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Ralph Parr - FU Hero

Posted by Jolly on November 14, 2012


Ralph Parr, a double ace in the Korean War and one of the most decorated military pilots in U.S. history, will soon “fly west,” as military aviators say when a friend is
near death. As Americans gather for parades, concerts and ceremonies this Veterans Day, Parr is terminally ill with cancer. His longtime friend and air-to-air flying companion, Frederick “Boots” Blesse, another double ace in Korea, died last month.

Today’s increasing use of remotely piloted aircraft and advances in technology parr3.jpghave all but eliminated the kind of gutsy, instinctive flying that made them legends among veterans and young aviators, said Gary Baber, a friend and former Vietnam pilot.

“A glorious chapter in aviation history is coming to a close. With modern technology, we will not see the like of Ralph Parr and Boots Blesse again,” said Baber, who visits Parr at an assisted living facility in New Braunfels, bringing him a chocolate milkshake once a week.

In one of his last interviews, Parr, 88, recalled his first flight as a boy; the downing of a Russian transport on the last day of the Korean War; and lessons he taught to younger pilots in Vietnam, even while being scolded by commanders for “flying too much.”

“I enjoyed flying whatever airplane I was sitting in,” said Parr, who also flew in the Pacific during World War II.

Parr, a longtime New Braunfels resident and retired Air Force colonel, flew moreparr1.jpg than 640 combat missions in three wars and received more than 60 citations. He’s the only person to receive the Distinguished Service Cross and the medal that replaced it in 1960: the Air Force Cross. He’s one of only a few fighter aces still living in the San Antonio area, Baber said. Ralph Sherman Parr Jr., born July 1, 1924, in Portsmouth, Va., got his first taste of flying as a gift for his fifth birthday from his father, a Navy pilot. Even while being treated for cancer that spread from his lungs to his liver, he recalled moving the control stick of an open-cockpit Navy floatplane over Manila Bay.

“It sort of hooks me intensely” to think about it, he said.

Parr enlisted in 1942 and later recalled seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki smoldering after atomic bombs were dropped on them to end World War II.

His actions in Korea, where he was often outnumbered by enemy aircraft, made him a legend among U.S. fliers. Bob Laymon, a friend and military historian, said Parr faced off with 16 Russian MiG-15 fighters one day; he shot down two and damaged a third.

“In his words, he surrounded the 16 MiGs,” Laymon said.

Parr and Blesse, who died Oct. 31 and was eulogized at a funeral last week Nov.8 in Florida, had trained together at Nellis AFB, Nev., going “one on one” in F-86 Sabres, a quick, agile aircraft that performed exceptionally.

“We spent a lot of time weighing the maneuverability of the fighters we were using,” said Parr, who keeps a framed copy of a painting of Blesse shooting down a MiG in the room where he’ll likely spend his last days.

parrf86.jpgIn the final seven weeks of the war in 1953, Parr destroyed 10 enemy aircraft in 30 missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after he confronted 10 MiGs, shooting down two before escorting a distressed friendly aircraft back to his base.

Parr was credited with the last kill of the war July 27, 1953, when he fired his guns at a Russian Ilyushin IL-12 twin-engine transport carrying officials over North Korea just hours before an armistice ended the war. While details were never officially released, unconfirmed reports have circulated among retired pilots that the incident infuriated the Russians, who were said to have had dozens of military VIPs aboard the plane.

Parr said he has “unofficially” heard similar accounts over the years. When the incident first occurred, he was “ordered not to tell a soul.”

“Someone said, ‘Why don’t we call it a MiG?’ I said, ‘Why don’t we just tell the truth?” said Parr, who has always maintained that he confirmed through his flight leader that the craft was in restricted airspace.

“They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing,” Parr said. He said he was proud that he “stayed in fighters and tried to teach” younger pilots in Vietnam. He remembered a call from Gen. Lucius D. Clay Jr., 7th Air Force commander, who bellowed, “My staff tells me you’re flying too much.”

“That’s fine by me, General; I’ll go any way you want,” Parr recalled saying before pointing out the statistics.

“I said our loss rate dropped drastically, our success rate on sorties was improved and our relations with guys on the ground have vastly improved,” he added. Parr received the Air Force Cross for protecting a supply corridor to Khe Sanh. He destroyed mortar positions and heavy-caliber weapons positions, in spite of heavy fire that damaged his F-4C Phantom II.

He retired in 1976 and moved to New Braunfels, where he has lived with his wife, Margaret. In 2008, Randolph AFB renamed its officers’ club, now called the Parr O’Club, in honor of one of the last of a vanishing breed of veterans.

Parr remained weak and frail last week, but was thinking and speaking clearly, despite having probably days or weeks to live, Baber said.

“He wants to be remembered,” he said.

Throw A Nickel On The Grass

Say what you will about him: arrogant, cocky, boisterous, and a fun loving fool to boot. He has earned his place in the sun. Across the span of 95 years he has given his country some of its proudest moments and most cherished military traditions. But fame is short-lived and little the world remembers. 

Almost forgotten are the 1400 fighter pilots who stood alone against the might of Hitler's Germany during the dark summer of 1940 and gave, in the words of Winston Churchill, England "It's finest hour." Gone from the hardstands at Duxford are the 51's with their checkerboard noses that terrorized the finest fighters the Luftwaffe had. Dimly remembered, the Fourth Fighter Group that gave Americans some of their few proud moments in the skies over Korea. How fresh in recall are the Air Commandos who valiantly struck the VC with their aging "Skyraiders" in the rain and blood soaked valley called A-Shau? And how long will be remembered the "Phantoms" and "Thuds" over "Route Pack Six" and the flack-filled skies over Hanoi? 

Barrel Roll, Steel Tiger, Tally Ho. So here's a "Nickel on the Grass" to you, my friend and your spirit, enthusiasm, sacrifice, and courage--but most of all, to your friendship. Yours is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place!
                                                                                              Friar Tuck




Posted by LurchD on
Great writeup, Jolly.

Posted by Duke on
What Lufch said. I worked for Boots for a few months. He was a great guy. I knew of Parr, but never met him. I never flew with Gen Clay nor do I know what or if he flew. But he was a gentleman.
Posted by Billy on
These men will be greatly missed....
Posted by MelissaParr on
Ralph is my grandfather, and I am so proud of him and what he has done. He is a GREAT MAN!
Posted by oleg on
MelissaParr -а вы знаете , что он в последний день войны в Корее сбил мирный ИЛ-2 с 24 мирными жителями, рабочими.И он знал об этом!Он -убийца!!!.И его место в АДУ!
Posted by oleg on
вот как рас -10 ти по МИГ и есть этот ИЛ-2.Вот интересно , как он жил все время? По ночам к нему убитые рабочие не приходили.???
Posted by oleg on
Парр-ублюдок и я надеюсь , что эта мразь горит в аду.Вместе с теми кто сбросил бомбы на Японские города.
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