Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1985 2001 2006

Eagle Biography

Frederick C. Blesse

Frederick "Boots" Blesse, a double ace with two combat tours each in Korea and Vietnam, is the sixth-ranking US jet ace and one of the world's premier jet tacticians.  Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1921, he graduated from West   Point in 1945 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army Air Forces.  He flew numerous aircraft prior to his transition into the North American F-86 Sabre.  With the outbreak of the Korean War, Blesse volunteered for combat, even though it meant leaving the F-86 for the  prop-driven North American F-51 Mustang.   He flew 67 air-to-ground combat missions in the Mustang and 35  additional missions in the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star before being assigned to  George AFB, California.   He immediately volunteered for a second  combat tour, flying the F-86 in the air-to-air role. 

In the spring of 1952, Blesse became  operations officer of the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.  His guidance was simple--get MiGs!  And under his aggressive leadership, the victory tally for the squadron grew steadily.   By September, Blesse claimed his fifth aerial victory, making him the  19th ace of the Korean War.  Within the  next month, he ran his total score to 10, including nine MiG-15s and a La-9,  becoming America's  leading jet ace at the time.  After  returning to the US  in October 1952, he documented the lessons of air-to-air combat in No Guts, No Glory, a manual used for  over 20 years as the authoritative guidance on how to train for and fly in  combat.  Blesse's superior flying skills  were later evidenced when he flew the F-86F as a member of the Air Training  Command team at the 1955 USAF Worldwide Fighter Gunnery Meet.  He won all six trophies awarded for  individual performance, a feat that has never been equaled.  He again volunteered for combat in 1967 and  was assigned as the Director of Operations, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Da Nang AB, Republic of Vietnam.  

In this capacity, Blesse flew 108 combat missions over North Vietnam and another 46 sorties in Laos and South Vietnam in the McDonnell  Douglas F-4 Phantom II.  He was  instrumental in the development and testing of the SUU-16 gun pod, used  throughout the war on the F-4C, and was a major influence in the decision to  include an internal gun in later versions of the F-4.  He then commanded the USAF's first wing of  General Dynamics F-111 Aardvarks, and returning to Vietnam, served as the Seventh Air  Force Assistant Director of Operations.   Prior to his retirement as a major general in 1975, Blesse was the  Deputy Inspector General of the Air Force.   A command pilot with over 6,500 flying hours, Blesse is retired from the  Grumman Corporation and lives with his wife, Betty, in Florida.

See the Lithograph
2006
Lithograph Setting

"Boots"  Blesse began his operational career in the Air Force flying prop-driven  fighters, but soon graduated to jets. He achieved all 10 of his aerial victories in the North American F-86 Sabre while assigned to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The Sabre was fairly evenly matched with the MiG-15 early in the war and it was pilot ability that was the determining  factor in air-to-air engagements. Blesse demonstrated outstanding ability as a fighter pilot on 8 September 1952, when he bagged his sixth and seventh kills during a single mission.

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