Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Greatest Pilots- Col. Bud Mahurin, USAF

A few weeks ago, Walker "Bud" Mahurin was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Bud Mahurin was considered one of the greatest fighter aces in history, much less in the United States Military. In his career, he shot down two dozen planes in two different wars. He was famous throughout the Air Force and known as a courageous, tenacious, and highly skilled pilot.Mahurin was the only Air Force fighter pilot to successfully down enemy combat aircraft in the both the European and Pacific theater as well as Korea. He went by the call sign Honest John and later wrote a book about his experiences in both WWII and the Korean War.

Walker Mahurin entered the Army Air Forces two months before Pearl Harbor after studying Engineering at Purdue University. He was assigned to a fighter group training in England. The young Mahurin had a bit of bad luck in the beginning. He flew too close to B-24 and hit its propeller, forcing him to ditch his P-47 Thunderbolt. But about a month later, he shot down two Nazi Fw-190s in August 1943. Two months later he had downed five, making him an ace. Like all of the pilots in the war, he flew a massive number of missions, and on one, he shot down three Messerschmidt Bf-110s. By the end of the year, he was the first Double Ace of the Allied forces in the European Theater.

Model of Captain Mahurin's P-47D, the Spirit of Atlantic City

He was shot down three times, once in Korea and twice during WWII. In March of 1944, he bailed out of a heavily damaged P-47 over Occupied France and ended up escaping back to Allied territory with the help of elements of the French Resistance. After his return, the Brass decided his knowledge of the Resistance was too great to risk him falling into enemy hands and he was grounded. He returned to air combat some months later in the Philippines, switching from the old and somewhat outdated P-47 to the much-loved P-51D Mustang. He ended the war with 20 aerial victories.

Lt. Col. Mahurin's F-86E Sabre in Korea

Bud served again in Korea and was downed three (and a half) enemy MiG-15s. Later in the war, he was again shot down. Captured by the communists, he was held in a POW camp for 16 months.

Mahurin went on to retire from the Air Force as a Colonel and work in the Aerospace industry. Amongst his other decorations, he earned the Distinguished Serving Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, The Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters.

"I was brought up in an age when flying was the only thing. We knew the value of being an ace, but you just didn't try to go out and become an ace. Mostly because, in my case, I was scared to death to begin with. I thought if I just get to meet an ace while on active duty, I'd be happy."

Bud Mahurin

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