Hugh N. Batten, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1923, the third of seven siblings. As a youngster, he delivered newspapers to help his family during the depression, but found time to build flying model airplanes, an interest that served him well in later years. A skilled mechanic like his father, Batten also fixed and raced Harley Davidson motorcycles, developing a passion for speed and daredevil antics, once riding his Harley up stairs into the lobby of his alma mater, Huntington High School.
When the U.S. entered World War II, these two interests combined to give him a mission. He told one of his friends that his motorcycles were fast, but those fighter planes were much faster. Batten would serve his country as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot.
Batten entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program in 1942, gaining his wings and commission in 1943. Despite being disciplined for flying his plane under a bridge while in training, he was assigned to join VF83 as an F6F Hellcat fighter pilot aboard USS Essex CV-9 in early 1945.
In his first combat mission, March 1945, Batten and his wingman, Lt(jg) Samuel Brocato (Coronado Hometown Hero, 2017), attacked a formation of 25-30 Japanese Jack fighters, and shot down two of them apiece. In April 1945, Batten and Brocato again attacked a large formation of enemy fighters headed for the US fleet, and each shot down four Zeke fighters apiece, a total of eight before running out of ammo, earning Navy Crosses, the Navy’s highest award for valor, for both Batten and Brocato.
Batten’s award citation reads, in part: “…for extraordinary heroism … and courage and skill in pressing home an attack against forces greatly superior in number…at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Following this action, their commander began referring to Batten and Brocato as “The Gold Dust Twins,” a reference to a cleaning product, because they were so good at “cleaning house.” Batten and Brocato concluded their World War II experience destroying two Japanese Tonys over Japan, confirming both pilots’ status as US Navy Fighter Aces.
At the conclusion of the war, Batten met and married Mary “Tommy” Thomas, and together they raised four children while he continued his Navy career of more than 30 years.
Batten’s career included duties as a decorated jet fighter combat pilot in the Korean War; Test Pilot in the 1950s; commander of air squadrons VA-112, and VX-4; navigator of USS Constellation CVA-64 during the Viet Nam conflict. He later served as Commander of the Alternate National Military Command Center; and as Senior Commander of Allied Forces North. In addition to dozens of other decorations, including three Distinguished Flying Crosses, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, retiring as a Captain in 1977. He died in 1990.
Batten and his family lived on Cabrillo Street, 1958-59, when he was Executive Officer of VA-93, aboard USS Ticonderoga CV-14.