Just 77 Left? Time Is Running Out To Honor These Vets

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Flying Aces are a dying breed

So what does it take to be awarded the title Ace?  Officially, a pilot must be credited with shooting down at least five enemy aircraft while engaging in aerial combat.  The term first became popular in the French military during World War I.

We’ve all been amused by the Peanuts cartoon of WWI flying Ace Snoopy as he chases the Bloody Red Baron across the skies of France in his Sopwith Camel.  (Richthofen was an actual German pilot and an Ace credited for shooting down 80 planes.)  An actual aerial dogfight is anything but amusing.

The high speed action, the face peeling G-forces, dodging bullets and the fear of going down in enemy territory or worse are the normal experiences of a fighter pilot.  Lets not forget these brave men had to experience this all alone, in their cockpits.

There are only 77 American Aces living today.

Check out the incredible stories of two such heroes below.

All who have served in combat know that anything you did was as a team, a fighting unit. You did what you did for the men your were with, not for yourself. You had each other’s backs. Everybody was on the same page. But there is another breed of veteran that often fights alone, sitting in the cockpit of a fighter plane. When the fecal matter hits the oscillating blade, they have to depend solely on their wits, their skills, and their machine to get the job done and be able to go home. Recently, two veteran fighter pilots from Washington State, along with more than three dozen of their fellow “aces,” went to Washington, D.C. to receive one of the nation’s highest civilian awards, the Congressional Gold Medal, in honor of their heroic actions and their service long ago now.


The two men being honored from the Western Washington area are Air Force Brigadier General Steve Ritchie of Bellevue, Washington, a veteran of the Vietnam War, and Navy Commander, Clarence Borley of Olympia, Washington.   According to the King 5 News report, Ritchie flew 800 hours of combat with 339 missions. He was able to shoot down 5 MIG-21s that had come up to engage him in combat during that time. When asked what his thoughts were about being one of those to receive the Congressional Gold Medal he said, “All of us who survived combat and were victorious are just thankful to have had the opportunity to serve our country.”


Commander Borley’s Amazing Story


Vietnam War Navy Commander Clarence Borley


Commander Borley, a veteran of WWII, was actually shot down while on a mission in the South Pacific. His story has a unique twist to it. He was able to parachute into the ocean where he endured five days floating alone in the water before being spotted and picked up by a U.S. submarine. While on the sub, he also experienced submarine combat as the sub he was on undertook two attacks on Japanese vessels. He said:

“I had the experience of air combat and submarine combat all in one mission…”

…These two “Ace” fighter pilots from wars now many decades in their past, are finally being recognized for their valor and their unfailing commitment to duty while serving this nation in uniform. These two men were valiant in war and have conducted their lives since with dignity, honor and nobility. The nation has reason to be proud of such men and to give them their proper recognition.

Source:  Dan Doyle on The Veterans Site  Image Source

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