Colonel Ralph S. Parr is one of America's most experienced combat veterans. He completed five combat tours in four different aircraft and flew 641 combat missions in three wars. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942 and earned his wings and commission in 1944. He flew P-38s with the 49th Fighter Group during the closing days of World War II. In 1950, while assigned to an F-86 unit, he was selected to fly the F-80 for the 49th Fighter Bomber Wing in Korea. His first 10 hours in the F-80 included 5 hours on combat missions. After 165 combat missions in the F-80, Lieutenant Parr was sent to George AFB, California, to again fly the F-86.
He developed and practiced new air-to-air tactics for over a year, hoping to return to Korea. In May 1953, he did return to Korea to fly with the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron during the final 7 weeks of the war. He hit every aircraft at which he fired and became an ace in just 11 days. He finished the war as a double ace when he scored the last kill of the Korean War. He next served as the USAF Air Defense Weapons Center and with the 73d Air Division before going to the Netherlands as a member of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was Command Post Director at MacDill AFB, Florida.
In 1963, he helped bring the F-4C into the USAF inventory and was one of its first instructor pilots. He served as an F-4 squadron commander and then flew the aircraft on two combat tours in Southeast Asia. He earned the Air Force Cross while serving as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing. During the siege of Khe Sanh, despite extremely poor weather and intense enemy fire, he attacked and destroyed two North Vietnamese mortar and six gun positions. On his second SEA tour, he returned to the same wing as Deputy Commander and then Commander.
Following Vietnam, he was assigned to HQ USAFE before being sent to Teheran, Iran in 1972 as Chief of Staff in the Military Assistance Advisory Group. His next duty assignment was at Eglin AFB, Florida, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the Tactical Air Warfare Center and then Chief of Staff of the Armament and Development Test Center. When he retired in 1976, Colonel Parr had flown over 6,000 hours in fighter aircraft and earned more than 60 decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 41 Air Medals. He now lives in New Braunfels, Texas, with his wife Margaret.
The Korean War marked the first time jets faced jets in aerial combat. In a classic display of airpower, F-86 Sabre pilots achieved a 10-to-1 kill ratio over their adversaries flying the MiG-15. By war's end, Sabre pilots had destroyed over 800 enemy aircraft--more than 300 of these were claimed by 38 fighter aces. Displaying remarkable gunnery skills and superb airmanship, Colonel Ralph Parr's 10 kills in just 7 weeks distinguished him as one of the most successful of this elite group.