Brig Gen Robin Olds

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Brigadier General Robin Olds was the director of aerospace safety in the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center, a separate operating agency and an organization of the Office of the Inspector General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. General Olds has worldwide responsibility for the development and implementation of policies, standards and procedures for programs in safety education, accident investigation and analysis, human factors research, and safety inspection to prevent and reduce accidents in Air Force activities.

General Olds was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Army Air Corps Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Robert Olds. He spent his boyhood days in the Hampton, Va., area where he attended elementary and high school. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and was commissioned as second lieutenant in June 1943. A member of the academy football team, he was selected as All-American tackle in 1942. He completed pilot training in 1943.

General Olds is rated a triple ace, having shot down a total of 17 enemy aircraft during World War II and the Vietnam War. He began his combat flying in a P-38 Lightning named “Scat 1” during World War II, and at the end of the war he was flying “Scat VII,” a P-51 Mustang, and was credited with 107 combat missions and 24.5 victories, 12 aircraft shot down and 11 1/2 aircraft destroyed on the ground.

During the Vietnam War in October 1966, General Olds entered combat flying in Southeast Asia in “Scat XXVII,” an F-4 Phantom II. He completed 152 combat missions, including 105 over North Vietnam. Utilizing air-to-air missiles, he shot down over North Vietnam two Mig-17 and two Mig-21 aircraft, two of these on one mission.

General Olds was wing man on the first jet acrobatic team in the Air Force and won second place in the Thompson Trophy Race (Jet Division) at Cleveland in 1946. He participated in the first one-day, dawn-to-dusk, transcontinental roundtrip flight in June 1946 from March Field, Calif., to Washington, D.C., and return.

His duty assignments in England, Germany, Libya, Thailand and the United States have included positions as squadron, base, group and wing commander; staff assignments in a numbered Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is a graduate of the National War College, 1963.

In February 1946 General Olds started flying P-80 jets at March Field, Calif., with the first squadron so equipped. In October 1948 he went to England under the U.S. Air Force – Royal Air Force Exchange Program and served as commander of No. 1 Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Station Tangmere. The squadron was equipped with the Gloster Meteor jet fighter.

He assumed duties as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in September 1966. He returned to the United States in December 1967 and served as commandant of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy through January 1971.

General Olds assumed the position of director of aerospace safety in the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center at Norton Air Force Base, Calif., in February 1971.

His military decorations and awards include the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, British Distinguished Flying Cross, French Croix de Guerre, Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order, Vietnam Air Gallantry Medal with Gold Wings, Vietnam Air Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He is a command pilot.

He was promoted to the temporary grade of brigadier general effective June 1, 1968, with date of rank May 28, 1968.

We honor you, Robin Olds.

(#Repost @USAF. Picture @This Day in Aviation)

CPT Louis Richard Emerson Jr.

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I was the pilot of a C-47 towing a Waco CG4A glider with 13 troops i it. The glider cut loose successfully at the appropriate time and then I took ground fire which caused both engines in the C-47 to quit and the plane was on fire. I successfully crash landed in a small field by dragging the right wing on the ground in order to swing the nose of the plane around to get it between 2 trees breaking the speed of the plane. The crash broke the fuselage in two and the wall immediately behind the co-pilot and I collapsed and the other 3 men (crew chief and radio operator and a Lt. Col getting credit for a combat flight) falling through. I sustained broken ribs on the left side because the control wheel hit me hard upon landing. .The co-pilot’s left arm had a compound fracture, but the other men were not injured. Fortunately, I had picked up out my footlocker at the barracks a small compass which came in handy finding our way to Utah Beach.

We exited through an escape hatch over the pilot’s seat and took shelter in a ditch beside the crashed plane. Immediately upon exiting, a German machine gun kept us pinned down until dark. Because of our injuries, we had to open gates that separated the farmers fields to gate through and we had been told the gates could be boobie trapped. Fortunately none we opened were, but it made me nervous each time I opened one. We found a band of American paratroopers, i took a gun and ammo from a dead paratropper and we hiked and drove after obtaining a captured jeep fighting our way through the German troops to Utah beach. There we found an American first aid tent, got a can of pork and beans, coffee and 4 cigarettes. Next we were picked up and loaded on a “duck” and transported to an LST ship and taken to England.

We honor you, Louis Richard Emerson Jr.

(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

LT Nathan G Gordon

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Nathan G. Gordon, a Navy pilot who received the Medal of Honor for rescuing aviators in World War II, and who later became Arkansas’ longest-serving lieutenant governor, died Sept. 8, 2008 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock. He was 92 and had pneumonia and other ailments.

Mr. Gordon was a small-town lawyer in Arkansas when he enlisted in the naval air corps in 1941. He flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina, a so-called flying boat that could land on water and had twin engines mounted on a wing above the fuselage.

Mr. Gordon, then a lieutenant junior grade, flew in the Caribbean early in the war, protecting convoys and searching for submarines. He was transferred to Midway Island in the Pacific in 1943 and later to a base in Australia.

He was part of the Black Cat squadron, so called because the airplanes were painted black and showed a cat’s jaws clamping down on a ship, and because the squadron often flew its patrol missions at night, sometimes dropping 1,000-pound bombs on Japanese ships from mast level.

On Feb. 15, 1944, Mr. Gordon and his crew received word that several B-25 bombers had been shot down while attacking Japanese positions near Kavieng harbor on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea.

Piloting his aircraft, the Arkansas Traveler, in a driving rainstorm and under constant enemy fire, Mr. Gordon made three separate landings in rough seas to rescue nine crew members from rubber life rafts. He set his plane down with such force that rivets popped and welded seams began to come loose. He had to shut off both engines to keep the plane steady amid the 18-foot swells, as crew members pulled the fallen airmen out of the sea with ropes.

After the third rescue, Mr. Gordon had flown about 20 miles toward his base when the radio crackled with word that another B-25 crew had been downed. He turned the Arkansas Traveler back to Kavieng harbor to attempt his most difficult rescue of the day.

Because the crewmen were only 600 yards from shore, Mr. Gordon had to approach from overland, flying directly above entrenched Japanese positions at a mere 300 feet, braving artillery and small-arms fire all the way.

He set his plane down once more in the churning water, the swells shielding his bobbing plane from enemy guns. Six more U.S. aviators clambered aboard as Mr. Gordon restarted the engines. By then, his plane was badly waterlogged and dangerously overloaded, with 24 men, including the nine-man crew.

“The breakers could throw you 35 or 40 feet in the air,” Mr. Gordon told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2002. “You had to keep the nose up till you reached takeoff speed of 55 knots, or the aircraft would flip and everybody likely would be killed.”

With crewmen bailing water with buckets, Mr. Gordon got the plane airborne and flew to the safety of a U.S. base.

His Medal of Honor citation praised Mr. Gordon’s final rescue, as he “again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men.”

Nathan Green Gordon was born Sept. 4, 1916, in Morrilton, Ark., where his father was a lawyer. He attended a military school in Tennessee and Arkansas Tech University before graduating from the University of Arkansas law school in 1939.

Returning to Arkansas as a war hero in 1946, Mr. Gordon was elected lieutenant governor and was re-elected to nine more two-year terms as a Democrat. His political career had little turmoil, except during the racial confrontations surrounding the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.

He retired from public office in 1967 and returned to his hometown to practice law. His wife of 49 years died in 1995. He had no children or other immediate survivors.

We honor you, Nathan Gordon.

(#Repost @The Mercury News)

Lt Col John R. “Bob” Pardo

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John R. “Bob” Pardo, a “MiG-Killer” credited with one victory and three assists, performed one of the most spectacular feats of piloting during the war in Southeast Asia. Pardo grew up in Heame, Texas, and after a year of college, entered the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program, earning his wings and commission in May 1955 at Bryan AFB, Texas. He was one of eight second lieutenants who went directly from flight training to the swept-wing, state-of-the-art Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1956, after three months at England AFB, Louisiana, Pardo reported to the 79th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at RAF Woodbridge, United Kingdom. After 18 months flying F-84Fs, the squadron converted to North American F-100 Super Sabres. In 1959, Pardo returned to the States for weapons controller training.

While a controller at MacDill AFB, Florida, Pardo also flew as instructor pilot for Colonel Paul Tibbets. He was next assigned to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment facility at Gunter AFB, Alabama, and in 1962, returned to operational flying in Air Defense Command’s 326th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri. He checked out in the Convair F-102 Delta Dart. In 1964, he transitioned to the Convair F-106 Delta Dagger and reported to the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Loring AFB, Maine. In 1966, he returned to MacDill AFB to upgrade to McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs and then reported to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in Thailand. As a member of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing “Wolf Pack,” he flew 132 combat sorties including 100 over North Vietnam. On 20 May 1967, Pardo flew MiG CAP for Republic F-105 Thuds.

Inbound from the Gulf of Tonkin to strike the Bac Le railyard, the “Wolf Pack” ran into 12 to 14 MiG 17s. In a swirling dogfight, four MiGs were quickly destroyed. Pardo scored first. After his first missile failed to guide, he fired a Sidewinder, which downed the number-four MiG. Firing the rest of his missiles, he made mock attacks while the Thuds completed their strikes.

On 10 March 1967, while flying over North Vietnam, the F-4s of Pardo and his wingman were hit by enemy fire. Out of fuel, the wingman’s aircraft flamed out. With his badly damaged aircraft, Pardo decided to “push” the other plane to safety, wedging his wingman’s tailhook in front of his windscreen. When Pardo’s left engine caught fire, he shut it down and continued to “push” on one engine. Over Laos, all four crewmembers ejected and were safely recovered. More than twenty years later, Pardo finally received the Silver Star in a ceremony at Shaw AFB, South Carolina.

Following his combat tour, he flew the F-4 in the 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron, RAF Bentwaters, for three years.

He was posted to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, to instruct in the 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, the central school for Phantom instructors. In 1973, Pardo completed his 20-year career in the USAF as wing Chief of Training Analysis and Development. In 1974, he retired from the Air Force with over 4,500 hours of fighter time and began a second career in corporate jet aviation. In 1980, he became chief pilot for the Adolph Coors Brewing Company.

We honor you, John R. Pardo.

(#Repost @GoE Foundation)

CAPT John McCain

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When John McCain made his first bid for public office in 1982, running for a House seat in Arizona, critics blasted him as a carpetbagger, pointing out that he’d only lived in the state for 18 months.

“Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy,” the exasperated candidate reportedly shot back at one event. Then, after explaining that career military people tend to move a lot, he delivered a retort that made the attacks against him seem ridiculously petty: “As a matter of fact… the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”

McCain won the election, launching a political career that earned him two terms in the House, six in the Senate, and his party’s presidential nomination in 2008. But even after four decades in public life, McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam continued to define him in the minds of many Americans, admirers and detractors alike. While he ultimately made his name on the national political stage, the scion of two four-star admirals was, at his core, a lifelong military man. He followed into the family business, becoming a decorated, if at times reckless, fighter pilot who conducted nearly two dozen bombing runs in Vietnam before being shot down, captured and tortured.

In both his military and political careers, McCain earned a reputation for being feisty and combative. “A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed,” he declared in his 2018 memoir The Restless Wave, written with his longtime collaborator Mark Salter, and published after he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that took his life on August 25, 2018.

Below, a timeline of his military life [selected segments, see History.com for the full account]:

John Sidney McCain III is born on August 29 at a U.S. Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone. His father, John S. McCain, Jr., is a submarine officer who will later rise to the rank of admiral and become commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific during much of the Vietnam War. His grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr., also an admiral, would come to command the Navy’s Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific during World War II. “They were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life,” McCain would later write in a 1999 memoir, Faith of My Fathers.

John McCain enters the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1954 and graduates with the class of 1958. He’s the third generation in his family to attend the Academy; his father had been class of 1931; his grandfather, class of 1906.

By all accounts, especially his own, the young McCain is an indifferent and rambunctious student, prone to pranks and occasional disobedience to authority. He graduates fifth from the bottom of his class. “My four years here were not notable for individual academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalogue of demerits which I managed to accumulate,” he admitted to the graduating class of 1993 in a commencement speech.

After graduation, McCain goes on to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and later Corpus Christi, Texas, to train as a pilot. “I enjoyed the off-duty life of a Navy flyer more than I enjoyed the actual flying,” he will remember. “I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties, and generally misused my good health and youth.”

In late 1966, he joins a squadron of A-4E Skyhawk pilots that will deploy on the U.S.S. Forrestal, a carrier that soon heads to the Tonkin Gulf, off the coast of North Vietnam. They arrive at the peak of President Lyndon Johnson’s Operation Rolling Thunder campaign of massive sustained aerial bombardment.

On the morning of July 29, 1967, McCain has another brush with death. As he awaits his turn for takeoff from the USS Forrestal, for a bombing run over North Vietnam, another plane accidentally fires a missile. It strikes either his plane or the one next to him (accounts differ), igniting a raging fire on the ship’s deck. McCain manages to extricate himself from his plane, only to be hit in the legs and chest by hot shrapnel.

“All around me was mayhem,” he would recall years later. “Planes were burning. More bombs cooked off. Body parts, pieces of the ship, and scraps of planes were dropping onto the deck. Pilots strapped in their seats ejected into the firestorm. Men trapped by flames jumped overboard.” By the time it’s over, more than 130 crew members are dead.

Three months later, on October 26, McCain takes off on his 23rd bombing run over North Vietnam, reportedly on a mission to destroy Hanoi’s thermal power plant. Just as he releases his bombs over the target, a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, described as looking like “a flying telephone pole,” strikes his plane, ripping off its right wing. McCain ejects, breaking both arms and one knee, and parachutes into a shallow lake.

After briefly losing consciousness, he wakes up to find himself “being hauled ashore on two bamboo poles by a group of about 20 angry Vietnamese. A crowd of several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me as I lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at me, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly…. Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”

Soon, an army truck arrives, taking McCain as a prisoner of war. He will remain one for five and a half years.

McCain remains a prisoner until the U.S. and North Vietnam sign a peace accord in late January 1973, ending the conflict. He is released in March, along with 107 other POWs, and boards a U.S. transport plane headed to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.

After his return to the States, and while he’s still undergoing therapy for his injuries, McCain requests assignment to the National War College in Washington, D.C. “By the time my nine months at the War College ended, I had satisfied my curiosity about how Americans had entered and lost the Vietnam War,” he later wrote. “The experience did not cause me to conclude that the war was wrong, but it did help me understand how wrongly it had been fought and led.”

In late 1974, after he manages to pass the physical exam to qualify for flight status, he’s sent to Cecil Field, a naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida. A few months later, he’s promoted to commanding officer of a replacement air group, responsible for training carrier pilots.

McCain’s third and final assignment, however, may be the most influential in setting his future course. In 1977, he’s assigned to a liaison office in the United States Senate in Washington, where he serves as the Navy’s lobbyist and gets to see the workings of Congress from the inside. The job marked “my real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant,” he later recalls.

In 1981, McCain retires from the Navy with the rank of captain. His decorations include, among others, a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

We honor you, John McCain.

(#Repost excerpts @History.com)

WO5 Greg McManus

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As a young boy of five or six years of age, Greg McManus (pictured left) recalls attending an aviation event in the Kansas City area and growing infatuated by the aircraft and the pilots who flew them. It was at this event, he noted, that a pilot picked him up, placed him in the cockpit of his plane, and explained to him the controls of the aircraft, which became the initial inspiration that would lead to his lengthy career in aviation.

“I can still remember vividly the details of that experience and how it provided me the interest to someday pursue becoming a pilot,” McManus said.

“They sent me to basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, in March of 1968,” he said, “and then on to Ft. Wolters, Texas, for primary flight training.” He added, “When I arrived at Texas, I was thinking the entire time I would be flying airplanes, but when they placed me in rotary wing (helicopters), I said ‘something’s wrong’ because I signed up to fly airplanes.”

As McManus discovered, the needs of the Army generally prevail and he remained in rotary-wing training for the next several weeks. After learning to pilot helicopters such as the OH-23 Hiller and TH-55, he transferred to Hunter-Stewart, Georgia, where he was introduced to the aircraft that would see wide use in the Vietnam War—the UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter.

“It certainly had a lot more power than the other helicopters we flew in training,” said McManus of his early experience aboard the Huey.

With his training complete in the early weeks of 1969, the young pilot was pinned a warrant officer and returned home to visit his family on two weeks of leave before making the trip to California for deployment to Vietnam. Shortly after his arrival overseas, he was assigned to 162nd Assault Helicopter Company stationed in Dong Tam, Vietnam.

As the veteran recalled, his introduction to overseas service was rather brusque. “My second week there, I was co-pilot aboard a Huey and we got shot down,” McManus recalled. “The caution lights came on and we were able to land in an open area.” He added, “We yanked the radios and weapons from our helicopter and a helicopter in our formation followed us down and picked us up.”

In the weeks after his arrival, the young pilot began flying missions as the primary pilot on a UH-1C—a variant of the helicopter designed for the gunship role and equipped with two 7.62mm mini-guns, 2.75-inch rocket launchers, 40mm cannon and two door gunners firing M-60 machine guns.

“We were kind of on-call and would support a number of missions that included troop insertions, troop extractions and providing cover for medevacs,” he said. “Our gunship was also equipped to lay down smoke screens prior to the troop ships landing to insert troops.”

On March 5, 1970, the young warrant officer participated in a flight that later earned him the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. On this date, he was flying a single gunship at night on a mission north of Chau Duc, when he discovered an enemy convoy infiltrating South Vietnam along a trail from the Cambodian border.

“Without hesitation, (McManus) attacked the enemy, completely disregarding the hail of tracers which rose to meet him,” noted the orders dated June 25, 1970, which announced the presentation of the award to McManus. “He fired his rockets the entire length of the convoy, confusing the enemy and scattering the troop column.”

The aviator would go on to attack and destroy an armored vehicle towing a large artillery piece all while negotiating the helicopter through continued machine gun fire. He eventually expended all his ordnance and sustained significant damage to the aircraft, necessitating it be flown to a remote Special Forces site where it was later recovered.

His tour in Vietnam ended early April 1970, the closing moments of an experience that resulted in the award of 37 Air Medals, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses and nearly 1,000 combat flight hours. Returning to the United States, McManus later enlisted in the Missouri National Guard and went on to complete the second combat tour of his career while in Iraq from 2006 to 2007.

He finished his career in 2009 as a chief warrant officer 5 and with 41 years of service and 16,200 flight hours, possessing a legacy that includes several fascinating experiences on which he can now reflect in his retirement. He asserts, however, that some of the most enjoyable moments have been when he was able to inspire a new generation of aviators … just as he was inspired as a child.

“I was very lucky to have been part of the military and to have worked with such a great group of people who were always there for you when you needed them,” he explained.

He added, “Many times in the past, the National Guard participated in public events where we would demonstrate our aircraft to the public. These events,” he continued, “were very important to me because it gave me the opportunity to teach children and our youth a little about aviation and hopefully inspire some of them to consider pursuing it as a career someday.

“For me, carrying forth that inspiration I received as a child was both rewarding and memorable.”

We honor you, Greg McManus.

(Submission by: GP Cox. #Repost @War History Online)

Capt Edward A Nachowitz

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Nachowitz was assigned to 93TCS, 439TCG, 9AF USAAF. He completed 4 x combat missions, with 500+ combat hrs. He failed to Return (FTR) on a re-supply mission to Bastogne, towing 2 Waco gliders.He was hit by flak in fuel tanks, broke formation and released gliders, allowing crew to bale. Nachowitz remained at controls to ensure crews departure, and was subsequently killed in the crash.

We honor you, Edward Nachowitz.

(#Repost @American Air Museum in Britain)