American World War II aces and fighter pilots.
Latest hand-picked WWII news.
William J. Cullerton, Chicago`s top WWII ace, dies at 89
Bill Cullerton may have owed his life to baseball. Cullerton, Chicago`s top fighter ace during World War II, was downed behind enemy lines and shot by stormtroopers at point-blank range. When the Allies found him hiding under a bridge near the town of Feuchtwangen - out of uniform - they weren`t sure if they had a German soldier or a Yank. His survival hinged on his answer to a question from an American soldier. "Who is Ted Williams?" When he correctly identified the "Splendid Splinter" of the Boston Red Sox, the American soldiers welcomed him.
WWII ace William W. Momyer, who commanded aerial combat and bombing operations in the Vietnam War, dies
General William W. Momyer, a celebrated WW2 fighter pilot who helped plot postwar tactics for the Air Force and commanded aerial combat and bombing operations during the early years of the Vietnam War, has passed away at 95. In a 35-year career that spanned a revolutionary era of aerial warfare, from dogfights in P-40s against whining Messerschmitts over North Africa to the rolling thunder of supersonic fighter-bombers over the cities and jungles of Southeast Asia, General Momyer (pronounced MOE-meyer) was known as a daring pilot, an aggressive wing commander and one of the best air tacticians of his time.
WWII pilot Fred Dungan recalls the dogfight of his life: Japanese pilot saluted me before plunging to his death
Fred "Buck" Dungan could hardly believe his eyes as he piloted his Navy Hellcat fighter plane downward through a cloud and broke back into the open over the Pacific island of Guam. It was June 19, 1944, and below him were 40 Japanese war planes - 20 bombers and 20 torpedo planes - lining up to land at the island`s Orote Field. In the corner of his eye, Dungan could see a group of Japanese fighter planes dotting the sky above him to protect the landing formation. Dungan - flying one of only two American planes on the scene - had a split-second decision to make. He dove sharply, passing under the Japanese planes` landing pattern, figuring the Japanese fighters wouldn`t dare fire on him there.
American WWII ace James B. Morehead, who had 8 kills, dead at 95
Retired Army Colonel James B. Morehead, a World War II flying ace and two-time Distinguished Service Cross recipient, has passed away at the age of 95. Morehead, flying mainly P-40 fighter planes, engaged in 20 dogfights and shot down 8 enemy planes in the Pacific and Europe. He became one of the America`s most highly decorated fighter aces, being awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 other air medals.
WWII ace and the Navy Cross winner Warren A. Skon passes away at 92
Warren A. "Andy" Skon, 92, a Navy captain who was an ace fighter pilot in the Pacific theater, has passed away at 92. Skon was a highly decorated pilot who took part in several major air-combat operations during his two years as a naval aviator in the Pacific. He participated in the Navy`s first nighttime fighter actions from an aircraft carrier and was awarded the Navy Cross. He was credited with shooting down 7 Japanese airplanes, making him an ace. In 1943, when he was assigned to the USS Enterprise, Captain Skon was the wingman to Edward H. "Butch" O`Hare, who was the Navy`s first ace and who received the Medal of Honor in 1942.
John Alison: A highly decorated American WWII ace and the father of Air Force Special Operations
John "Johnny" R. Alison - a highly decorated American WWII ace who saw action with the Flying Tigers, veteran of the Korean War, the father of Air Force Special Operations - has passed away at 98.
Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds (WWII book review)
Robin Olds, who had a amazing career as a near-triple ace flying P38s and P51s in the Second World War, finished his combat flying days as the top fighter pilot of the Vietnam War. Olds took command of his WWII squadron in Europe after a mere 9 months of service. He was part of the first jet demo team, finished second in the Thompson Trophy Race, was the only American ever to command an RAF squadron, had more kills than any other Air Force pilot in Vietnam and commanded the Air Force Academy. Sent on a PR tour in Vietnam, he began flying off the books and setting up his wingmen to log the kills.
World War II ace Clayton Kelly Gross reunites with a restored P-51 Mustang (photos)
WW2 ace Clayton Kelly Gross walked slowly toward the P-51 Mustang, the one with "Live Bait" painted on the nose, the aluminum skin shining as bright as a mirror, and looked at himself. For a moment he was 23 years old again. Standing nearby were the Mustang`s owner Jon Vesely and restorer Mike Vadeboncoeur. They wanted to honor a fighter pilot, an American ace, a hero. They wanted the warbird - shown at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh - to look exactly like the P-51 Mustangs Gross piloted in the Second World War. Gross, who has 8½ kills, has self-published a memoir - "Live Bait".
Wayne Blickenstaff was a double ace pilot in World War II
As a young man, Wayne K. Blickenstaff had a large print on his wall of Charles Lindbergh - America`s hero who first crossed the Atlantic by air. "I`m not sure I had more of an interest in flying than most boys. We all wanted to fly. I was thrilled with ... Amelia Earhart, Roscoe Turner, and especially Lindbergh." Blickenstaff joined the Army Air Forces, receiving his wings in August 1942. He was an original member of the 350th Fighter Squadron and the 353rd Fighter Group that reached England in May 1943. In 1945 - while seeking a fifth victory to become an ace - he faced the world`s first operational jet fighter, Messerschmitt Me-262.
Walker M. Mahurin: A top flying ace with 24 kills in World War II and Korean War
Air Force Col. Walker M. "Bud" Mahurin, 91 - a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War who downed 24 enemy planes - was one of the leading American aces of his generation. In World War II, Mahurin flew the P-47 Thunderbolt, a propeller-driven plane with eight 50-caliber machine guns - which he used to devastating effect against the Luftwaffe. The American Fighter Aces Association reports that Mahurin downed 24.25 planes: 20.75 in WWII and 3.5 in Korea (pilots are awarded a fraction if multiple fighters engaged the enemy). The top US ace of World War II, Richard Bong, shot down 40 planes.
Alexander Vraciu - A leading U.S. Navy fighter ace
In August 1944, Hellcat pilot Alex Vraciu travelled home to East Chicago for a hero`s welcome. The WWII ace - who won Navy Cross - had given the enemy hell, shooting down 6 Japanese planes in 8 minutes. His hometown set up a parade, a convertible ride, a honor guard and streets were filled with well-wishers. Vraciu, though, was uneasy about the hype: "I`d rather do without that welcome." The account is found in the new book - "Fighter Pilot: The World War II Career of Alex Vraciu" by Ray E. Boomhower - which recounts a Navy flier worthy of lasting recognition for wartime feats that raise eyebrows.
Flying with the P-47 Thunderbolt fighters in World War II
Dave Hutton flew through the cloud and flak-filled skies over Italy, gunning for "flamers" - military vehicles that exploded in a gush of fire when hit by the 50-caliber machine guns. P-47s were tanks of the air, and pilots loved the thick armor plating and the heavy structure that absorbed bullets and AA shrapnel. The biggest threat came from AA fire, the "black flowers" of smoke and death. Dave quickly learned the art of survival: rapidly changing altitude and making turns. He faced the grim realities of war when learning how to fly the P-47s in Corsica in 1944, his close friend stalled out on landing: "Poor Bob never even got to fly one mission."
Marine Col. Kenneth Reusser flew 253 combat missions in 3 wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam)
Kenneth Reusser, who flew 253 combat missions in 3 wars and was downed 5 times, died at 89. He came from an era when aerial combat meant low-level bombing and dogfighting in which enemies could see each other. He got two Navy Cross medals, one for combat during the battle for Okinawa and another for leading a raid over Korea. In Vietnam, he flew helicopters and he was shot down while on a rescue mission, suffering burns over a third of his body. During WW2 he was part of the Black Sheep Squadron led by the Medal of Honor winner Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Reusser believed in taking the fight to the enemy, regardless of rules, procedures or safety.
World War II fighter pilot recalls dogfights over China
Colonel Robert Liles recalls the episode 67 years ago. The Army Air Corps pilot considered his options as he tried to shoot the wingman of a group of Japanese planes flying in a V formation over China when he was surprised by a fighter plane who hit both wings of his aircraft. "I managed to get away but my plane was shot up pretty good," he said, describing details of the ordeal to a roomful of aviation and military enthusiasts. Liles was one of 3 fighter ace pilots sharing their WW2 adventures during the "Victory in the Sky" symposium, an installment of the Living History Series at Fantasy of Flight.
WWII Marine pilot was granted Medal of Honor for knocking 7 dive bombers in 15 minutes
James E. Swett was a Marine Corps ace who got the Medal of Honor for knocking seven Japanese dive bombers out of the air in 15 minutes. He was a first lieutenant and division leader in the Solomon Islands area of the South Pacific during World War Two when he was granted the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military`s highest award for heroism. As part of the Guadalcanal campaign, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had ordered a daylight offensive with 150 Japanese aircraft. The Allies had about half that number of planes. Leading his division of 4 Wildcat planes April 7, 1943, Swett saw 20 lightly armored Japanese Val (Aichi D3A) dive bombers trying to target Allied ships.
WWII fighter pilot Quentin C. Aanenson shared haunting story with the world
As a fighter pilot in World War Two, Quentin C. Aanenson fought a very dangerous war. He first saw combat on D-Day, and in the following year, he dive-bombed and strafed tanks, bridges and German infantry at low altitude. He took hits from antiaircraft shells and flak on over 20 missions and pulled through 2 crash landings. He watched so many of his fellow pilots in the 366th Fighter Group die that he stopped making friends with the replacements. He had rarely spoken of his military service until his children suggested that he document what he`d gone through. The result became a popular movie, "A Fighter Pilot`s Story."
Colonel Don Blakeslee: Fighter pilot who was one of the finest American combat leaders
Colonel Don Blakeslee served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the RAF before shifting to the USAAF, where he was one of the finest WWII combat fighter leaders. On Jan. 1 1944 he was appointed to command the 4th Fighter Group. The role of the Group was to escort the 8th Air Force`s long-range bomber force deep into Nazi territory. His Group had the P-47 Thunderbolt, and he worked hard to be re-equipped with the P-51 Mustang, and when this was approved he was told that his pilots had to be operational within 24 hours of receiving P-51s. He agreed, informing his pilots: "learn how to fly them on the way to the target".
Hamilton McWhorter III - The first aviator to become a WWII Hellcat Ace pilot
Hamilton McWhorter III was the first aviator to become a World War II Hellcat Ace pilot. His large frame filled up an airplane`s cockpit as easily as his personality filled up a room. McWhorter already had a pilot`s license when he enlisted in the Navy. His squadron was the first to fly a new plane, the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Before the end of WWII, he had shot down 12 planes in his Hellcat, becoming the first pilot to be designated as a Hellcat Ace. Many years later he wrote "The First Hellcat Ace" about his experiences in the Pacific. And in 1989 he was placed into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.
Four World War II aces spin tales
4 WWII fighter pilot aces recalled dogfights at the Aerospace Museum of California. Col. Bud Anderson, Lt. Col. Don Bryan, Col. Barrie Davis and Col. Art Fiedler were seated before a P-51 Mustang restored to a high polish. Fiedler recalled his days escorting B-24 bombers. On one mission he saw 2 German Messerschmitt 109s. He followed one Me-109 down as it went into a vertical dive, hitting it with machine-gun fire, then watching it crash. Pulling out of the dive, he found himself flying side by side with another German fighter: He could see the the enemy`s red helmet and his oxygen mask.
P-51 Mustang fighter ace Lt. Gen. Gordon M. Graham
Lt. Gen. Gordon M. Graham logged over 9,000 flying hours and got 55 decorations and service awards during his career in the Air Force. His first flying experience came while he was working at an airport in the 1930s. Told one payday there wasn`t enough money to pay him, he took an offer of a flying lesson instead. That first experience piloting an aircraft became a passion for Graham, who shoot down at least 16 enemy planes during World War II. By the end of the war, he had flown 73 combat missions in P-51 Mustang fighter planes.
Jefferson DeBlanc, World War II fighter pilot with Medal of Honor
Jefferson J. DeBlanc, a WWII ace who was awarded the Medal of Honor for shooting down 5 Japanese planes on a single day while running out of fuel, passed away at 86. On Jan. 31, 1943, he took off from Guadalcanal in Wildcat fighter, leading a 6-plane section of Marine Fighting Squadron 112. They were tasked to protect dive bombers attacking Japanese ships near Kolombangara. He became dragged in a fierce air battle, and his fighter was using fuel at a rapid rate and he could have returned to his base, but he continued his attacks: "We needed all the guns we could get up there to escort those dive bombers... I figured I could survive a bailout."
World War II flying ace Abner Aust Jr. - National treasure or menace?
Abner Aust Jr. is a genuine war hero, a flying ace who shot down Japanese Zeros over Tokyo near the end of WWII and then piloted jets in 300 more combat missions in Vietnam. A U.S. Air Force officer organizing a reunion of fighter pilots wants Aust, whom he calls a "legendary American", to attend as a special guest. The 86-year-old Aust also is a felon: convicted of trying to hire somebody to kill one of his ex-wives and burn down her house. He`s spent the past 7 years behind bars and likely will die there unless his supporters can persuade a judge that the retired colonel should be regarded as a national treasure instead of an ill-tempered menace.
Robert Smith shot down Nazi Germany`s flying ace Gerhard Vogt (Article no longer available from the original source)
Robert Smith was a World War II fighter pilot who shot down one of Nazi Germany`s flying aces during an aerial battle. It was 62 years ago that Smith, as an Army Air Forces lieutenant, shot down the German FW-190 plane. But it wasn`t until 2001 that he learned the identity of the downed pilot through a WWII researcher. The pilot was Lt. Gerhard Vogt, who had been credited with 48 destroyed American planes in 174 combat flights. Smith had to chase the Luftwaffe pilot low through a fog bank over Cologne. "We were bouncing in and out of the fog bank and my wingman was giving me directions from 1,000 feet above me, where he could see the shadows of both planes..."
The Yanks who fought just for the fun of it - Knights of the Air (Article no longer available from the original source)
In 1940, Eugene "Red" Tobin followed his dream of piloting a British Spitfire, even though he knew that he would be taking on Adolf Hitler and Luftwaffe, and flaunting neutrality laws of U.S.. Other Americans, such as wealthy, two-time Olympic gold-medalist William Fiske III and White Russian immigrant Andy Mamedoff, also refused to wait for America to enter the war. The Battle of Britain was fought in the air: Spitfires and Hurricanes against Messerschmitts and Stukas. Alex Kershaw goes to great lengths to place his tiny squadron within the larger context of the war.
World War II fighter ace Herschel Green : 1 attack 6 kills
Fighter pilot Col. Herschel "Herky" Green, one of the sharpest shooters in World War II, has passed away. A fighter pilot in Europe and Africa from 1943-1944, he was the leading ace of the 15th Air Force. He destroyed 18 enemy aircraft and 10 more on the ground. During one attack on German bombers, he destroyed 6 aircraft. Green convinced himself he couldn`t be killed after returning from numerous aerial combats unscathed. "Many times after that, I would tear into large gaggles of Luftwaffe fighters with just a wingman, and my only thought was how many we could get before they got away," he wrote in his memoir, Herky! The memoirs of a Checkertail Ace.
WWII ace who helped kill commander of Japan`s Pacific fleet
Besby Frank Holmes, a decorated combat ace, helped kill the Japanese admiral who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. forces got a message showing that Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto would be within 400 miles of Guadalcanal for an inspection of combat units. It was too far for any U.S. fighter aircraft at the time. But the newly arrived P-38s had a long range that could be extended by external fuel tanks. 18 pilots took off the morning of April 18. Two planes turned back, but other 16 flew, until they reached their destination. The risk paid off, and they ran into 6 Japanese fighters and 2 bombers, one of which was carrying Yamamoto.
World War II ace Fred J. Christensen flew with black cat, downed 6 planes in 2 minutes
To make a point to fellow fighter pilots in WWII, Col. Fred J. Christensen always flew with Sinbad, a stray black cat he had found. Seeing him return safe from combat missions — black cat and all — helped motivate the other pilots. And counter to traditional superstitions, Sinbad was very good luck for her father, who shot down 22 Nazi planes during the war, including 6 in a 2-minute span of one air battle. Though he flew 107 combat missions against the German Luftwaffe, he was a very humble man, who didn`t want to be known as a war hero.
P-51 Mustang ace: Shooting down Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter (Article no longer available from the original source)
WWII fighter ace Clayton Kelly Gross has published a memoir about his adventures shooting down six German airplanes as a P-51 Mustang pilot. His flight leader assigned Gross to fly low, luring German attackers so the rest of his outfit could shoot down the enemy fighters. On April 14, 1945, flying at 12,000 feet, Gross plunged his P-51 into a dive so he could boost his speed enough to catch a 100 mph faster Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter cruising below. The plummeting P-51 was shaking so badly that Gross almost couldn`t control it. Nearly colliding with the 262, Gross squeezed the trigger in his control stick and shot it down.
World War 2 ace, author Robert L. Scott
Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the WWII flying ace who told of his exploits in his book "God is My Co-Pilot," passed away. He rose to nationwide prominence during WWII as a fighter ace in the China-Burma-India theater, then with his best-selling 1943 book, made into a 1945 movie. He shot down 22 enemy planes with his P-40 Warhawk, though some were listed as "probable" kills. "You had to have two witnesses in the formation, or you needed a gun camera to take a picture. Only we didn`t have gun cameras in China. I had 22 aerial victims, but I only had proof of 13." He worked with the Flying Tigers, General Claire Chennault`s famed volunteer force of pilots.