|“I was born June 22, 1922, in Dyersburg, Tennessee, just north of Memphis. I graduated from high school in Newburg, Tennessee, June, 1940, and entered an Aviation Mechanic School in May, 1941. When World War II started, I moved to Helena, Arkansas, to help maintain 200 US Army Stearman Aircraft used to train aviation cadets. I continued this work until 1944, when I moved to Miami, Florida, to work with Pan American World Airways, working on DC-4 cargo planes. In 1945, I enlisted into the US Air Corps and was assigned as a tail gunner on a B-29 aircraft in Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1945, I was discharged and returned to Miami, and gained employment with National Air Lines. In early 1949, I volunteered to enter the Aviation Cadet program to become an officer and pilot. After six months of training at Randolph (AT-6 aircraft), I was sent to Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, to fly the Lockheed P-80 jet fighter. I graduated on May 15, 1949 as a 2nd Lieutenant. My first assignment was to Hamilton Air Force Base, near San Francisco, California. There I was checked out in the F-84D ‘Thunderbird’, built by Republic Aviation in Long Island, New York.|
Upon arrival at Hamilton AFB in June, 1950, I began to hear rumors of an impending war between North and South Korea. On June 25, 1950, the war began. Half of our most senior pilots in the squadron were sent overseas to Korea within 10 days. I continued to fly the F-84 and accumulated 200 additional flying hours, where upon I was sent to Korea in September, 1950. I was assigned to the 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron. The 49th FG had been given new F-84’s, which replaced the P-51 prop aircraft. I flew my first combat mission in mid-September. From September, 1951, to June, 1952, I flew 100 combat sorties and received battle damage to my F-84 in February, 1952, when a 20-millimeter shell hit the right forward canopy rail and exited upward through the top of the canopy. I was awarded the Purple Heart for the cuts on my face from the broken plexiglas. I departed Korea in August, 1952, to my new assignment, Orlando Air Force Base, Florida.
From September, 1952, to March, 1953, I was a gunnery instructor in F-84 aircraft, teaching pilots outbound to the Korean conflict. In late March, I was re-assigned to Luke Air Force Base, near Phoenix, Arizona, as an instructor in the F-84Es. Upon reporting for duty at Luke, I was offered a position as the Maintenance Officer for the newly formed acrobatic group with five new F-84G aircraft. This group would eventually be known as the ‘USAF Thunderbirds’. They flew the first air show at Williams Air Force Base on May 15, 1953. I remained as the Maintenance Officer until August 1st. When one of the team members left the Air Force, I became the Solo Pilot for the team until March, 1954. Two other pilots, Buck and Bill Pattillo, left the team to return to training students in the 3600th Flying Training Wing. I was then moved up to the right wing position until I left the team in May, 1954.