On the first day of 1921, William Judson “Dixie” Sloan was born in Richmond, Virginia. He became an Army aviation cadet on 25 August 1941, and graduated as a staff sergeant pilot with Class 42-C at Kelly Field, Texas, on 7 March 1942. Initially assigned to the 79th Pursuit Group at Dale Mabry Field, Florida, on 17 April 1942, he was transferred to the 96th Pursuit Squadron, 82nd Pursuit Group, Flying P-38s at Muroc Field, California.
Sloan went with the group to Northern Ireland in October and on to Telegram, Algeria in January. As a brand new second lieutenant, he scored the group’s first North African victory when he shot down an Me-109 on a sweep over Gabes Airdrome. On 30 January, flying “Snooks”, he destroyed another Me-109 and on 20 February he was credited with a double, an Me-109 and a Do-217 off Cap Bon. Sloan became the group’s first ace when, on 15 February, he downed an Me-109 over a Luftwaffe airdrome near Kairouan.
On 20 May the group swept Villacidro Airdrome, Sardinia, and Lieutenant Sloan was credited with a Ju-88, an MC.200, and two Me-109 probables. He became a double ace on 20 July when he shot down an Italian Re.2001 and an Me-109 over Catania Gerbini. That day the Italian Air Force’s 4th Stormo was led by two Italian aces, Franco Lucchini and Leonardo Ferrulli, one of whom Sloan downed, as both were lost that day. On 10 July Sloan claimed his fourth Italian fighter, an MC.200 over southwest Sicily. He scored his last victory on 22 July to become the top scoring ace in the Twelfth Air Force.
Sloan remained in the post-war Air Force, flying over 50 missions during the Berlin Airlift, and retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel on 30 September 1963
TALLY RECORD: 12 Confirmed, 2 Probables and 3 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Air Force Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 20 Oak Leaf Clusters
Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager was born on 13 February 1923 in Myrna, West Virginia. Enlisting in the Army Air Forces in September 1941, he began as an airplane mechanic but soon applied for the flight training. Upon graduation from Like Field, Arizona on 10 March 1943, he was warranted as a flight officer.
In early 1944, Yeager was assigned to the 363rd Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, flying P-51s from England. On 4 March, he shot down an Me-109G and damaged a He-111K. The next day he was shot down over southern France, but evaded capture and returned to Britain via Spain. Returning to combat as a first lieutenant, he shared in the destruction of an Me-109 on 13 September and on 12 October shot down five Me-109s between Steinhuder Lake and Hanover. Promoted to captain, he added an Me-262 jet to his bag on 6 November. He rounded out his scoring with four FW-190s on the 27th.
In July 1945, Yeager went to Wright Field to begin experimental test work. There he was selected to pilot the rocket powered Bell X-1, in which he became the first pilot to officially exceed the speed of sound on 14 October 1947. On 12 December 1953, flying the Bell X-1A, he became the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound.
Yeager commanded two fighter squadrons from 1954 to 1960 and became commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1961. In 1966 he assumed command of the 045th Tactical Fighter Wing and flew 127 missions in South Vietnam.
Promoted to brigadier general in 1969, Yeager became vice-commander, Seventeenth Air Force in Germany. His final assignment was Air Force Director of Safety before retirement on 1 March 1975. He continued to fly first line aircraft as an Air Force consultant.
TALLY RECORD: 11 1/2 Confirmed and 3 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Silver Star with one OLC, Legion of Merit with one OLC, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 OLCs, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal with 10 OLCs, plus the MacKay, Collier and Harmon Trophies
Jack Milton Ilfrey, born on 31 July 1918 in Houston, Texas, attended Texas A&M College before entering the Army Air Corps. He graduated from flight training on 12 December 1941 at Luke Field, Arizona with Class 41-1 and was assigned to the 94th “Hat-in-the-Ring” Squadron of the 1st Fighter Group.
Ilfrey went to England with the group in the spring of 1942 and then went on to North Africa following the Allied invasion in November 1942. Flying a P-38 Lightning named “Happy Jack’s Go-Buggy”, he was credited with a half share of an Me-110 shot down returning from a strike on Gabes Airdrome on 29 November. Three days later he destroyed two Me-109s over Gabes and on 26 December, leading a flight in the Bizerte-Tunis area, he downed two FW-190s five miles west of Bizerte. He damaged an Me-109 on 11 January 1943 and became an ace on 3 March, credited with the destruction of one 109 and a half share on a second one west of El Aouina.
Returning to the U.S. in April 1943, Ilfrey reported to the replacement training unit at Santa Ana, California where he trained pilots in the P-38 and P-47. Promoted to captain, in March 1944 he went back to combat in England as commander of the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, based at Kings Cliffe. There he scored two more victories, a pair of Me-109s downed over Elberswalde on 24 May 1944. On 12 June he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, but managed to avoid the Germans by hiding in the hedgerows that dotted the French countryside. Hidden by a French family, he eventually made his way back to the Allied lines, riding a bicycle and taking the identity of “Jacques Robert”, a deaf-mute Frenchman.
Ilfrey left the service following World War II, and returned to his native Texas, where he entered the banking business.
TALLY RECORD: 7 1/2 Confirmed and 2 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with 13 OLCs
Robert Marshall DeHaven was born on 13 January 1922 in San Diego, California. He attended Washington and Lee University but left to join the Army Air Corps in February 1942. Earning his pilot’s wings, he was assigned to P-40 training in Florida. In February 1943 he was sent to Hawaii, then on to Port Moresby, New Guinea via Australia in May. He was assigned to the P-40 equipped 7th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group at Dobodura.
Lieutenant DeHaved scored his first victory on 14 July 1943 and became an ace on 10 December. He participated in the offensives which took Buna, Lae, Markham Valley, Hollandia and Biak Islands. During these battles, he downed a total of ten enemy aricraft with the P-40.
The 7th Fighter Squadron transitioned to P-38s in July-September 1944 for the Philippine invasion. On 27 October, leading the 7th Squadron, DeHaven became one of the first AAF fighters to “return” to the Philippines. Within seven days he acquired four more victories. After leave in the U.S. he rejoined the 49th at Lingayen as group operations officer, serving into the occupation of Japan.
Following World War II, DeHaven joined the Hughes Aircraft Company as an engineering test pilot and personal pilot to Howard Hughes. Eventually he became an executive of the firm and manager of the Flight Test Division for over 30 years. He was also elected a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and served as President of the American Fighter Aces Association.
TALLY RECORD: 14 Confirmed and one Damaged
DECORATIONS: Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 OLCs, Air Medal with 13 OLCs, and the Presidential Unit Citation with one OLC
Born on 12 April 1908 in Waynesboro, Georgia, Robert Lee Scott, Jr. grew up in Macon, Georgia. After attending two colleges he enlisted in the Army in 1927, gaining an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy the next year. Upon graduation on 10 June 1932, he qualified for pilot training and won his wings at Randolph Field, Texas in 1933.
Over the next eight years, Scott flew P-12s in Panama, becoming a top gunner, and served as a flight instructor. At the time of Pearl Harbor, he ran Cal Aero Academy at Ontario, California, but he craved combat. Signing on with a B-17 mission to the Far East, he ended up in China in the spring of 1942, and, as a colonel, began flying missions with Chennault’s American Volunteer Group.
When the 23rd Fighter Group was formed to take over from the AVG in July, General Chennault appointed Scott as first commander of the Group. He scored his first two victories near Leiyang the 31st of that month. He downed a Nate north of Nanchang Airdrome on 11 August and on 2 September was credited with destroying one Nate and damaging a second. He became an ace on 25 September when he shot down one I-45 and damaged another. In the next 90 days, he added five more to his record before returning to the States in January 1943.
Scott’s wartime memoir, “God is My Copilot”, became an instant best-seller and was made into a motion picture. He returned briefly to China in 1945, delivering high velocity and aerial rockets to Chennault. After the war he commanded various bases and the 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing in Germany, and retired from the Air Force Office of Information as a brigadier general in October 1957. He continued writing and flying, still logging flight time in jet fighters in his 80s.
TALLY RECORD: 10 Confirmed, 5 Probable and 3 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross wit one OLC, Air Medal with one OLC, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross
Sammy Aplheus Pierce was born in Ayden, North Carolina on 25 August, 1921. He joined the North Carolina National Guard on 16 July 1940. He transferred to Federal Service on 16 September, and went through the ranks to staff sergeant. He received flight training, and was rated a pilot on 6 September 1942. Joining the 20th Fighter Group, he was transferred to 5th Fighter Command in December 1942, and then transferred to the 49th Fighter Group in February 1943. At the end of the month he had over 278 hours flight time logged and was warranted a flight officer on 21 March. Flying a P-40E, named “Kay Strawberry Blonde”, Pierce claimed a Zeke on 11 April and on 14 May he claimed both a Zeke and a Betty.
Pierce was commissioned a second lieutenant on 20 September 1943. As a result of injuries suffered when he bailed out on 13 October, he was hospitalized and was returned to the U.S. in May 1944. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 10 May 1944, and returned to the 49th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron in November , this time flying P-38s. On 26 December, Pierce downed three Zeke 52s and a Tojo over Clark Field, and was credited with a Zeke as a probable south east of Clark Field. He flew 287 combat missions on his two tours, and saw service on Okinawa at the end of his second. Pierce retired from the Air Force in October 1963 as a lieutenant colonel.
TALLY RECORD: 7 Confirmed, one Probable
DECORATIONS: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart with one OLC
Thomas George Lanphier, Jr., was born in Panama City, Panama on 27 November 1915. He graduated from Leland Stanford University in January 1941, and joined the Army Air Corps for flight training. He received his wings at Stockton Field, California on 31 October 1941, and was assigned to the 70th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group. Until December 1942 he served in Fiji when the squadron moved to Guadalcanal and joined the 347th Fighter Group.
Lieutenant Lanphier flew 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal in P-39s and P-38s. He scored his first aerial victory on Christmas Eve 1942 when he shot down a Zeke over the island. Promoted to captain in March 1943, he destroyed three Zekes over Cape Esperance on 7 April.
Selected for the top-secret mission to intercept Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto while on one of his inspection trips to Japanese held Bouganville, Lanphier was temporarily attached to the 339th Fighter Squadron. On 18 April he led the four P-38s that made up the “attack flight” of the 16 plane formation. Intercepting the Betty bomber carrying the Japanese admiral over the southwest coast of Bougainville, Lanphier broke into three attacking Zekes as Lt. Rex Barber pressed the attack on the bomber. In the ensuing combat, Lanphier claimed both a Zeke and the Yamamoto Betty. Barber also claimed the Betty, and each was subsequently given a half-credit for the bomber.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in February 1945, Lanphier served as director of operations of the 72nd Fighter Wing, Second Air Force until late 1945. Leaving active duty following the war, he was editor of the Idaho “Daily Statesman” and the Boise “Capital News”. He was promoted to colonel in the Air Force Reserves in 1950 and from 1951 to 1960 was vice president of Convair in San Diego. He died there from cancer on 26 November 1987.
TALLY RECORD: 5 1/2 Confirmed
DECORATIONS: Navy Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with one OLC and the Air Medal with 5 OLCs
Frederick Rounsville “Fritz” Payne, Jr. was born on 31 July 1911 at Elmira, New York. He attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana before entering the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1930. Resigning from the Academy in 1932, he completed his college education at the University of Arizona in January 1935. Upon graduation, he resigned his Army R.O.T.C. commission and entered the Marine Corps aviation cadet program that July.
Ordered to flight training at Pensacola, Payne was commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1936 and designated a Naval Aviator in September. The next month he reported to Quantico, Virginia to begin squadron flying assignments. Initially assigned to VMF-2 in October 1940, he was transferred to VMF-221 in July 1941, and embarked for Midway on 8 December following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Major Payne entered combat at Guadalcanal in September 1942 on detached duty with VMF-223. His first victory was a half-share in a Japanese twin-engine bomber on 14 September followed by a solo victory two weeks later. When his own squadron, VMF-212, arrived in October, Payne quickly added for more victories: two bombers and a pair of Zekes between 18 and 23 October to become a Wildcat ace. He left Guadalcanal on 27 October and subsequently served as commander of VMF-212 from November 1942 to February 1943 and later commanded Marine Air Group 23.
Following World War II, Colonel Payne remained in aviation assignments. a variety of duties followed including 1st Marine Air Wing in Korea, helicopter unit command and responsibility for planning and control of land and air elements in atomic weapons tests during 1957. He retired from active duty with the rank of brigadier general on 1 August 1958.
TALLY RECORD: 5 1/2 Confirmed
DECORATIONS: Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 4 Gold Stars
Jay Thorpe “Cock” Robbins was born on 16 September 1919 in Coolidge, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M College in 1940 with a reserve commission through R.O.T.C. Entering active duty as a second lieutenant of Infantry on 13 February 1941, he later transferred to the Army Air Forces and completed pilot training at Randolph Field, Texas on 3 July 1942.
Sent to the 20th Fighter Group at Morris Field, North Carolina, he transitioned to fighters. In September Lieutenant Robbins joined the “Headhunters”, the 80th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group, in the Southwest Pacific. Flying P-38 Lightning’s, he knocked down three Zekes and claimed another as a probable on 21 July 1943, four Zekes and two probable on 4 September and four Hamps and a probable on 24 October. He finished the year with two Zekes destroyed and another probable on 26 December.
In January 1944, Robbins became commander of the famed “Headhunters”. Under his leadership, and with numerous pilots attaining ace category, it became the first squadron in the Southwest Pacific to score 200 victories. From 30 March until 17 August, Robbins added eight Japanese fighters to his score, while participating in raids against the Japanese strongholds at Rabaul, New Britain and Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea as the Americans pushed back toward the Philippines.
Promoted to major on 22 May 1944, in September Robbins became deputy commander of the 8th Fighter Group but continued to fly with his old squadron. He returned home in December 1944, having logged 181 combat missions.
Over the next 30 years, Robbins rose to lieutenant general, serving as commander of the Twelfth Air Force and vice commander of Tactical Air Command prior to retiring as vice commander of Military Airlift Command on 21 September 1974.
TALLY RECORD: 22 Confirmed, 6 Probable and 4 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Distinguished Service Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Service Medal with 2 OLCs, Silver Star with one OLC, Legion of Merit with 2 OLCs, Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 OLCs and Air Medal with 6OLCs
Born on 6 May 1917 in Culver, Oregon, Rex Theodore Barber graduated from Oregon State University in 1940. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on 30 September 1940, serving as a private first class until he was accepted for pilot training in March 1941.
Following graduation with Class 41-H at Mather Field, California on 31 October 1941, Lieutenant Barber was assigned to the 70th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, and sent to the Fiji Isalnds, arriving there on 12 January 1942. He scored one victory with the 70th, a twin-engined Nell on 28 December 1942, before the pilots of the 70th were integrated into the 339th Fighter Squadron, when they converted into P-38s. He was credited with his next two victories, a pair of Zekes, downed near Cape Esperance, on 7 April 1943.
Barber became an ace on 18 April on one of the war’s most memorable fighter missions. Following a 400 mile low-level flight led by Major John Mitchell, he and Captain Tom Lanphier intercepted and attacked the Betty bomber carrying Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet. As Lanphier turned to attack a flight of Zekes defending the bomber, Barber pressed the attack and shot down the Betty. He continued on to finish off another Betty under attack by squadron-mate Lieutenant Frank Holmes, and also downed a Zeke. Barber and Lanphier were subsequently given equal credit for downing Yamamoto’s bomber.
Barber later had a second combat tour, serving with the 449th Fighter Squadron in China. Returning to the States, he commanded the 29th Fighter Squadron, 412th Fighter Group, and later the 1st Fighter Group’s 27th Fighter Squadron, flying P-50s and P-80s out of March Field, California. He retired as a colonel on 1 April 1961.
TALLY RECORD: 5 Confirmed, 2 Probables and 2 Damaged
DECORATIONS: Navy Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, Air Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal
Born into an Army family in Honolulu on 14 July 1922, Robin Olds graduated from the U.S. Military Academy on 1 June 1943. Joining the 479th Fighter Group, he sailed to England in May 1944. By summer, he was a captain in the 434th Fighter Squadron, flying a P-38J named “Scat”. He became an ace in his first two combat missions, claiming two FW-190s on 14 August and three Me-109s on the 25th.
The 479th re-equipped with P-51s in September and Olds first scored in the Mustang on 6 October. Promoted to major on 9 February 1945, he claimed his seventh victory southeast of Magdeburg, Germany that very day. A large dogfight southwest of Berlin on 14 February resulted in three confirmed victories, two ‘109s and a ‘190.
Over Handorf Airdrome near Munster on 19 March, Olds ran his score to an even dozen. Then, near Bremen on 7 April, he bagged a ‘109 and scored hits on an Me-262 jet. At the end of his tour he was commander of the 434th.
During a 1949 exchange tour, Olds commanded the RAF’s No.1 Squadron, and missed Korean War action. From 1955 to 1965 he commanded two wings in Europe and in September 1966 took over the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon, Thailand. Entering the air war over North Vietnam as a 44 year-old colonel, he flew an F-4C Phantom named “Scat XXVII”.
Olds planned and led “Operation Bolo”, a fighter sweep against NVAF MiG-21s on 2 January 1967. He shot down one MiG-21 that day and added another MiG over Phuc Yen Airfield on 4 May. Two weeks later, on the 20th, he destroyed two more MiG-21s.
Promoted to brigadier general, Olds became Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1968. He retired to the ski slopes of Steamboat Springs, Colorado on 1 June 1973.
TALLY RECORD: 17 Confirmed (13 in WWII and 4 in Vietnam) and one Damaged
DECORATIONS: Air Force Cross, Silver Star with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with 4 OLCs, Air Medal with 39 OLCs, British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Croix de Guerre