On December 4, 1959 at about 12 noon, a US Navy 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. That crash site became a residential area on the north end of Diane Avenue where there are no remnants of the disaster now 50 years ago. Ensign Hickman (Born Hickmon, but changed by Navy typo) 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 expressing 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, seven children holding a letter card 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 are proud to claim. “N” is for our Nation he served with no shame.

Hawthorne Elementary installed a sundial in Ensign Hickman’s memory, but was removed sometime ago for unknown reasons.


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