Ralph D. “Hoot” Gibson is one of the few “MiG killers” to become an Ace in Korea. He joined US Army Air Force in 1943 and graduated from flying training in 1944 as a flight officer. He did not fly combat in World War II, but observed the devastation and rebuilding of Japan while serving 2 years with occupying forces. In 1946, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and, in 1948, he returned to the States for tours in Iowa and Illinois.
Next, Gibson attended the Armament System Officers Course at Lowry AFB, Colorado. He then went to the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, where he received his first taste of jets, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. In June 1950, he wangled an assignment to the famed 4th Fighter Group just transferring to combat in Korea. In the Far East, he was assigned to Johnson Air Base in Japan and to Suwon and Kimpo Air Bases in Korea. Flying the North American F-86 Sabre, he destroyed 5 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15s, plus claimed 2 probables and 3 damaged, in 94 missions. He returned to the States for a goodwill tour, which included a parade honoring him in his hometown of Mt. Carmel, Illinois.
After returning to combat in Korea, Gibson was assigned to Oscoda AFB (later Wurtsmith AFB), Michigan. There he met and married his wife of 43 years, Donna. In January 1954, Gibson was reassigned to the 36th Fighter Day Wing at Bitburg AB, Germany. He served as Operations Officer for the 23rd Fighter Day Squadron, while the unit transitioned from the F-86 to the North American F-100 Super Sabre. He spent a lot of time flying over France, Germany, and Libya. The Gibson’s first son, Layton Scott, was born in Germany and was named after Gibson’s wingman, Larry Layton, who was shot down in Korea.
Next, the Gibsons went to Nellis AFB, Nevada. In 6 years at Nellis, Gibson held several posts, including Director of Academics, Director of Maintenance, and Director of Operations for the newly revamped Fighter Weapons School. He was also Commander of the 21st Fighter Training Squadron, and Commander/Leader of the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team. During his 2-year “Thunderbird” tour, Gibson was on the road 650 days, flew 180 shows, and visited 40 states and 14 Central and South American countries. From Nellis, Gibson was sent to United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) Headquarters at Wiesbaden, Germany.
He served as Chief of the Tactical Fighter Branch. After returning to the United States for a nine-month course at Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, he moved to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. There he transitioned from the F-100 to the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II. In December 1967, he returned to combat in Southeast Asia as Commander of the 433d Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon AB, Thailand. After flying 105 combat missions from Ubon, he rejoined his family in Arizona. Gibson next served 2 years as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 4453d Combat Crew Training Wing.
In December 1971, he was sent to Langley AFB, Virginia, for 2 years with the TAC Inspector General. After this, the Gibsons moved to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of Ninth Air Force. Gibson retired in 1974 and returned to Arizona, where he is now a real estate broker. Among the many decorations he wears are the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star for Valor, and 14 air medals.