Saturday, August 26, 2006

Frederick C 'Boots' Blesse 1921-2012

Major General "Boots" Blesse, a double ace with four combat tours in Korea and Vietnam, is the sixth-ranking US jet ace and one of the world’s premier jet tacticians. Born in 1921 in the Panama Canal Zone, he graduated from West Point in 1945 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant pilot in the US Army Air Force.
He flew the P-40, P-47, and F-80 fighters prior to his transition into the F-86 Sabre. With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Blesse eagerly volunteered for combat even though it meant leaving the F-86 jet for the prop-driven P-51 Mustang. He flew 67 air-to-ground combat missions in the P-51 and 35 additional missions in the F-80 Shooting Star before being reassigned to George AFB, California.
He immediately volunteered and was soon accepted for a second combat tour flying the F-86 in an air-to-air role. As a combat veteran in the spring of 1952, Blesse was given the position of operations officer for the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron. His guidance was simple--Get MiGs!--and under his aggressive leadership, the victory tally for the squadron grew steadily. By September, Blesse claimed his fifth aerial victory, making him the nineteenth ace of the Korean Conflict. Within the next month, he ran his total score to ten, including nine MiG-15s and one LA-9, and became America’s leading jet ace at the time.
After returning to the States in October 1952, he documented the lessons of air-to-air combat in No Guts, No Glory, a manual still used today by fighter pilots worldwide as a reference text on aerial employment techniques. Blesse’s superior flying skills were later evidenced when he flew an F-86F as a member of the Air Training Command Fighter Gunnery Team and won all six trophies awarded for individual performance in the 1955 meet--a feat which has never been equaled. He again volunteered for combat in 1967, and was assigned as the Director of Operations of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. In this capacity, Blesse flew 108 combat missions over North Vietnam and another 46 sorties in Laos and South Vietnam.
He later commanded the Air Force’s first F-111 wing and, returning to Vietnam, served as Assistant Director for Operations for Seventh Air Force. Just prior to his retirement as a major general in 1975, Blesse was the Deputy Inspector General of the Air Force. A command pilot with over 6,500 flying hours in fighter aircraft ranging from the P-40 to the F-15.