Ollie Crawford is one of America's foremost advocates for a strong and modern United States Air Force! Born in Amarillo, Texas, in 1925, Crawford's desire to fly was whetted by Army Air Corps aircraft flying over his hometown early in World War II. At age 17, he volunteered to become an aviation student and began military training at Buckley Field, Colorado after turning 18. Crawford completed fighter pilot training at Luke Field, Arizona, and on 15 April 1945 earned his wings and commission. He next transitioned to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk four months before WWII ended.
In 1946, Crawford was released from active duty, but remained in the reserves for 13 years. His duties included flight instructor at Tinker Field, Oklahoma. He attended South Texas University of Law and later became associated with Time, Inc. Crawford was an officer and director of several companies owned by the corporation. He flew many company aircraft from the Douglas DC-3 to the Fokker F-27 and F-28. In 1974, he started TECOM, Inc. a Department of Defense contractor. In 1981, he founded two new companies, Crawford Technical Services and CTS Nevada. A charter member of the Air Force Association (AFA), the Air Force nominated Crawford for the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award in both 1987 and 1988. He was awarded its highest tribute when named "Man of the Year" in 1989. In 1990, he was elected President of AFA.
He formed the Air Force Memorial Foundation, instituted an AFA recognition program for members of Congress who supported a strong national defense, and another for executives from the aerospace industry. In 1992, Crawford received the Air Force's Exceptional Service Award for his contributions to defense. Key to this award was the AFA role in the education of members of Congress on stealth technology. Internationally, West Germany awarded him its highest civilian honor, the Commander's Cross of The Order of Merit. Crawford convinced the USAF to officially recognize the contributions made by the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the "Flying Tigers," during WWII.
The Air Force presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the AVG in 1992. In 1996, AVG pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross and all other Flying Tigers were awarded the Bronze Star. In addition to his accomplishments as a business and civic leader, Crawford has flown nearly 100 types of civilian aircraft and, has more than 13,000 hours in his log books. He is the only P-40 pilot from WWII who still pilots the Warhawk in airshows! He is vice chairman of the Air Force Memorial Foundation and a trustee of the Falcon Foundation of the Air Force Academy. Crawford and his wife, Nancy, live in the hill country of central Texas.
At an airport just north of Dallas, nearly 500 people searched the sky, when suddenly a replica of a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero roared overhead trailing oily white smoke. Two Curtiss P-40 Warhawks jousted for firing position. The crowd included most of the surviving members of the famed Flying Tigers. It was 7 December 1996 and "Ollie" Crawford was flying a P-40 painted in the markings of his friend, "Tex" Hill. After 55 years, the men and women of the American Volunteer Group were being honored officially for their role in winning WWII.