Col Harold E. Fischer

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Fischer grew up on a farm in Iowa and enlisted in the U.S. Army after two years at Iowa State University. He transferred to the Air Force in 1950 and achieved a remarkable combat record during 105 missions. He was credited with shooting down 10 Soviet-made MiG-15 fighters, enough to qualify him as a double ace.

In his last dogfight before his F-86 Sabre Jet was downed by a Chinese fighter pilot, Fischer chalked up his 11th MiG.

Fischer parachuted into enemy territory just north of the Yalu River, which separates North Korea from China, on April 7, 1953.

Fischer, a captain at the time, was taken by Chinese soldiers to a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria, where he spent the next 25 months. Three other American pilots from the Korean War were being held in the same prison. The four made headlines across the United States as a symbol of Cold War tensions, their imprisonment continuing months past the signing of the armistice and cease-fire that stopped the fighting July 27, 1953.

Nine months into his captivity, Fischer said, he used a nail to dig a hole through the wall of his cell and escaped. Intent on stealing a MiG, he was deterred by a guard and then tried to reach a railway station, where he was recaptured.

He and the other pilots were released May 31, 1955, after being tried by the Chinese in a mock trial in which they were found guilty of participating in germ warfare. They were then deported to the United States.

The release of the aviators may have been a strategic move by China to reduce tensions with the United States, which had risen sharply during a crisis over the Taiwan Straits, said Doug Lantry, a research historian at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Fischer “not only survived an incredible and strange ordeal but went on to pass his knowledge of what he learned on to future airmen,” Lantry said. “That is one of the reasons he’s so important to the Air Force. He gathered an awful lot of knowledge of how to fly, how to fight and how to survive.”

Later in life Fischer learned that Chinese ace Han Decai was credited with shooting him down in 1953.

“When I found out that Han had been given credit for me, I tried to contact him through Chinese embassies,” Fischer said. “In 1996, I joined a group of [ World War II-era] Flying Tiger pilots who had been invited to visit China. There, I met Gen. Han and presented him with an F-86 model. We’ve met again since then. And we have become friends.”

Harold Edward Fischer Jr. was born May 8, 1925, on a farm outside Lone Rock, Iowa. From a young age, he had an interest in aviation and often spent his 10-cent allowance to buy issues of Flying Aces, a magazine about World War I. He later accumulated model airplanes and launched them from a windmill on his family’s farm.

After his release from the Chinese prison in 1955, Fischer returned to Iowa State University to pursue a master’s degree in industrial administration. During the Vietnam War, he flew 200 missions, primarily in helicopters. His final active-duty assignment, in 1978, was with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.

We honor you, Harold Fischer.

(#Repost @LA Times)

Col William C. McChord

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During his lifetime, William Caldwell McChord witnessed and took part in the birth of military aviation. Colonel McChord was born 29 December 1881, in Lebanon, Kentucky. He attended the United States Military Academy, where he earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the cavalry, on 14 June 1907. He received his flying training at Rockwell Field, California, and was rated a Junior Military Aviator on 31 May 1918. After completing a course in Bombardment Aviation at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, and commanding for brief periods of time at Park Field, Tennessee, and Gerstner Field, Louisiana, he was transferred in March, 1919, to the Office of the Director of Air Service, Washington, D.C. There he served in various capacities; duty in the Finance Section of the Supply Group, a member of the Air Service Claims Board, assistant to the Chief of the Materials Disposal and Salvage Division of the Supply Group, and Assistant to the Chief of the Property Division of the Supply Group.

In July, 1920, Colonel McChord served as Air Officer of the Central Department (later the 6th Corps Area), for two years. He then completed the Air Corps Tactical, and Command and General Staff School courses of instruction. He went on to command Chanute Field, Illinois, and was Commandant of the Air Corps Technical School at the field until early in 1928 when he was transferred to the Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, Texas. There, he completed the Special Observers course, and received the rating of “Airplane Observer” as of 25 June 1928. Following his graduation from the Army War College, Washington, D.C., Colonel McChord served as instructor at the Command and General Staff School for four years. He was then transferred to the Panama Canal Department for duty as Commanding Officer of the 19th Composite Wing. In October 1935, upon completion of his foreign service tour, he was assigned to duty in the Plans Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C. Later, he was assigned duty as Chief of the Training and Operations Division.

Two years later, while piloting a Northrop A-17 single engine attack bomber from Bolling Field, District of Columbia, to Randolph Field, Texas, Colonel McChord crashed near Maldens, Virginia, on 18 August 1937. Apparently, he was trying to land his malfunctioning aircraft. Colonel McChord died in the crash. His name was proposed for memorialization, and on 5 May 1938, Tacoma Field was officially designated McChord Field in his honor.

We honor you, William McChord.

(#Repost @McChord Air Museum)

Lt Col George J. Laben

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In seventeen months stationed in India and Burma during World War II, George Laben flew 245 missions in a C-47 transport plane, an aircraft he still praises for its maneuverability and general ease of flying. He dodged Japanese planes by flying low enough to the ground to be mistaken for ground cover, and never lost a plane or a crew member, even though the overall losses in his squadron were enormous. Occasionally, he flew night missions undercover for the OSS, dropping off men (in parachutes) and supplies, and on one memorable flight, a half-dozen unauthorized bombs. Laben readily admits he never took off without feeling some discomfort, though he always believed he would make it back home from every flight.

We honor you, George Laben.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

Maj Clara C. Johnson

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In 1950, Clara “Chris” Johnson was a theatrical designer with limited prospects when she decided that the Air Force would provide her with a steady income. Her initial impression of her female colleagues confirmed that she was going to be judged solely on her abilities and not on the color of her skin. “I was always impressed with my female colleagues in that I was the only person of color and they were readily accepting of me.”

She survived a rigorous stint at Officers Candidate School and a year in Vietnam, and got to retire at an age young enough to have a second career in academia.

We honor you, Clara Johnson.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

A1C Raymond L. Ayon

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Fascinated with his older brothers’ letters home from World War II, 16-year-old Raymond Ayon dropped out of high school in 1945. He signed up for the Merchant Marines–but after a year they learned he was too young. Ayon went back to school, graduated, and enlisted in the Air Force in 1948. His first assignment was with a fighter bomber squadron in Japan, but the Air Force decided to make a medical corpsman out of him. Shortly after the United States went to war in Korea in 1950, Ayon was in the thick of things, loading casualties onto transport planes bound for Japan. He spent time with a MASH unit, claiming it was hardly like what was depicted in the famed TV show. Ayon is sensitive to those who would diminish his service just because he wasn’t an infantry soldier.

We honor you Raymond Ayon.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

Capt Warren H. Berg

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In 1941, Warren graduated from Mankato State Teachers’ College (now Minnesota State University-Mankato) with a bachelor’s degree in education, intending to become a college professor. He completed a year of graduate work at the University of Minnesota, but World War II then dramatically altered his career plans. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now U.S. Air Force) and was called to active duty in November 1942. Warren graduated at the top of his Navigator Training School class at Mather Field in Sacramento, CA, in 1943 and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 96th Bomb Group, at Snetterton Heath, England. After 30 bombing missions over Europe, the crew of his B-17, The Reluctant Dragon, developed a reputation for being lucky. The 11 other crews that had reported for combat duty at the same time had been shot down. Warren and his crewmates signed up for a second tour, eventually leading as many as 1,000 B-17s and B-24s to German targets. But their luck ran out on mission No. 36 on Jan. 13, 1945. They were shot down over Bischofsheim, Germany. Six of 10 crew members bailed out at 24,000 feet and survived, but they were taken prisoner. On April 29, 1945, Gen. George Patton and his Third Army liberated Stalag 7A near Moosburg, and soon 1st Lieutenant Berg was headed home. He was promoted to Captain and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak-Leaf Clusters. The experiences of his B-17 crew are among those recounted in the book ‘D-Day Bombers: The Veterans’ Story’ by Stephen Darlow.

Later that year, Warren began a 38- year career with Trans World Airlines in Kansas City when he was hired as a navigation instructor. He and Genevieve, who he had known since high school, married on April 27, 1946, and spent almost all their married life in Kansas City, North. Warren retired in 1983 as Director of Flight Operations Ground Training for all TWA pilots and flight engineers. He also had supervised the safety training of flight attendants. His various administrative positions over the years necessitated considerable world travel. He served on the training committee of the International Air Transport Association, wrote numerous training manuals used in the airline industry and audited training procedures for Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian airlines. Upon his retirement, he was honored as a leader in airline training by the Boeing Aircraft Flight Crew Training Center and Delta, American and United Airlines.

We honor you, Warren Berg.

(#Repost @Together We Served)

Maj Corbin B. Willis Jr.

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Corbin grew up in Colorado and with his best friend and sister Betty they had many fun adventures. He graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was trained as a fighter pilot and then transferred to the Air Force as a B-17 pilot when the need arose. During WWII while on his 22nd bombing mission over Germany they were shot down and he became a POW. He was liberated at the end of the war, served in the Korean war and in the military until he retired as a Major after 20 years.

He married the love of his life Margaret (Peggy) Taylor in 1949. They traveled all over the world while he served in the military. They are the parents of four children. After military retirement they settled in Alameda, California to raise their family. Corbin worked as the purchasing agent for Alameda Hospital until he retired from that position and they moved to Sandy, Oregon. Together they enjoyed traveling, playing bridge, and reading. Corbin had an continuous thirst for knowledge. He could not go within 200 miles of a museum or a point of interest without taking a detour to see it. He was an accomplished painter and spent many years teaching in schools about the war and his POW experience.

We honor you, Corbin Willis, Jr.

(#Repost @Myers Mortuary)