Tag Archives: Aerial Combat

20 February 1944

Valor at Polebrook, by David Poole, depicts the B-17G Flying Fortress, Ten Horsepower, flown by 2/LT Walter E. Truemper and SSGT Mathies, being escorted by Major Elzia Ladoux, commanding officer 509th Bombardment Squadron, aboard My Princess. Major Ladoux tried to assist the crew to land their bomber at RAF Polebrook.
Valor at Polebrook, by David Poole, depicts the B-17G Flying Fortress, “Ten Horsepower,” (TU A) flown by 2/LT Walter E. Truemper and SSGT Mathies, being escorted by Major Elzia Ladoux, commanding officer 509th Bombardment Squadron, aboard B-17F “My Princess” (RQ Q). Major Ladoux tried to assist the crew to land their bomber at RAF Polebrook.

MEDAL OF HONOR

TRUEMPER, WALTER E. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps. 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Aurora, Ill. Born: 31 October 1918, Aurora, Ill.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, United States Army Air Forces
Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which 2d Lt. Truemper was serving as navigator was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged Nevertheless, 2d Lt. Truemper and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, 2d Lt. Truemper’s commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and that they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After 2 unsuccessful efforts their plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. 2d Lt. Truemper, the engineer, and the wounded pilot were killed.

MEDAL OF HONOR

MATHIES, ARCHIBALD (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army Air Corps, 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 3 June 1918, Scotland.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces
Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which Sgt. Mathies was serving as engineer and ball turret gunner was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged. Nevertheless, Sgt. Mathies and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. Sgt. Mathies and the navigator volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving Sgt. Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, Sgt. Mathies’ commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After two unsuccessful efforts, the plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed.

The combat flight crew of the Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress, 42-31763, Ten Horsepower, 510th Bombardment Squadron, 351st Bombardment Group. (U.S. Air Force)
The combat flight crew of the Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress, 42-31763, “Ten Horsepower,” 510th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy). Front row, left to right: 1/LT Clarence R. Nelson, aircraft commander; Flight Officer Ronald Bartley, co-pilot; 2/LT Walter E. Truemper, navigator; 2/LT Joseph Martin, bombardier. Back row, left to right: SSGT Archibald Mathies, flight engineer and top turret gunner; SGT Joseph Rex, radio operator/gunner; SGT Carl Moore, waist gunner; SGT Russell Robinson, ball turret gunner; SGT Thomas Sowell, waist gunner; SGT Magnus Hagbo, tail gunner. (U.S. Air Force)
Ten Horsepower, B-17G 42-31763 (top), escorted by My Princess, B-17G 42-3xxxs)m 24 February 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
“Ten Horsepower,” B-17G 42-31763 (top), escorted by “My Princess,” B-17F 42-30499), 24 February 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
A restored World War II Lockheed/Vega-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85718. This airplane, marked as 42-38050, is similar to the bomber flown by Lieutenant Truemper and Sergeant Mathies, 24 February 1944.
A restored World War II Lockheed/Vega-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85718. This airplane, marked as 42-38050, is similar to the bomber flown by Lieutenant Truemper and Sergeant Mathies, 20 February 1944.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

10 February 1952

Major George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force. (1 December 1920–10 February 1952)
Major George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force. (1 December 1920–10 February 1952)

MEDAL OF HONOR

GEORGE ANDREW DAVIS, JR.

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (ASN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, Fifth Air Force in action against enemy forces near Sinuiju-Yalu River, Korea, on 10 February 1952. While leading a flight of four F-86 Saberjets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Major Davis’ element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Major Davis and the remaining F-86’s continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately twelve enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Major Davis positioned his two aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Major Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Major Davis’ bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Major Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, General Orders No. 20 (April 30, 1954)

Action Date: February 10, 1952

Service: Air Force

Rank: Major

Company: 334th Fighter Squadron

Regiment: 4th Fighter Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

Captain George A. Davis, Jr., USAAF, in the cockpit of his North American Aviation P-51K-10-NT Mustang, 44-12085, during World War II.
Captain George A. Davis, Jr., USAAF, in the cockpit of his North American Aviation P-51K-10-NT Mustang, 44-12085, during World War II.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

11 January 1944

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard, United States Army Air Corps, with his North American Aviation P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, “DING HAO!” (Imperial War Museum)

11 January 1944: Major James Howell Howard, United States Army Air Corps, commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, led fifty P-51 Mustangs escorting three divisions of B-17 Flying Fortresses on a raid against Oschersleben, near Berlin, Germany.

As defending Luftwaffe fighters attacked the bomber formation, Major Howard immediately went on the offensive and shot down a twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer long range fighter. During this engagement, Howard became separated from his group, but climbed back to rejoin the bombers.

More that thirty German fighters were attacking the bomber formation and Major Howard single-handedly went after them. He shot down two, probably shot down two more and damaged at least another two. He continued to attack even after he had run out of ammunition and was low on fuel. When he returned to his base at RAF Boxted, his Mustang had just a single bullet hole.

For this action, James H. Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor, presented by Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz. He is the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to have received this Medal. Howard was promoted to the rank of colonel.

Before the War, Howard had been a U.S. Navy pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor. In June 1941 he went to join the American Volunteer Group—the “Flying Tigers”—in Burma, fighting for the Chinese against Japan. He is credited with shooting down 6 Japanese fighters.

The Mustang that he flew on the day of the aerial battle near Oschersleben was named DING HAO! and carried the victory marks from those AVG actions. [“Ding Hao” was an American World War II slang term based on the Chinese phrase, 挺好的 (“ting hao de”) meaning “very good” or “number one”.]

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard adds another victory mark to his P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard adds another victory mark to his North American Aviation P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (U.S. Air Force)

MEDAL OF HONOR

HOWARD, JAMES H.

(Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Over Oschersleben, Germany, 11 January 1944.

Entered service at: St. Louis, Missouri. Birth: Canton, China.

G.O. No.: 45, 5 June 1944.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany on 11 January 1944. On that day Colonel Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long range mission deep in enemy territory. As Colonel Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Colonel Howard, with his group, and at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME-110. As a result of this attack Colonel Howard lost contact with his group and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy planes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Colonel Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than thirty German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some thirty minutes, during which time he destroyed three enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement three of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Colonel Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the Armed Forces of the United States.

Major James H. Howard, center, with a group of pilots of the 354th Fighter Group, with a North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, at RAF Boxted. (Imperial War Museum)

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is a single-place, single-engine long range fighter. It is a low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and is of all-metal construction. The fighter is powered by a liquid-cooled V-12 engine. It was originally produced for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as the Mustang Mk.I. Two examples were provided to the U.S. Army Air Corps, designated XP-51. This resulted in orders for the P-51A and A-36 Apache dive bomber variant. These early Mustangs were powered by the Allison V-1750 engine driving a three-bladed propeller, which also powered the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.

In 1942, soon after the first  production Mustang Mk.I arrived in England, Rolls-Royce began experimenting with a borrowed airplane, AM121, in which they installed the Supermarine Spitfire’s Merlin 61 engine. This resulted in an airplane of superior performance.

In the United States, the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, had begun building Merlin engines under license from Rolls-Royce. These American engines were designated V-1650. North American modified two P-51s from the production line to install the Packard V-1650-3. These were designated XP-51B. Testing revealed that the new variant was so good that the Army Air Corps limited its order for P-51As to 310 airplanes and production was changed to the P-51B.

North American Aviation P-51B Mustang with identification stripes. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51B and P-51C are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, armament consisted of four Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

DING HAO!, James H. Howard’s P-51B Mustang, was lost in combat 23 July 1944.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps, with DING HAO!, his P-51B Mustang, at RAF Boxted, 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps, with DING HAO!, his P-51B Mustang, at RAF Boxted, 1944. At the time of this photo, the Mustang had been modified with a sliding “Malcom hood” canopy. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

2 January 1967

Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force
Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force)
MiG Sweep, by Keith Ferris.
“MiG Sweep,” by Keith Ferris. Colonel Robin Olds uses a Vector Roll to gain firing position on a MiG-21 fighter. “I got on top of him and half upside down, hung there, and waited for him to complete more of his turn. . . .”

2 January 1967: This painting, MiG Sweep, by aviation artist Keith Ferris, depicts “Olds 01” during Operation Bolo. The twin-engine all-weather jet fighter, a McDonnell F-4C -21-MC Phantom II, serial number 63-7680, was flown by Colonel Robin Olds, USAF, with First Lieutenant Charles C. Clifton, USAF, as the Weapons System Operator.

Here, the Phantom is inverted as Colonel Olds maneuvers to fire an AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking missile at a North Vietnamese MiG-21 over Hanoi. Olds is the only Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam.

(A lithograph of this painting is available for sale online at  http://www.keithferrisart.com/korea-vietnam.asp)

The area around Hanoi, North Vietnam, was the most heavily defended target area ever encountered by the United States Air Force. A combination of radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air guided missiles, and fighter interceptors made every mission very dangerous. Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers were taking heavy losses to the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 fighters. When escorting F-4C Phantoms would try to engage the MiGs, they would return to their bases which were safe from attack under the American rules of engagement.

Operation Bolo was a complex plan to lure the ground-controlled MiG-21s into an air battle by having the Phantoms simulate a Thunderchief attack. Colonel Olds led 48 McDonnell F-4Cs of the 8th and 366th Tactical Fighter Wings on the same type of attack that would have been used by the Thunderchiefs, but rather than carrying a full load of bombs, the F-4s were armed with AIM-7E Sparrow radar-guided missiles and AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles. (The F-4C was not armed with a gun.)

A Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
An Aero Vodochody-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F-13 with the markings of the Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

As the Mach 2+ MiG-21s started coming up through the clouds, their pilots quickly realized that instead of the vulnerable targets of F-105s on a bomb run, they were faced with air superiority fighters.

In the official after action report, Colonel Olds said,

“At the onset of this battle, the MiGs popped up out of the clouds. Unfortunately, the first one to pop through came up at my 6 o’clock position. I think this was more by chance than by design. As it turned out, within the next few moments, many others popped out of the clouds in varying positions around the clock.

“This one was just lucky. He was called out by the second flight that had entered the area, they were looking down on my flight and saw the MiG-21 appear. I broke left, turning just hard enough to throw off his deflection, waiting for my three and four men to slice in on him. At the same time I saw another MiG pop out of the clouds in a wide turn about my 11 o’clock position, a mile and a half away. I went after him and ignored the one behind me. I fired missiles at him just as he disappeared into the clouds.

“I’d seen another pop out in my 10 o’clock position, going from my right to left; in other words, just about across the circle from me. When the first MiG I fired at disappeared, I slammed full afterburner and pulled in hard to gain position on this second MiG. I pulled the nose up high about 45 degrees, inside his circle. Mind you, he was turning around to the left so I pulled the nose up high and rolled to the right. This is known as a vector roll. I got on top of him and half upside down, hung there, and waited for him to complete more of his turn and I timed it so that as I continued to roll down behind him, I’d be about 20 degrees angle off and about 4,500 to 5,000 feet behind him. That’s exactly what happened. Frankly, I’m not sure he ever saw me. When I got down low and behind, and he was outlined by the sun against a brilliant blue sky, I let him have two Sidewinders, one of which hit and blew his right wing off”

Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter II at Page 39.

With another flight crew the Phantom flown by Robin Olds on 2 January 1967, McDonnell F-4C-21-MC 63-7680, shot down a MiG-17 on 13 May 1967. It was itself shot down by antiaircraft fire while attacking a SAM site, 20 November 1967. The Weapons System Officer, 1st Lieutenant James L. Badley, bailed out and was rescued, but the pilot, Captain John M. Martin, was not seen to leave the aircraft and is listed as Missing in Action.

Colonel Robin Olds shot down two MiG-17 fighters with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7680. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 interceptor with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7680, at Ubon RTAFB, sometime between March and November 1967. (Photograph by Frank R. MacSorley, Jr.)

Brigadier General Robin Olds, United States Air Force, a fighter pilot and triple ace with 17 official victories in two wars, was born at Honolulu, Hawaii 14 July 1922. He was the first son of Captain Robert Olds, USAAC and Eloise Olds. He graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, in 1942 and completed pilot training the following year.

Sent to Europe as pilot of a Lockheed P-38J Lightning assigned to the 479th Fighter Squadron, he became an ace in his first two missions, shooting down 2 Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighters on 14 August 1944 and 3 Messerschmitt Bf-109s on August 23. The squadron re-equipped with North American P-51 Mustangs and Captain Olds continued to destroy enemy fighters. By early 1945, he had been promoted to major and commanded the squadron. He completed the war with a record of 13 aerial victories, with another 11.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground.

After World War II, Robin Olds transitioned to jet fighters, assigned to fly Lockheed P-80 Shooting Stars at March AFB, California. While there, he met his future wife, actress Ella Raines. They soon married and had two daughters.

In 1948, Robin Olds returned to England as the commanding officer of the Royal Air Force No. 1 Fighter Squadron at RAF Tangmere, the first non-Commonwealth officer to command a Royal Air Force squadron. From 1955 to 1965 he commanded two fighter wings in Europe.

He returned to combat as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Rachitani RTAFB. Flying the McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, Colonel Olds scored victories over two MiG-17s and two MiG-21s, bringing his confirmed score to 17 kills. (There have been rumors that he actually shot down as many as nine MiGs but that he credited those to other pilots in order to avoid being pulled out of combat and sent back to the United States.)

Robin Olds flew 107 combat missions during World War II and 152 during the Vietnam War.

In September 1968, Robin Olds was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and assigned as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy. He retired from the Air Force in 1973. The General passed away in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, 14 June 2008 at the age of 84. He is buried at the United States Air Force Academy.

Colonel Robin Olds with an AIM-9 Sidewinder. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds with an AIM-9 Sidewinder. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

2 January 1954

Brigadier General Willard W. Millikan, United States Air Force.
Brigadier General Willard W. Millikan, United States Air Force.
Colonel Willard W. Millikan, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of his F-86F Sabre, "Minuteman." (Unattributed)
Colonel Willard W. Millikan, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of his F-86F Sabre, “Minuteman.” (Associated Press)

2 January 1954: Colonel Willard W. Millikan, United States Air Force, flew a North American Aviation F-86F-25-NH Sabre, 51-13393, named Minuteman, from Los Angeles International Airport to New York in 4 hours, 6 minutes, 16 seconds,¹ averaging 595.91 mph (959.02 kilometers per hour).

Colonel Millikan departed Los Angeles International Airport at 10:10:55 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, and flew most of the route at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). After expending the fuel in his two 670-gallon (2,536 liter) wing tanks, he dropped them over the southwest desert.

Millikan made a refueling stop at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Nebraska (OFF), where a waiting 20-man crew attached two full wing tanks to the Sabre and he was airborne after only 6 minutes, 28 seconds on the ground. Millikan dropped the second set of tanks over Lake Michigan.

Colonel Millikan crossed the finish line at Floyd Bennett Field at 2:19 p.m. EST. His engine flamed out as the aircraft ran out of fuel at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Colonel Millikan made a “dead stick” landing at Idlewild Airport, New York City (IDL).

“My tank was dry,” he said. “I had to glide in. When I arrived on the ground I did not have a drop of fuel.”

Lieutenant Willard W. Millikand, 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Force, stands in the cockpit of his Republic P-47C Thunderbolt 41-6180. (American Air Museum in Britain, Object Number UPL 18911)
Lieutenant Willard W. Millikan, 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Force, stands in the cockpit of his Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolt 41-6180. (American Air Museum in Britain, Object Number UPL 18911)

Willard Wesley “Millie” Millikan was a fighter ace in World War II, officially credited with having destroyed enemy 13 Messerschmitt Bf-109s and Focke-Wulf Fw-190s. After failing his flight checks as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he went to England and joined the Royal Air Force, serving in the Eagle Squadrons as a Flying Sergeant and piloting Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires. After the United States entered the war, Millikan was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces, and commissioned as a second lieutenant. Millikan served with the 4th Fighter Group and was eventually promoted to the rank of captain. He commanded the 336th Fighter Squadron and flew the Republic P-47C Thunderbolt and North American Aviation P-51B Mustang.

On 22 April 1944, during a 25-minute air battle, Millikan shot down four Fw 190s with just 666 rounds of ammunition from his Mustang’s four .50-caliber machine guns.

On 30 May 1944, he had to bail out of his North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, 43-24769, Missouri Mauler, near Wittenberg, Germany, after colliding with his wingman, Lieutenant Sam Young, who was evading anti-aircraft fire.

Captain Millikan was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He later escaped and returned to friendly lines.

Millikan served during the Korean War, and at the time of his record-setting flight, was commanding officer of the 113th Fighter Interceptor Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard.

Major General Willard W. Millikan, United States Air Force, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart. He died at Alexandria, Virginia, 20 October 1978 at the age of 59 years.

Morth American Aviation F-86F-25-NH Sabre, Minuteman, right profile. (Million Monkey Theater)
North American Aviation F-86F-25-NH Sabre 51-13393, Minuteman, right profile. (Million Monkey Theater)

The North American Aviation F-86 was a single-seat, single-engine day fighter designed by Edgar Schmued and the same team at North American that designed the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter. The F-86F was the third variant, with improvements over the earlier F-86A and F-86E. Colonel Millikan’s Minuteman was a Block 25 F-86F Sabre built at Columbus, Ohio. The Sabre was the first fighter to incorporate swept wings, which improved flight at high subsonic speed, by reducing aerodynamic drag and delaying the onset of compressibility effects. The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces were swept 35° based on captured German technical data and extensive wind tunnel testing.

The F-86F was 37 feet, 6.5 inches (11.443 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 1.4 inches (11.313 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 1 inch (4.293 meters). Its empty weight was 10,890 pounds (4,939.6 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 20,357 pounds (9,233.8 kilograms). The F-86F was powered by a General Electric J47-GE-27 turbojet engine which produced 5,910 pounds of thrust at 7,950 r.p.m. (5 minute limit). Minuteman was one of the first Block 25 fighters built with the “6–3” wing, which increased the Sabre’s maximum speed to 695 miles per hour (1,118.49 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and improved high altitude maneuvering. This came with a 16 mile per hour (25.75 kilometers per hour) increase in the stall speed, to 144 miles per hour (231.75 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling with this wing was 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). The F-86F-25 carried 437 gallons (1,654.2 liters) of fuel internally and could carry two 200-gallon (757.1 liter) drop tanks under the wings. Maximum range was 1,525 miles (2,454.25 kilometers).

The F-86A, E and F Sabres were armed with six M3 .50-caliber machine guns with 1,602 rounds of ammunition.

6,233 F-86 Sabres were built by North American at Inglewood, California and Columbus Ohio. Another 521 were assembled by Fiat and Mitsubishi. 1,815 CL-13 Sabres were built by Canadair, and 115 CA-26 and CA-27 Sabres by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia. Total production for all types and manufacturers was 8,684.

North American Aviation F-86F-25-NH Sabre 51-13393, Minuteman (Artist Unknown)
North American Aviation F-86F-25-NH Sabre 51-13393, Minuteman (Artist Unknown. If anyone knows who the artist is, please notify me so that I can properly credit the image.)

¹ In an e-mail, Mr. A.W. Greenfield, Director, Contests and Records, National Aeronautic Association, confirmed Colonel Millikan’s world record was certified by the N.A.A. and stated that the time was adjusted.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather