Herschel "Herky" Green is a triple ace credited with 18 aerial victories in World War II. Green was born and grew up in rural western Kentucky. When two " barnstormers" made an emergency landing near his school, the five-year-old invited them home while their aircraft was being repaired. Green's reward was a ride in a bi-plane that sparked a lifelong love of flying. In 1940, as a student at Vanderbilt University, he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and earned his private pilot license.
In late 1941, Green enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. After flying training in Oklahoma and Texas, he was commissioned in April 1942 and was sent to Bradley Field, Connecticut, to fly the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. In the fall, he transferred to the 317th Fighter Squadron of the 325th Fighter Group, which deployed to North Africa in January 1943. Green's first combat mission on 19 May 1943 was truly memorable when numerous Messerschmitt Me-109s near the coast of Italy jumped the flight. In the wild melee that followed, Green's P-40 was hit by cannon fire but he managed to squeeze off a long burst at two of the enemy aircraft.
At mission debriefing, he learned that he had scored the squadron's first victory. He would down three more Me-109s while flying the P-40. Green transitioned to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in September 1943 and, in December, the 325th Fighter Group "Checkertail Clan " moved to Fogia, Italy. Flying the P-47, he would down 10 enemy aircraft, including 6 in one day. Green took command of the 317th Fighter Squadron on 25 March 1944. In May his squadron transitioned to the North American P-51 Mustang. In a rare feat, Green would become an ace in that aircraft also.
Following the war, Green had many assignments including Deputy Commander of the 4th Fighter Group (FG) and was soon flying the new Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star. When the 4th FG transferred to Langley AFB, Virginia, in 1949, Green became Director of Operations of the 4th Fighter Wing. In October 1949, he moved to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the age of 30, Green was promoted to Colonel in 1951 after eight years of active duty. In April 1953, he returned to the states and began a series of assignments in Air Defense Command (ADC).
He later served with the 5th Air Force in Japan and completed his Air Force career as the DCS/Operations, Headquarters 25th NORAD Region (ADC) at McChord AFB, Washington. Green retired on 1 April 1964, and then served on the International Group Staff for Hughes Aircraft Company. In 1996, he wrote an autobiography, Herky!, The Memoirs of a Checkertail Ace.
On the morning of 30 January 1944, Green led his squadron of P-47 "Checkertails" on a fighter sweep to northern Italy. Green spotted a large, loose, gaggle of Junkers JU-52 transports strung out for landing. Diving almost vertically from 20,000 feet, his flight screamed down to attack the JU-52s. He methodically downed four. After a brief engagement with Me-109s, Green downed a Macchi Ma-202 at extremely low altitude. Separated from his mates, he headed home, but spied an enemy bomber -- an easy victory. He had downed six on one mission!