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On December 4, 1959, at about noon, an F3H Demon piloted by Ensign Albert Joseph Hickman, 21, crashed into a Clairemont canyon. The pilot deliberately stayed with the aircraft to avoid crashing into Hawthorne Elementary School, saving as many as 700 lives. The crash site became a residential area on the north end of Diane Avenue where there are no remnants of the disaster.

Ensign Hickman was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Medal. His hometown paper in Sioux City, Iowa, called him heroic. Many Hawthorne students and parents wrote to Hickman’s family to express their gratitude for his action.

In 1962, American Legion Post #460 in Kearny Mesa was dedicated to Hickman. A new Mira Mesa School became Hickman Elementary in recognition of his heroism. Also, a complex in Kearny Mesa was dedicated as Hickman Field Athletic Area.

At the naming ceremony for Hickman Elementary School in 1971, six children held a letter card and recited the following: “H” is for Hickman, a hero brave and true. “I” is for the Important decision to do what he knew. “C” is for the Children he must have been thinking of. “K” is for the Kindness he showed, and the love. “M” is for Mira Mesa, where our school will share his name. “A” is for Albert, an American we’re proud to claim. “N” is for our Nation he served with no shame.

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Comments

Josh Board Dec. 16, 2009 @ 8:37 a.m.

I started going to Hickman Elementary in 1974. I remember being in first or second grade, when they told us during an assembly, about how the school got its name. Powerful stuff.

I was surprised there was only one small story about Mr. Hickman when the crash occured a year ago.

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pindyluwho52 Dec. 25, 2011 @ 4:08 p.m.

I was one of those kids in the playground when the plane crashed. If it wasn't for Ensign Hickman I would not be here today. He was my hero then and now. My dad was also in the Navy at that time and he wrote to the family. If his family reads this, I would like to say your son was the bravest man, he is the true definition of a hero. One who sacrifices himself to save many. Thank you Ensign Hickman, you are in the arms of the angels flying high above .

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Sgootgeld Nov. 26, 2014 @ 1:18 p.m.

I was also on the playground at Hawthorne Elementary when that plane crashed. He was a huge hero. The canyon was a wild place to play in, rattlers all over the place. Last time I visited San Diego there was a highway and tract homes through it. I had plane crash nightmares for years....then as a teen witnessed two large aircraft collide over a golf course, on approach to Moffett Field, that I was driving by. After many decades the nightmares have stopped.

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