Colonel Raymond F. Toliver, test pilot and military historian, has flown over 225 types of aircraft and accumulated over 9,000 hours during 28 years of service to his country. Born in Fort Collins, Colorado, he attended Colorado State University before joining the US Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in 1937. Earning his wings and commission 1 year later, he was transferred to the 9th Bomb Group at Mitchel Field, New York, to fly the P-12 and B-18A aircraft. Faced with limited flying opportunities, he left the Air Corps to join Trans World Airlines. In 1941, as Great Britain stood alone in its war with Germany, Toliver flew US-built bombers across the Atlantic as a civilian contract pilot for the Royal Air Force Ferry Command.
On a flight in a Lockheed Hudson, he set a new record crossing the ocean in 9 hours and 42 minutes. In 1942, with America in the fight, he returned to the Army Air Forces and became Chief of Flight Test at Patterson Field, Ohio. There, he initiated a 6-month training program for test pilots that included flights in as many as 40 types of aircraft. Moving to Guam Air Depot in 1944, he repaired damaged B-29s and P-51s, and prepared new aircraft for combat. After World War II, he became Chief of Maintenance at San Bernardino Air Depot and then attended Air Command and Staff College, graduating in 1948. He then returned to the Far East Materiel Command assignment in Japan. In 1951, he attended Air War College and then was assigned to HQ USAF, Directorate of Maintenance Engineering, where he was promoted to colonel.
In 1955, assigned to RAF Wethersfield, England, Toliver became Deputy Commander and then Commander of the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing. Returning stateside in 1959, he served as Director of Maintenance for Air Defense Command until he was reassigned to HQ USAF as Deputy Director of Operations Forces. Retiring from the USAF in 1965, he joined Lockheed Aircraft and worked marketing and sales for 10 years. In 1975, he began to devote full-time to writing and today is one of the preeminent aviation historians.
He has authored and co-authored five books including, Fighter Aces of the USA, Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe, and Blond Knight of Germany--a biography of Erich Hartman, the highest scoring ace in history. Two of his books have won top nonfiction awards of the Aviation/Space Writers Association. His latest book, Fighter General--The Life of Adolf Galland, will be released in 1988. Colonel Toliver and his wife, Jen, live in Encino, California.
Colonel Toliver assumed command of the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing at a challenging time. During his tenure, the unit transitioned from a "Bomb Wing" flying the F-84 to a "Fighter Wing" flying the multi-role F-100. Only 14 days after the arrival of the multi-role F-100, the wing was operationally ready to meet its wartime tasking. The wing achieved and maintained the highest sortie rate in USAFE and received the first-ever "Outstanding" rating during an Operational Readiness Inspection. A personal award was in the works for Toliver, but he insisted that the rating had been earned because of a "team effort." Thus, the wing was awarded a Outstanding Unit Citation.