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Brig Gen Robert L. Cardenas, USAF (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #3230

Brig Gen Robert L. Cardenas, USAF (Ret)

March 10, 1920 – March 10, 2022

Brig General Robert Cardenas passed peacefully in his sleep on 10 March 2022, his 102nd birthday.
General Cardenas had a very distinguished Air Force career. Some highlights included:

  • Establishing the Army Air Corps Glider School.
  • Flying the B-24 with the 44th Bomb Group during WWII. On his 20th mission his aircraft was shot down but he escaped capture and eventually returned to his unit in England.
  • Piloting a captured Me 262 and Ar 234 when assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field.
    Performing as the Officer in Charge and the pilot of the B-29 that launched Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 supersonic experimental aircraft.
  • Being the Chief Air Force Test Pilot of the YB-49 flying wing program.
  • Flying the F-105 on combat missions during the Vietnam conflict.
  • After his military service he worked with the VA to help establish the National Cemetery at Miramar.

General Cardenas received many military awards and decorations including the AF Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and DFC.
He was also inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
At Flight 13’s Daedalians meeting on 10 March, his 102nd birthday, we made a toast to his very distinguished life.
We all salute General Cardenas for his outstanding military career, and we are proud that he was a long-time member of Daedalians San Diego Flight 13.

 

To read his full Air Force biography, click here.

Maj Charles F. Overstreet, USAF (Ret), Daedalian Member #12728

Maj Charles F. Overstreet, USAF (Ret)
October 30, 1937 – February 3, 2022

Charles “Charlie” Overstreet passed away on February 3, 2022. Charlie was born in 1937 to Charles and Zelma Overstreet. Charlie’s dad was a Coast Guard officer and his earliest memories were of being at Coast Guard Air Stations all around the country, watching airplanes with his dad and younger brother Lane Overstreet. This inspired a lifelong passion for aviation and patriotism.

Upon graduation from the University of Miami, Charlie was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF.  He entered pilot training at Big Spring, Texas where he met his future wife Mayre Sue. They married in the summer of 1961 when he finished B-47 Stratojet bomber training and was assigned to Forbes AFB, Kansas. While in Kansas, Charlie and Mayre Sue had two sons.  The oldest Charles Overstreet, was born in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crises, Charlie had to take a couple of hour off nuclear alert to be at the hospital. James Overstreet was born just before leaving for B-52 Stratofortess bomber combat crew transition training at Castle AFB, California. In 1969 Charlie and his B-52 combat crew joined the fray in Vietnam flying 55 combat missions during Operation Arc Light. Upon returning from the South East Asia, Charlie left active duty service.

In 1971 the US Customs Service Sky Marshal program hired Charlie and in 1972 he gained a Special Agent/Pilot position in San Antonio, TX.  He transferred to DEA in 1973 as one of the initial stand up cadre. With-in a couple of years he helped stand up the air branch supporting sensitive counter narcotics’ operation, sometimes doing things with airplanes that is generally frowned upon today. In 1985 he transferred to El Paso, retiring from DEA in 1994. Refusing to slow down, for 17 years Charlie taught as a substitute teacher at Coronado High School. After retiring from teaching Charlie became a volunteer at the War Eagles Air Museum, he just loved being around airplanes! Charlie enjoyed working with his colleagues on the War Eagle museum staff and as a docent for visiting students.

One of his most recent and passionate endeavors was honoring our Texas and New Mexico veterans through the organization and development of the Santa Teresa Veterans Memorial Park in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. He enjoyed hunting, skeet/trap shooting, cigars, and traveling around the world with his family and friends. Charlie was a member of Safari Club International and The Order of the Daedalians.

Service will be held at Martin Funeral Home, 128 N. Resler Drive, El Paso TX 79912 on Monday, February 14, 2022. Visitation will begin at 1000 with funeral services at 1100. Commitment ceremonies will take place at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery at 1400.

Memorial donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Veterans Project-Santa Teresa Charitable Foundation, 2660 Airport Road #780, Santa Teresa NM 88008 in memory of Charles F. Overstreet.

COL Robert E. Blount, USAR (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #6973

COL Robert E. Blount, USAR (Ret)

December 22, 1923  – October 21, 2021

On October 21, 2021, the eternal pilot, Robert “Bob” Earl Blount, took off on his final earthly flight to the heavenly skies at the age of 97 while resting in his favorite chair at his home in San Antonio, TX.  His destiny would be written as a member of the “Greatest Generation”.

Bob was born in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1923 to parents Ethel and Earl Blount. He graduated from Field Kindley Memorial High School, attended Coffeyville Community College and later graduated from Tulsa University with studies in political science and history. He belonged to Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity and was a life member.

His life-long love of flying began at the age of 18 and never waned. On October 10, 1942, Bob enlisted in the Navy and subsequently was sent to Ottawa University for elementary flight training and then primary flight training at Glenview Naval Airbase near Chicago.

Bob completed pilot training at Naval Air Station, Kingsville, TX and then graduated at Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, TX with the designation of Naval Aviator. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Marine Corps and on May 17, 1944, he entered in the Pacific Theater as a dive bomber pilot where he flew combat missions in the Central Pacific, and Southwest Pacific.

Afterwards he was stationed in North China for a year. He had shared with this writer that he had flown to every island in the Pacific except for one.

He flew numerous military aircraft which partially includes the SNJ (T-6), SBD Dive Bomber, SB2C Hell Diver, SBW Dive Bomber, F8F Bear Cat, L-19 Bird Dog, TBM-3 Torpedo Bomber C-45 Transport, T-33, 34 and 28 and the A1E Skyraider. Bob loved flying the F4U and F4U-4 Corsair. Years later while serving in the Army reserves, he learned to fly fixed wing helicopters such as the Dehavilland Beaver and Huey.

While he was stationed in North China on a date chosen to commemorate Pearl Harbor day, his good luck and skill would save his life. A newspaper clipping reports that “On December 8, 1945, he and 6 other planes had taken off early in the morning near Tienstsin for air cover and a show of force with most of the other marine planes in North China in mass formation. On the return flight to their base at Tsingtao (Quingdao) in the Shantung Peninsula, the pilots encountered a heavy snow storm and six of the planes crashed into the mountains. As he was about to crash, he banked sharply and was caught in a down draft which tumbled his gyro instruments. He yelled for his gunner to jump and in an instant after his own parachute opened, heard the plane crash into the side of the mountain. His gunner was killed as were 10 pilots and gunners in the other five planes.” As luck would have it, he landed safely on a rock then made his way to a village where he spent the night. The next day he was released to the communist Chinese and was taken prisoner along with another survivor. After 10 days in captivity, “his rescuers persuaded the communist Chinese to accept a reward of 2 million dollars in virtually worthless Japanese puppet currency for their safe deliverance.” Apparently this scheme worked and both survivors were “wined and dined by the Generals” that evening.

In 1951, he returned to service in the Korean Campaign where he flew 115 combat missions. Upon returning to the United States, he was assigned to Pensacola, Florida as a flight instructor until leaving the service in June,1956. During his service in Korea, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven Air Medals for acts of heroism. His military service spanned 40 years and included the Navy, Marines and lastly the Army reserves. As an Army reservist, he graduated from Infantry School in Ft. Benning, Ga; Command and General Staff college in Ft. Leavenworth, Ks. and was a designated Logistician. Bob loved serving our country as a military officer retiring on December 22, 1983, with the rank of Colonel in the Army reserves. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and The Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding achievements and position of great responsibility.

Bob moved his family to San Antonio in 1956 where he was employed with United Services Life Insurance Company for nearly 20 years. In the 1970’s he acquired the Brussels Insurance Agency which was successfully managed until his retirement during the mid 1990’s.

His love of flying spanned 79 active years totaling over 15000 flying hours. As a civilian pilot, he flew over 20 different aircraft including the Funk, the Beechcraft Bonanza through Queen Aire, Piper Cub through Navajo and Cessna 152 through 340. Throughout the last 20 years, Bob regularly flew with his longtime friend, Jack Calhoun and wife Michelle. On December 20, 2013, Bob was honored with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award which is the highest award given by the FAA. This award recognizes pilots who have “demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 years or more.”

He was predeceased in death by his parents, Ethel and Earl Blount, his older sister, Betty, and his former wife, Beverly Blount-Hemphill. He is survived by his former wife, Marion Bakke- Blount, daughter, Barbara Blount-Johnson (Bill) of San Antonio, TX, son Robert A. Blount of Vail, CO, William E. Blount (Marsha) of Loveland, OH; grandchildren Lauren Schultz-Billa, Will Blount, Beverly Johnson, Jack Blount, great-granddaughter, Penny Billa and numerous nephews and nieces of the clans McDonald, and Haddan.

He is remembered as a modest and humble man, not wanting to impress but rather express. Bob was known for caring for and assisting friends in need. In his retirement years, he frequented the Petroleum Club where he loved sharing Friday evening happy hours with friends and hosting monthly Kappa Alpha luncheons for his fellow fraternity brothers. Many thanks to Martha at the Petroleum Club who always had a place set for him at lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays. He often commented that he was thankful for living during these times and was lucky in all aspects of his life. Most everyone who knew him will recall his favorite word, “Whatever”, which had a way of lightening up any heaviness of the moment. As a father, uncle, friend, he will be dearly missed.

Bob was a life member of the Caterpillar Club, the Marine Corps Aviation Association and The Distinguished Flying Cross Society. He was a member of Perfect Union Lodge No. 10 and a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. He was a life member of the Order of the Daedalions and Stinson’s Flight No. 2, Randolph AFB, TX. He was a member of the Order of the Alamo, the Petroleum Club, the Conservation Society of San Antonio, Sons of the Republic of Texas and a Descendant of Austin’s Old Three Hundred. He was proud of being an Imperial Turtle of the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Turtles.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Daedalian Foundation, PO Box 249, Universal City, TX 78148-0249, or the charity of your choice.

Service is scheduled for Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at 1:00 PM, Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Lt. Gen. Robert “Bob” D. Springer, USAF (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #2262

Lt. Gen. Robert “Bob” D. Springer, USAF (Ret)

January 17, 1933  – August 19, 2021

By: Col. Joe Fitzpatrick, USAF (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #9321

We all knew Lt Gen Bob Springer was gravely ill, but it still stings to hear he flew his “final flight” on August 19th. It is a sad day for our Flight and the US Air Force, we lost a great American. We missed having him at our meetings since he moved closer to family in Pennsylvania.

He was the driving force for the establishment of our Flight and was our initial Flight Captain when the Harley H. Pope Flight was chartered back in March 1977. Gen Springer was a Life Daedalian member since 1964. He was presented a Daedalian Coin, engraved with the number 50, during a visit by National Commander Lt Gen Nick Kehoe. Even though Gen Springer was in failing health, the family enjoyed reading the Daedalus Flyer, our Flight Newsletter and other correspondence to him.

Our Flight is full of Gen Springer stories, I knew he volunteered his time for many causes, he jokingly told me one time his middle name was “Pro Bono”. He made it known to me and previous Flight Captains if our speaker was a “no-show” he’d jump in to give a talk to the Flight. He was never at a loss for words.

One of my favorites stories was when he was in Vietnam in 1966 as the Chief of Intelligence with the 1st Air Commando Squadron at Pleiku Air Base. He was on duty and sat in on the debrief of Major Bernie Fisher just after he returned from rescuing his downed A-1 wingman. Major Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic action.

Col. Fitzpatrick’s last visit with Gen. Springer before he moved to Pennsylvania.

Gen Springer always spoke proudly about the Air Force Memorial and his plans to be buried within eye sight of the memorial next to his beloved Bonnie. Standing in Section 55, you can see the Air Force Memorial through the trees. He played a major role as the Air Force Memorial Advisory Committee chairman and assisted with the site selection and design.

He loved to talk about his education at the Patton Masonic School for Boys in Elizabethtown, PA. He told us many times at Flight meetings, he was only five feet and one inch tall and weighed less than 100 pounds his senior year and he was on the football team!

Gen Springer was proud to say he was the last B-29 qualified aircrew member on active duty when he retired in 1986.

A memorial service and celebration of life for Gen Springer was held on September 18, 2021 at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Southern Pines, NC. A funeral service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery will be held at a later date.

We are honored to have been designated by Gen Springer’s family to receive donations in his name. We will establish an annual scholarship next spring to a worthy Air Force ROTC Cadet.

Please keep Gen Springer’s family in your prayers.

Col. William J. Gregory, USAFR (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #8856

Col. William J. Gregory

August 5, 1920 – October 7, 2021

Colonel William James “Greg” Gregory, U.S.A.F., retired, was born in Smith County, Tennessee on August 5, 1920. Growing up in middle Tennessee he was part of the inaugural year of Middle Tennessee State University’s aviation program (1940/41); a first flight that would begin an extraordinary flying career.

In the summer of 1941, Gregory joined the Army Air Corps’ aviation program as a Cadet Pilot, just three months before the start of World War II. After completion of flight training at Randolph Field, San Antonio, he was assigned to the 49th Fighter Squadron (P-38 Lightning, “Mr. 5×5”), as part of the North Africa Campaign, completing 50 combat missions by 1943.

Master Pilot: As a Command pilot, Col. Gregory is also a combat veteran of the Korean War and served two tours in Viet Nam, with a 35-year military career spanning some of the most significant chapters of the development of aviation. He piloted 55 different airplanes while in the Air Force, including a number of aircraft flown with the US Navy.

Col. Gregory is one of a few Air Force pilots to attain Aircraft Carrier Qualification, earned from the deck of the USS Lexington, and later commanded a classified U-2 project with U-2 deploying from the deck of the USS Ranger. It was during this mission that he earned his “Shellback card” upon crossing the equator.

High Altitude Reconnaissance: In the late 1950s Gregory commanded Lockheed’s classified RB-57 squadron, the “Black Knight Project,” flying missions along the border of Russia during the early stages of the Cold War, and later overflights of VietNam.

Gregory was among the first pilots to fly above 65,000 feet, a group of pilots referred to as “Stratonauts.”

The Cuban Missile Crisis: An important chapter of Col. Gregory’s career followed the shoot down, capture and conviction of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in Russia. In 1960, after the Powers incident forced the relocation of his next high-altitude assignment, Greg was sent to Edwards Air Force Base where he was selected to Command WRSP- IV (Weather Reconnaissance Special Project); the Air Force/CIA collaborative U-2 squadron located in the remote North Base at Edwards, in the Mojave Desert. This squadron, under Gregory’s command, provided the first photographs proving the presence of Soviet SAM missiles and Soviet build-up in Cuba. The photographs resulting from these missions provided President Kennedy and his cabinet with the evidence needed to successfully pursue a diplomatic path to resolving a situation in which the US was fully within the range of the nuclear ICBMs’ reach. These photographs were shared on the floor of the United Nations, bringing an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

During this period of his career, Col. Gregory worked closely with Kelly Johnson, the highly revered Lockheed aeronautical engineer and designer of the U-2 and SR-71. Gregory and his pilots provided frequent feedback contributing to the refinement of this high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and its photographic capability.

As a result of Col. Gregory’s command of this U-2 project, he was awarded the CIA’s Medal of Merit* by CIA Director, Lt. General Marshall Carter, his second (of four) Legion of Merit**, and a personal letter of commendation from President John F. Kennedy.

Following the award presentation in a secure ceremony, the medal was taken to CIA Headquarters in Langley, and was returned to Col. Gregory when his involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis was de-classified in 1975.

Col. Gregory’s continued command of top secret U-2 missions provided surveillance images detailing the mounting tension in Viet Nam.

Upon completion of his assignment with WRSP-IV, Col Gregory was selected as one of only 30 joint-services senior officers identified each year for The National War College at Ft. McNair, Washington DC; the senior service educational program for the joint services. Earning his Master’s degree in foreign affairs at George Washington University during this same period, Col. Gregory was assigned to the Pentagon following course completion. During his assignment to the Pentagon from 1966-71, Col. Gregory worked in the area of research and development, focusing on the design of the first drone concepts while serving as Chairman of the United Nations Committee on Reconnaissance, in Brussels, Belgium.

Col. Gregory’s final Air Force assignment was as Vice-Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, retiring from active duty in 1975.

Col. Gregory holds the rare distinction of being awarded four Legions of Merit** throughout his career for his exceptional service to the Air Force.

Following his retirement from the Air Force, Col. Gregory and wife Helen moved to Austin where he worked for the State of Texas for 15 years as the Deputy Director of Workers Compensation and remained active in a number of military organizations including, Daedalions, The Eagles Association, and The Retired Officers Association.

In the year 2000, at the age of 80, Col. Gregory became a licensed glider pilot and enjoyed this new chapter of flight for the next 8 years. From the age of 72 to 94 Greg cycled around the world, crossing a different country every two years.

His community activities included 20 years of weekly Meals on Wheels deliveries, service to the Board of the Scholarship program he founded at the University of Texas at Austin through the LAMP Program, the Finance Committee of Highland Park Baptist Church, and a number of other professional and educational organizations.

In 2016, Greg assisted author Robert Richardson in writing the book entitled, The Jagged Edge of Duty about the World War II era of the 49th Fighter Squadron, of which Greg was the oldest remaining member. In 2018 author Robert Richardson completed the writing of the book Eagle 5 X 5 that is a biography of Greg’s life. In March 2020 Robert Richardson wrote a second biography on Greg, focused on Greg’s military career entitled, Spying from the Sky (Amazon).

Col. Gregory was married to the late Helen Dwire Gregory for 47 years until her death in 1990. He was a man led by his faith, optimism, integrity, commitment to his country and his deep love for his family. While an extraordinary and decorated pilot, he was also a loving and devoted father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Col. Gregory is survived by his two daughters Gretchen Gregory Davis (husband Dr. Gene L. Davis, son Gregory A. Davis) and Cookie Gregory Ruiz (husband Lt. Col. Philip E. Ruiz, USAF, Ret., daughters J.R., husband Jaxson Warrick, children Parker and Wade; and Boo, husband Kyle Wong)

The memorial service for Col. Gregory will be held on Tuesday, October 19th at 10:30am at The Church at Highland Park (5206 Balcones Drive, 78731), with burial to follow at Austin Memorial Park. Visitation will be held on Monday, October 18th from 3- 5:30 pm at Weed, Corley, Fish Funeral Home (3125 N. Lamar, 78705)

For those wishing to make a donation in Col. Gregory’s honor: Central Texas Food Bank or Meals on Wheels Central Texas.

Maj. Gen. George A. Edwards, USAF (Ret), Daedalian Life Member #61

Maj. Gen. George A. Edwards, USAF (Ret)

March 8, 1929 – September 26, 2021

My beautiful precious father, Major General George A. Edwards, Jr., soared on Eagles wings and traveled a glorious last flight on Sunday, September 26, 2021 to be with our Heavenly Father. He is free of all afflictions and now beginning eternal life with Jesus Christ. As I was holding one hand, The Lord was holding the other which gives great comfort to us.

We are heartbroken and filled with grief, but comforted knowing we will be reunited!

Dad is 92 and has lived an amazing life filled with affection, adventure, love, compassion, humor and living life to the fullest every day. He cared and loved deeply.

His greatest love is our gorgeous and devoted mother, Jho Eleanor Stewart Edwards, who has shared their amazing journey together for 68 years. He told our mother every day she was beautiful and how much he loved her. He always said “Please take care of JoJo first … she is precious. Don’t worry about me … I’m okay”.

George Allen Edwards, Jr. was born March 8, 1929 in Nashville Tennessee and raised in Crossville Tennessee. He graduated from Cumberland High School in 1947 and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1951. He has been an avid VOL his entire life since attending UT football games with his Grandfather, Dr. Venable Lane Lewis. He joined the Air Force as an aviation cadet immediately after graduating. He met Jho Eleanor on a blind date at Shaw Air Force base in Sumter, South Carolina and shortly thereafter, served in the Korean War. They remained in touch during this time and were married August 30, 1953. Their beautiful love story has unfolded through all the years since and their amazing, loving bond will continue for eternity!

My Father’s main passion was flying. He was a brilliant Air Force fighter pilot and reconnaissance pilot who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He patriotically served for 33 years, 1951-1984. His love of flying began in his very early years in Crossville Tennessee. He saved money for a few years from delivering newspapers on his bicycle and later in a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster with Rumble Seat. Interesting side note: Dad’s Grandfather, Dr. Lewis, who had tended to patients injured by glass windows in car accidents, changed the windows out to shatter-proof windows. At age 15, he began taking flying lessons with money he had saved delivering newspapers. He soloed in a Piper Cub aircraft at age 16! He was co-owner with his Grandfather at age 16 of an Aeronca Champion plane (65 HP engine). He also was able to fly his Grandfather, a Medical Doctor, to see the aerial view of Crossville countryside where he made house calls for years. After high school, he also participated in acrobatic air shows! He had a passion for adventure!

He received a bachelor’s degree in military science from the University of Maryland in 1961 and a master’s degree in international relations from San Francisco State College in 1965, all with highest honors. The General
graduated from Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 1955 and the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., in 1970.

General Edwards entered military duty with the Air Force as an aviation cadet in March 1951 during the Korean War. He graduated from flying school in June 1952 at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, with a commission as a second lieutenant and his pilot wings.

In January 1953 General Edwards was assigned to the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, where he flew 101 missions in RF-80s.

From December 1953 to December 1956, he served as a jet flying instructor with the Air Training Command at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas. During this time, General and Mrs. Edwards had two children, George Allen, III and Paula Jho. He graduated from Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama in 1955. Following assignments as an F-100 pilot at Nellis AFB, Nevada and with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C., he transferred to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., as Chief of Safety, and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation for the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.

In July 1959 General Edwards was selected to assist in the re-establishment of the West German Air Force and for the next three years served as Senior Adviser for the newly formed Luftwaffe Wings at Erding, Ingolstadt and Eggebeck, Germany. In recognition of his services, the Chief of Staff of the German Air Force awarded him Luftwaffe Wings. General Edwards was one of the first Americans to receive that distinction.

General Edwards returned to Shaw Air Force Base in July 1962 and served as Assistant Director of Operations with the 4411th Combat Crew Training Group. The following year he transferred to the newly activated Tactical Air Reconnaissance Center at Shaw AFB, with duties involving all aspects of operations, training, concepts and doctrine. While there, he co-authored the training manual for the F/RF-4 aircraft.

From July 1964 to June 1965, General Edwards was a graduate student at San Francisco State College under the Air Force Institute of Technology program and graduated with highest distinction. In July 1965 he joined the Directorate of Concepts and Doctrine in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Plans, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

In 1967, after combat training at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, General Edwards was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam as Commander of the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, flying RF- 4C’s. After completing his combat tour in the RF-4C, he served a consecutive combat tour as Commander of Detachment One, 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, flying RB-57s. He flew 213 combat missions. In 1968 he transferred to Headquarters U.S. European Command as Operations Officer with the Joint Reconnaissance Center at Vaihingen, Germany.

General Edwards attended the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA., August 1969, and was a distinguished graduate in June 1970. He then was assigned to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Austin Texas, as Director of Operations for the 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. In July 1972 he assumed command of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing also at Bergstrom. As Wing Commander, General Edwards commanded a large unit including four flying squadrons with worldwide responsibilities and was also charged with looking after and providing all military and flying support for President Lyndon Johnson and the LBJ ranch.

In April 1974, General Edwards returned to Headquarters Langley AFB, Tactical Air Command and served in succession as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Inspector General, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans.

On August 1, 1976 he was promoted to Major General. He returned to Bergstrom in October 1977 as Vice Commander of 12th Air Force. In July 1978, he was assigned as Commander of the 314th Air Division (7th Air Force), Osan Air Base, South Korea. The General was also Commander of the Korean Air Defense Sector, Deputy Commander of Air Forces Korea, and Director of Readiness and Combat Operations for the Air Component Command/Combined Forces Command, directing all air activities in Korea. During a Korean national emergency, General Edwards commanded the first operational deployment of the USAF Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). In 1979, he was awarded Korean Air Force Wings and in 1980, he was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation ad the Order of National Security Merit with Cluster, the highest medal the Republic of Korea awards.

Upon returning to the United States, General Edwards was assigned as Director of Plans and Policy, J5, and Inspector General, US Readiness Command, MacDill AFB, Tampa Florida. He was responsible for planning for the deployment of US air and ground forces to Latin America and the Middle East. He also assisted in the establishment of the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

Major General George A. Edwards Jr. retired in 1984.

He is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours in jet fighter and reconnaissance aircraft plus more than 2,000 hours in civilian aircraft accumulated primarily prior to his entry into the Air Force. In 1959 he established the official world speed record for the 500-kilometer closed course in the RF-101 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with 19 oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with four oak leaf clusters, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation and Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit with cluster.

After retirement from the Air Force, General Edwards pursued a business career while residing in Lakeway/Austin Texas. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pilot Research Associates; Consultant to Lockheed Missiles and Space Company; Associate of Burdeshaw Associates; VP of Pen-Mar Oil Co.; VP and Secretary-Treasurer of Scientific Measurement Systems. He was also active in real estate and home construction businesses.

Dad says that of all his accomplishments, he is most proud of his loyal, supportive and superbly capable wife, my mother, JoJo, who was with him every step of the way! He also said how proud he was of all his children and grandchildren every time we talked to him. He was always so caring, loving and giving! We are all truly blessed to have such a wonderful Father and Grandfather!

George Allen Edwards, Jr was preceded in death by his parents, George A. Edwards, Sr. and Vera Lorene Lewis Edwards; grandparents, Dr. Venable Lane Lewis and Rachel Florence Wallace Lewis; his beautiful sister, Jane Edwards Cravens Marlow and so many other family members who he greatly cherished.

George Allen Edwards, Jr. is survived by his wife, Jho Eleanor Stewart Edwards, his son, George Allen Edwards, III.; his daughter, Paula Jho Edwards Palombit, son-in-law, Rudy Palombit; Grandchildren, Lisa Jho DeVos, Laura Jennifer Ernst (Timothy Alan), Michael Edwards, Robert Edwards, Aaron Edwards; great-grandchildren, Dominic Kruse, Skye Hancock, Arabella Ernst and Liam Ernst; nieces and nephews, Rachel Hill, Monique Hobbs, Matthew Neely, Michael Neely, Debra VandenBos.
Dad deeply loved family and welcomed us to visit as often as possible. He never wanted us to leave and made every day feel like Christmas! We always received grand greetings at the airport complete with champagne and yellow roses. He catered to us from the moment we arrived … large welcome signs my mother drew … asking what we would like for our first dinner … a welcome gift on the beds, and of course the adventurous schedule ahead. To share how wonderful and happy our childhood was would take endless hours. Our parents allowed us to be kids and really live, use our imagination … climbing trees, riding bikes for miles, playing games and staying outside as much as we desired, as long as they knew exactly where we were and were home on time for lunch and dinner.

Dad never knew a stranger and to this day has wonderful steadfast friends worldwide. He was so gracious and the ultimate, perfect host. My father was a man of integrity. He was admired, respected and an inspiration to all who knew him. He always helped those in need and who were less fortunate. He was a member of several civic organizations. He was a member of the Order of Daedalians and the Int’l Wine and Food Society. He was just so much fun to be around! He was a master storyteller and always shared many jokes and humorous stories … most stories involving him. He was an avid golfer, loved to entertain and enjoyed traveling, especially to visit family, annual trips to Hawaii for 30+ years, and traveling to as many UT VOL games as possible. He had a zest for life, high energy level and wonderful, positive personality that attracted so many people to him. He remained loyal to all his friends. He is loved by all!

Not a day will pass without missing him greatly. We will continue to honor and remember our father every day with precious, loving memories. Lord, thank you for blessing us with Dad! Please give us strength and may we always feel your presence.

A Renaissance Man Who Always Pushed the Envelope: Col. Norman Phillips, USAF (Ret.)

By Peter D. Lennon, Federal Gov’t (Ret.), Granite Flight #53

Norm Phillips as Cold War 22d Fighter Squadron Commander seated in blue uniform in middle of 1st row (“An American Solo” documentary film by Jay MacNamee & Bob
     Bear, Star Island Films, 2017)

Col. Norman Phillips, USAF (Ret.), Granite State Flight #53’s last World War II veteran, flew west earlier this Summer.  A courageous fighter pilot who rejected the “hero” label in World War II and also flew combat missions during the Vietnam War, he was just five months shy of his 100th birthday at the time of his death.  

Colonel Phillips truly was a renaissance man.  After a noteworthy Air Force career, he became an instructor in sculpture for nineteen years at the University of Massachusetts, a published novelist, and the host of a local New Hampshire authors’ group known as the “Writers of the Round Table.” 

Norm’s obituary on Seacoast Online recounted that he was a man of exceptional vigor, curiosity, and talent, and that he did what he wanted to do every day of his life, packing several lifetimes into one. 

Norm flew numerous combat missions in the heavily armed and ruggedly survivable Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” fighter bomber, one of the Army Air Corps primary aircraft during WW II.  Over Vietnam, he flew dozens of missions in the supersonic Republic F-105 “Thunderchief” strike bomber.   

During the Cold War, Norm commanded the “Red Hot Fighters” 22d Fighter Squadron at Bitburg Air Base, Germany.  As a major, he led his squadron to win Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards as it flew the F-86 “Sabre” and the F-100 “Super Sabre.” 

Insignia for the “Red Hot Fighters” 22d Fighter Squadron (US Air Force Historical Research Agency)

Colonel Phillips’ unique story, spirit, and character were best captured in an article in the local newspaper to mark Veterans Day in 2016 and his 95th birthday later that month: 

Stratham vet is 95 years of the ‘right stuff’ 

By Hadley Barndollar     Seacoastonline.com/Exeter (NH) News-Letter  
 Posted Nov 10, 2016, at 4:26 PM Updated Nov 11, 2016, at 11:14 AM  

STRATHAM — The United States of America is 240 years old, and Norman Phillips has been around for nearly 95 of them. He takes pride in that. 

Phillips, who turns the big 9-5 at the end of November, is a World War II and Vietnam War veteran turned sculptor and writer. He and his wife have lived in Exeter and Stratham for 24 years now. 

In World War II Germany, Phillips led a strafing attack which destroyed 29 airplanes. He received the Silver Star for that. But Phillips said it was nothing heroic. 

“I was just like a high school kid that saw a bunch of airplanes and said, ‘Let’s bust them up!’” he laughed. “It was just youthful exuberance. It was nothing heroic.” 

Phillips said he doesn’t believe in heroes or the phrase “the Greatest Generation.” 

“We’re no different than anybody else,” he said. 

Phillips was born in Ware, Massachusetts in 1921 where he was raised by illiterate Polish grandparents. He didn’t know his father and only saw his mother on Christmas and in the summertime. As a child he was a rebel. He laughs that he loved to steal apples and stole his first car at age 14. He often skipped school. In the seventh grade, Phillips went to live with his mother in Queens, which ended in a hitchhike back to Ware. Phillips has always done what he’s wanted, something he ascribes to a “true inner attitude.” 

A high school principal, Bob Fox, made a deal with Phillips that if he started coming to school, he could enter senior year on time. Phillips said that was the beginning of a lot for him, as he was able to enlist in the Air Force because he had a high school diploma. 

Phillips became a fighter pilot, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. He started World War II in Italy, just south of Rome, about a week after the Germans had left. He then moved to Corsica, where they invaded southern France. Phillips said his fighter unit was the first flying unit in Germany. 

On the last day of the war in 1945, Phillips’ unit was flying over Hitler’s “Eagle Nest.” He was leading a 12-ship formation that was ready to roll over and dive bomb a concentration of troops on the ground. It was then the pilot received word that the war was over. Phillips said they dropped their bombs safely in Lake Constance and “got drunk as hell that night.” 

During the Vietnam War, Phillips’ F-105 was shot out of the sky in Laos on Memorial Day 1968, or as Phillips put it, “I got my butt blown out of the sky.” 

The way Phillips describes that day could be straight out of an Ernest Hemingway story. 

“The air was as smooth as vanilla ice cream, the sun was setting and the rolling hills of Laos were like a dream velvet carpet,” he said. 

Suddenly, he was hit by five or six roman candles (explosives). Phillips described the ordeal, watching his plane headed for the jungle before he ejected himself. He went crashing through the trees where he suffered some broken bones. Not long after, a medic came down on a cable from a helicopter but couldn’t find Phillips through the trees. 

“He was a young man with a camouflaged face,” he said. “I took out my 38 and fired two rounds up to the nose of the helicopter.” Ultimately, the rescue plan proved successful and Phillips came to know his rescuer as Thomas Newman, who ended up teaching at an air rescue school in San Antonio after the war. 

A full-retired colonel and wounded vet by 1969, Phillips went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study art, where he received his BA and MFA. 

“I wanted to be an art teacher,” he said. “I had this illusion that with my leadership skills, I could teach art in the ghetto and make people better.” But the more Phillips got involved in the program, the faculty took a liking to him and encouraged him to apply for a staff assistant position to the chairman, for which he was chosen. 

Phillips went on to teach art at the college level for 19 years, where he specialized in sculpting with bronze and steel. 

Phillips met his second wife Mary in 1977 at UMass, to whom he is still married. They have one son together. 

Today, Phillips said he “gets a lot of fun out of living.” Much of that fun he finds in writing composition. 

“When I retired from the university, a lot of people talked to me and said, ‘You outta write a book.’ One day there was an ad in the Exeter paper for a woman running a free memoir program that was eight sessions.” Phillips signed up for the program and the rest is history. 

“What I read on the paper that came out of my head, I didn’t think it was there,” he said. “It’s such a magical process.” 

Now, Phillips hosts “Writers of the Round Table” every Tuesday at his dining room table, where a small group gathers to exercise their creative sides and write from prompts. 

“For two hours we never stray from the subject,” he said. “Every Tuesday, it’s all raw stuff coming out of people. We’re starting a fire of getting people to get in contact with their inner selves.” 

Perhaps his pride and joy, Phillips published a book in 2012 titled “Throw a Nickel on the Grass,” which chronicles his life from boyhood transforming into “a steely-eyed, decorated fighter pilot.” The close to 400-page book is a detailed account of his experiences at war and the men he fought alongside. The book also showcases Phillips’ spirit, which is described as an “independence and insatiable curiosity.” 

The book is dedicated to Newman, the man who saved him in Laos.  

When asked about the recent election cycle, he said he believes people will continue to live the way they’ve been living despite the election outcome. 

“There’s enough people up there to balance all the evil that’s done,” he said. “I’m quite an optimistic person but I’m not a daydreamer. I know people are crooked and politicians lie behind their resume. I would love to talk to Hillary and Donald and say, ‘What are you really talking about, don’t BS me.’” 

Referring to a local politician who knocked on his door the other day, Phillips said he has a knack for seeing beyond people’s façade, their resume. 

“Fundamentally, most people are good people,” he said. “I think I’ve learned to pick out the losers and I always tell them who they are.” 

Phillips and his wife own a home in Prince Edward Island where they spend nine to ten weeks a year. Phillips has homemade photo books, visual narrations of their time on PEI’s stunning beaches. 

“There’s nothing to do there and people are nice, what else do you need?” he laughed. 

Phillips will celebrate his 95th birthday at the end of November with a cocktail party. Phillips likes martinis because “they don’t taste that great but you only need one.” The paper invitation shows Phillips riding a motor scooter and says, “What next?” 

What is next for Phillips, the highly decorated war veteran with a dry sense of humor and meticulous memory? 

“I’m going to be toes up,” he said, pointing to the sky. “My flying friends are waiting for me up there. They have a spot in the flying formation for me.” 

On the last page of his book, Phillips talks about his flying “fraternity.” 

“Each one of these officers, along with some I haven’t mentioned, exemplify the spirit, skill and guts it takes to be a member of the fighter pilot fraternity,” he wrote. “They were all my brothers, and they had the “right stuff.”″ 

It seems that Phillips has been doing the right stuff for 95 years. 

Norm was a Daedalian for twenty-four years and always could be counted on to enliven Granite State Flight #53 gatherings.   He will be long-remembered and deeply missed.    

He is survived by his wife, Mary North Phillips, of Portsmouth, NH, his five adult children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Leona.  

Norm Phillips (Courtesy Photo and Fosters.com/Seacoastonline.com)

Captain Maurice C. Hartle, USN (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member 6749

Maury Hartle made his final “take-off” from his home at Manzano del Sol in Albuquerque on Monday, May 10th, 2021 surrounded by his loving family. He was born November 20, 1920 in Drifting, Pennsylvania, the son of Orvis and Regina Hartle. He was the oldest and last survivor of seven children.

Upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in June of 1943, Maury married his roommate’s twin sister, Suzanne DePrez, prior to joining the USS Cincinnati for WWII duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.  He became a naval aviator and flew aerial reconnaissance and fleet logistic support.  His duties flying anti-submarine warfare aircraft occurred on the carriers USS Valley Forge, USS Randolph, and USS Essex, where he commanded a squadron, and the USS Yorktown. 

Maury was honored to serve in the US Navy for thirty-four years, encompassing duty during WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War and Vietnam. A favorite shore duty assignment was as an instructor in seamanship and navigation at the US Naval Academy where he co- authored the textbook, Elementary Seamanship. Also, Maury had administrative/command assignments at the Pentagon and the Naval Communication Station.

A lifetime learner, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School for Advanced Communication at the Naval War College and he received his Master’s Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.  Maury earned his PHD in Educational Administration while serving as commanding officer of the ROTC Unit at Miami University of Ohio.

After his retirement in 1973, Maury pursued civilian careers in teaching, education administration and financial sales. He served on the Board of Directors for the Daedalian Foundation and as President of the Alamo Chapter of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. In 2016, Maury was a participant in the New Mexico Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He is an Honorary Silver Eagle.

Maury was preceded in death by his co-pilot for fifty-eight years and the mother of his seven children, the former Suzanne DePrez, who died in 2001.  In 2003, his second wife and bride of seven months, Elisabeth Anderson, died in a tragic auto accident.

He is survived by his loving and devoted wife of sixteen years, Patsye Ballard Hartle of Albuquerque, his children: Lynne Hudson (Blake Pittman) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Chris Hartle (Lynn) of Spring Hill, Florida, Sherie Hartle (Bob Payton) of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Maureen Hartle-Schutte (David) of Tucson, Arizona, Steven Hartle (Elaine) of San Antonio, Texas, Barbara Hartle (Arabia Vargas) of Galveston, Texas, David Hartle (Kathan) of Grand Junction, Colorado, and their respective families. Additionally, there are three stepchildren: Karen Ballard Molzen of Albuquerque, New Mexico, John Anderson of Tucson, Arizona, and Lynn Anderson of Austin, Texas, twenty-four grandchildren and step-grandchildren, fifteen great grandchildren and step-great grandchildren.

As a beloved patriarch of this large family, Maury was always a fine example of love, generosity, and unwavering optimism.  A favorite quote was “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and his adventurous spirit led him to a retirement rich with national and international travels. Possessed of a sharp and active mind, bridge and word puzzles were everyday pleasures.  A true patriot, he adored his family, loved his friends and country, and was passionate and proud of his naval flying career.  He was well known for his open-hearted hospitality; he knew no strangers and made all feel welcome, always. 

A funeral Mass and inurnment of his remains with full military honors will take place at the U.S. Naval Academy Columbarium, Annapolis, Maryland on October 20, 2021.  

Fly away home, Maury! Happy landing!

Lt.Col. John J. Kane, USAF (Ret.) – A Quiet Hero

By Peter D. Lennon, Federal Gov’t (Ret.), Granite Flight #53

February 1, 2021, marked the one-year anniversary of the passing, at age ninety-five, of one of only two World War II veterans left in Granite State Flight #53, Lt.Col. John J. Kane USAF, (Ret).  John was a colorful individual who always voted “nay” on any motion to adjourn because he never wanted to end the camaraderie of the monthly Daedalians meetings.

John was “genuinely one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet,” according to flight captain and Col. Kevin “Jaws” Grady, USAF (Ret).

A former flight captain, Dino Atsalis, said John was a “listener instead of a talker,” and that he was “always interested in and curious about what other people were thinking, especially when it concerned the generational differences among the younger and older Daedalians in our flight.”

John was modest about his combat experience, and rarely, if ever, shared war stories.

Dino said, “He also was a kind man, but he had a very dry sense of humor and a quiet aggressiveness.”

According to his wife Frances, John always rejected the idea that, somehow, the military made “killers” of its members.  He wholeheartedly embraced the idea that, in his own words, “The purpose of the military is to maintain peace.”

John was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 20, 1924, and his family moved to California when he was young.  He always was fascinated with aircraft and spent many hours at the local airport in Oakland, CA.

Enlisting as an aviation cadet in 1943, he graduated at age twenty from pilot training in Class 44-B at Spence Field, Moultrie, GA on February 8, 1944.  By November 25, 1944, he was in Italy flying the twin-engine P-38J Lightning fighter/bomber.

As a second lieutenant, John just wanted to do his part to defend our nation and to fulfil his dream of learning how to fly.  Yet, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for extraordinary achievement and heroism while flying against the enemy over Austria in February 1945.

The DFC citation said he demonstrated the “highest order of professional skill, heroism, leadership and devotion to duty throughout many combat missions against highly important and strategic enemy installations.” 

The citation continued that “Despite heavy enemy opposition encountered on these long and hazardous missions, together with severe and adverse weather conditions, (his) outstanding leadership, personal example and tactical skill have contributed materially to the defeat of the armed forces of the enemy.”

Just prior to earning the DFC, John had been promoted to first lieutenant for “having clearly demonstrated fitness for promotion by outstanding performance in actual combat.”

John flew fifty-one missions and almost three hundred combat flying hours in the Lightning, primarily escorting Allied bombers and strafing ground targets over enemy territory.  He belonged to the 96th Fighter Squadron of the 82nd Fighter Group based in Foggia, Italy.  It was said of the 82nd Fighter Group that “No air unit has done more towards beating down the Hun.”

Although praised for its overall performance, the fabled P-38 proved more difficult to fly and fight at higher altitudes in the cold temperatures over Europe. 

John never mentioned those challenges, and the Germans called it the “Fork-Tailed Devil” for its seemingly unique ability to surprise them with devastating, concentrated firepower.     

John also was awarded five Air Medals for meritorious achievement in aerial flight in sustained operational activities against the enemy in February-March 1945 or other acts of merit, and six Bronze Service Stars for participation in the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign.

Since he was already a first lieutenant at the end of WWII, John turned down an appointment to West Point to stay in the Army Air Corps/Air Force.  As a captain, he was profiled in the Saturday Evening Post in 1952 as a high-altitude, jet fighter interceptor pilot tasked with defending the Continental United States (CONUS) from Soviet bomber raids.

He was described as a “stubby, wisecracking jet-fighter pilot” who flew the F-94 Starfire, the armed interceptor version of the T-33 jet trainer.  It was a first-generation jet aircraft for the Air Force and an all-weather, day/night platform.

The Post article continued: “All-weather work takes experienced men and calls for the best you can get.  They’re the cream of the pilot crop and the best instrument flyers in combat.”

John spent much of the 1950’s in the air defense and flight safety arenas.  He moved around five different installations, including Newfoundland and Greenland, but his greatest triumph was meeting Miss Frances L. McCarthy when both were assigned to Stewart Air Force Base, NY.

John had always been at the pointy end of the spear in air defense, but Frances, a pioneering woman in the rapidly developing computer sector, was working on the brains of the entire operation.  These were the sophisticated computers that processed and disseminated radar detection information that would accurately vector interceptors to their targets.

Frances spent four years with Bell Telephone Laboratories working on what was then an almost revolutionary air defense network known as the “Semi-Automatic Ground Environment,” or SAGE.

The Kanes married in 1960, and Frances spent the next thirteen years as an Air Force spouse, experiencing life in Wisconsin, where their son John Jr., or “Jay,” was born, in New Jersey while John was at Ton Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam, and on bases in Oklahoma, New Mexico, The Philippines, and Hawaii.

As a major, John was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroism in three months during his year-long tour in Vietnam in 1963-64. 

Each citation praised him for exposing himself “to extreme personal danger by volunteering to enter an area known to be strongly occupied by hostile forces in order to obtain vital information to aid in determining the cause of an aircraft crash.” The citations continued that “undaunted by harassing enemy gun fire, steep and rugged terrain, and extremely high temperatures and humidity, Major Kane tenaciously pursued his task….”

Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1965, John closed out his Air Force career as the commander of the 604th Direct Air Support Squadron, and then of the 22nd Tactical Air Support Squadron. Both units provided Air Force personnel to coordinate flight operations providing close air support bombing missions to Army ground units.

By the time he retired in 1973, John was a command pilot and had amassed more than five thousand flying hours in eleven different aircraft: the P-38, P-40 and P-51 fighters, the C-47 cargo aircraft, the F-80, F-82, F-86, F-94, F-102 jet fighters, the O-2A light observation aircraft, and the T-33 jet trainer.

He was a graduate of the Air Force Command & Staff College, the Aircraft Accident Investigator Course at the University of Southern California, the USAF Instrument Instruction School, and other training schools.  John learned the Vietnamese language at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute.

In his more than thrity years in uniform, John was assigned to at least sixteen different air bases throughout the United States, and in Korea, Okinawa, Newfoundland, Greenland, and Vietnam.

He also was awarded three Air Force Commendation Medals.

After moving to New Hampshire in 1976 with his family, John became a stalwart Daedalian and was Flight Captain of Granite State Flight #53 in 1991-1993.  A member for more than fifty years, he first joined the Order in 1969 in The Jungle Flight #23 at Clark Air Force Base, The Philippines.

He continued his public service after the Air Force by representing Exeter for ten years in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.  He was recognized as an independent thinker, and he served on the Resources, Recreation & Development Committee, and on the Appropriations Committee.

John also belonged to the Air Force Association and the Retired Officers Association.

Although he probably would deny it, John Kane exemplified the “Greatest Generation” that won World War II and personified the brave Airmen, both men and women, who created the Air Force that exists today.

Frances asked that “An Officer and a Gentleman” be inscribed on his gravestone.

He was all that, and more, and he is fondly remembered and sorely missed by every member of Granite State Flight #53.

To keep John’s camaraderie and presence alive, one of the members always votes “nay” on the motion to adjourn any of Flight #53’s gatherings. 

From Mon Valley to the Moon: A Life Well Lived

Colonel Thomas J. Tredici, USAF (Ret.): August 27, 1922 to April 28, 2021

by Lt.Col. Bill Ercoline, USAF (Ret.)

Colonel (Doctor) Tredici in front ot a B-17 in 1987

Thomas J. Tredici was born in 1922 in the small steel producing town of Monessen. The town is located in southwestern Pennsylvania along the Monongahela River, an area known to the locals as Mon Valley. After high school, Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and began a remarkable military and civil servant career. He would serve his country for the next 78 years.

After completing military pilot training, Tredici was deployed to Great Britain. He flew combat missions while assigned to the 457th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Force (aka The Mighty Eighth) in the B-17G Flying Fortress aircraft.  Tom survived the other-than-obvious hazards associated with flying high-altitude missions, sans life support technology such as cabin pressurization and eye protection. His experiences in combat would go onto inform his later career as an opthalmologist.

When the war ended, Tom returned to his hometown and decided to go to college.  He was accepted and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Washington and Jefferson College in 1949.  Tredici often credited his Monessen High School education with preparing him for college.  He would also claim that the most useful college class he took was his dancing class, something he would find useful throughout his life. 

Following college graduation, Tom applied for and was accepted into the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the University of Pittsburgh in 1956. Following residency, Dr. Tredici returned to active military duty as a medical officer.  In the Korean conflict, he served at Scott AFB, Illinois and Clark AB, Philippines. 

He would soon be assigned as an instructor with the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) in San Antonio, Texas.  Here, Dr. Tredici would earn the distinguished title of USAF Flight Surgeon.  During the mid-60’s he served in Vietnam as an eye surgeon. Tredici was then promoted to the newly formed Chief of the Aerospace Ophthalmology Branch at USAFSAM. 

Tom eventually retired from uniform in 1987 at the age of 65.  It is claimed that he was the last B-17 pilot to retire from active duty.  But Col. Tredici was not ready to quit working, and the leadership at USAFSAM knew it.  They advertised a senior scientist position in the civil service, which Tom was awarded.  

He continued to serve in this capacity until 2011, when USAFSAM moved from San Antonio, Texas to Dayton, Ohio.  The move to Dayton was the result of the third and final round of the Base Realignment and Closure actions—an action Tom would claim was waste of money. 

USAFSAM leadership awarded him emeritus status, and he continued to work on manuscripts and journal articles at Brooks until his death on April 28th, 2021.  Dr. Tredici would routinely show up for work everyday in the early afternoon and work until late at night.  This continued until the pandemic hit.  Beginning in March 2020, Tom would continue to work from home under the careful watch of his daughter, Lucia.   

During his working career, Tom published almost three hundred journal articles and conducted about the same number of presentations.  His computer files contain numerous other documents, many of which he planned to publish but never had the opportunity to.  Col. Tredici never bragged about his accomplishments, but was always ready to share stories. 

President Lydon B. Johnson and General Chuck Yeager are only two of the more well-known people Tom cared for as a physician.  A photo of Buzz Aldrin on the moon, displaying the gold visor that Tom helped NASA develop, was always in sight of his desk. 

A few of his other noteworthy accomplishments are:

  • Served in uniform during WWII, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam
  • Considered by many as the most influential ophthalmologist in the field of Aerospace Medicine
  • Awarded status of Fellow in the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), presenting papers every year for fifty years in a row
  • Awarded Inaugural Lifetime Achievement by the Department of Ophthalmology at the UTHSCSA
  • Taught tens of thousands of military medical personnel during his tenure at USAFSAM
  • Helped develop the gold visor for Apollo astronauts for eye protection
  • Revised vision standards for Air Force pilots, allowing pilots to fly with corrective lenses/surgery
  • Annually returned about 1,000 aircrew who had been grounded due to vision deficiencies to flying status
  • Helped design aviator goggles
  • Helped develop the hard contact lens
  • Developed a new treatment for glaucoma
  • Happened to be at Forbes Field when Babe Ruth hit number 714 – he was especially proud of this one

Dr. Tredici took pride in his Italian heritage, his home town of Monessen, and his family and friends.  He would always weave into a discussion something important about his family and his youth.  There can be no doubt that he felt blessed to grow up when and where he did, and to meet the people he met during his professional career.  Tom’s education began in the Mon Valley and it would eventually enable him to help NASA place a fellow patriot on the moon. 

There is so much more to Tom Tredici than what could be written in this short article.  His accomplishments are many and his friends are legion.  The United States Air Force is better today because of him.  Those of us who knew him all know we lost a good friend and colleague…and that our country has lost a national treasure.

His memory will live on via his friends, family and colleagues.  Colonel Tredici, we salute you.  Hail, Farewell and Happy Landings! 

Volabamus…Volamus (We Flew…We Fly)

Lt. Tom Tredici in 1944