Eagle Profile

Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland was born in 1927 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1945. Graduating in 1949, he chose to become an aviator and earned his pilot wings at Williams AFB, Arizona. He was first assigned to the 31st Strategic Fighter Wing at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia flying the F-84 Thunderjet. Cleveland was introduced to combat in 1952 and served as a wingman and later a flight commander flying the F-86 Sabre with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea. Within eight weeks of becoming a flight commander, he had already scored four MiG-15 kills. On 21 September, Lieutenant Cleveland’s flight engaged another flight of MiGs. Cleveland maneuvered into the MiG’s six o’clock and fired his .50 caliber machine guns, scoring hits on one of them in the tail pipe, engine, and right wing. Within seconds, there was an explosion, the MiG sprouted a trail of smoke and began falling. At that moment, his flight was being attacked by two other MiGs, so Cleveland broke off the engagement. He never observed the MiG crash, so he did not claim it as his fifth victory. He left Korea with four confirmed and two probable kills. Shortly after returning from Korea, Cleveland was stationed with the 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, where he was the project officer for the unit’s conversion to the F-101 Voodoo. From 1962 to 1963, he commanded the 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Station Bentwaters. On 10 August 1962, Cleveland became the first pilot to achieve the 1000-flying-hour mark in the Voodoo. In 1966-67, he served as the Executive Assistant to General Westmoreland, Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, and later as Commander, 3535th Navigator Training Wing at Mather Air Force Base, California. Following tours at Headquarters, Air Training Command and the Pentagon, he returned to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas as Vice Commander, Air Training Command. Lieutenant General Cleveland’s capstone military assignment was as Commander, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama from July 1981 to August 1984. He retired with over 4500 flying hours and 145 combat missions in Korea and South Vietnam. Fifty-five years after his aerial victories in Korea, with the help of his friend and Korean War ace Dolph Overton, Lieutenant General Cleveland finally gained official recognition by the U.S. Air Force as a fighter ace. With the de-classification of Soviet records in 2003, Overton discovered the Soviet records at the National Archives and found the Soviets’ account of the events on 21 September, 1952. With those records, as well as the testimonies of Cleveland’s wingman that day, Don Pascoe, and his former operations officer, Frederick “Boots” Blesse, they successfully petitioned the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. In January, 2008, the Air Force awarded Cleveland credit for one of his two probable victories and officially recognized him as the Air Force’s 40th jet ace. Lieutenant General Cleveland currently serves as president of the American Fighter Aces Association. He lives in Montgomery, Alabama.  Lieutenant General Cleveland was selected as an inaugural eagle of the Air Command and Staff College’s Gathering of Eagles in 1992 and was subsequently honored in 2010.

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1992 Lithograph
2010 Lithograph

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On 5 August 1952, Lieutenant Charles G. Cleveland and his wingman, flying F-86s, sighted two MiG-15s at 7000 feet, near the Yalu River. Lieutenant Cleveland met his adversary in a left-to-left pass and opened fire when he maneuvered to the MiG's "6." Taking heavy hits in the fuselage, the MiG pilot made a fatal error by reversing and starting a right climbing turn. Cleveland "saddled up and put several more rounds in to the MiG. When the engine section exploded at 11,000 feet, the pilot wisely ejected. This marked the first of four confirmed MiG-15 kills Cleveland would score over North Korea.

Lieutenant General Charles G. "Chick" Cleveland's distinguished Air Force career spanned nearly four decades. Within months of joining the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, he scored four MiG-15 kills. He left Korea with four confirmed and two probable kills--one confirmed victory short of becoming an ace. In 2008, the Air Force awarded Lieutenant General Cleveland credit for one of his two probable victories in Korea and officially recognized him as the Air Force's newest ace.