huntington, West Virginia, where Philip Hazelett attended Huntington High School along with the Class of 1939. As a high school student, he was actively involved in extracurricular activities including Boys' Glee Club and clubs focused on French and current history. Like many other boys of the day, Hazelett was actively involved in Hi-Y, a club run by the YMCA that fostered "speech, sportsmanship, and scholastic achievement," qualities deemed highly desirable by educated men of the day. Upon graduation, he enrolled in Huntington's Marshall College (current-day Marshall University) where he attended two years of college before enlisting in the U.S. Army.
College photopatch

Marshall College Chief Justice, 1941

On August 27, 1942, Phillip Hazelett travelled to Fort Thomas in Newport, Kentucky, to enlist in the army for the duration of World War II. He was given the service number O-811904 and assigned to the 45th Infantry Division in the 8th Air Corps, 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, which saw most of its action in Germany. Philip was a member of the accomplished division of Thunderbird fighter pilots, who adopted a red and yellow Native American Thunderbird emblem that symbolized that the men were "sacred bearers of happiness unlimited." The esteemed soldier spent two years with the division, where he became a decorated fighter pilot who flew over 60 combat missions and shot down two combat German planes.
Thunderbird emblem

Thunderbird emblem

On a clear afternoon on July 28, 1944, Lieutenant Hazelett was leading a group of fighter pilots home from a bombing mission in Magdeburg when they spotted approximately six enemy shooters in a grassy field near Steinhuder Lake in Germany. The men dipped their planes to a place where they were almost touching the tips of trees around the field before opening fire against the enemy Germans. Shortly after the fight began, Hazelett's plane was hit by enemy fire, and he called his fellow pilots to notify them that he was parachuting out of his damaged plane. After landing, he was likely killed by the German soldiers on the ground and was reported missing before being pronounced dead by enemy fire.

Air Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross
Oak Leaf Cluster

Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Oak Leaf Cluster. Hazelett was the recipient of multiple decorations.

Lieutenant Philip Hazelett died a highly revered Thunderbird pilot, and upon his death his mother, Vesta Vivian Hazelett, was presented with his awards: the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. The various Oak Leaf Clusters attached to his medals were especially honorable because they symbolized additional decorations after the initial award was received.

The highly respected pilot is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium, in Plot D, Row 14, Grave 30. Today, Hazelett is survived by his brother Joe Hazelett, a fellow World War II veteran.

Lt. Philip Hazelett's marker in Ardennes Cemetery. Courtesy Astrid van Erp

Although Philip Hazelett was raised in humble beginnings, his immense success, admirable leadership, and unwavering courage during the harsh realities of war make him a true American hero. West Virginia and the nation are forever indebted to him for sacrificing his life for freedom.

Article prepared by Mychala Schulz
July 2015


Philip Herschel Hazelett

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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