"The ordinary air Fighter is an extraordinary man and the extraordinary air Fighter stands as one in a million among his fellows."
PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT
A HERO'S ACTION IS ALWAYS EXTRAORDINARY
A hero’s action is always extraordinary because it is so contrary to the basic human instincts of self-preservation and survival. For the Ace fighter pilot it was often kill or be killed. The men whose images and stories will be included in
Wings of Valor: Honoring America’s Fighter Aces
reflect the courage and determination it takes to get no less than five enemy“kills” in aerial combat. These men distinguished themselves as Navy, Marines, U.S. Army Air Corps and Air Force pilots who had the courage to pursue their enemy with aggression, agility and precision.
The American Fighter Ace stands alone as an extraordinary man who has distinguished himself among the elite in aerial combat. Throughout aviation history during World War II, Korea and Vietnam these heroic pilots possessed the skill, fortitude and courage to survive combat missions and return home. To fly in combat may seem exciting and noble, but it was also extremely dangerous and deadly. All fighter pilots, regardless of their personal victory tallies, are deserving of great respect and credit for what they endured.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact qualities that separate a good fighter pilot from a great fighter pilot.
But, it has been said - it takes a fighting inner spirit and a motivation and determination to survive and succeed at any cost, with a measure of opportunity and luck added to the mix.
Of the hundreds of Aces who have served their country since the early days of flight, fewer than 90 remain alive today. In a short few years their historic lives will be a memory - a footnote to our nation’s rich aviation heritage. Now is the time to enshrine these aviators so that their legacy might live on.
Wings of Valor: Honoring America’s Fighter Aces will immortalize the men whose incredible bravery and skill flying fighter planes is the very embodiment of the term Ace. Their images and stories are as diverse as America itself. Today, these men will tell you that they are proud Americans who are caretakers of freedom. They have been to the edge and have lived to tell their story.
It is rare that a media project comes along that so fully conveys the human qualities that characterize America’s aviation elite. Through exceptional images and poignant stories, Wings of Valor: Honoring America’s Fighter Aces, speaks to the very core of enduring American experiences.
A Message To Our Supporters:
Thank you for stopping by the Wings of Valor website to learn more about our project and its historical purpose.
Four years ago, I became aware of the American Fighter Aces Association, an exclusive and elite group of aviators who have been designated as Aces after downing at least 5 enemy aircraft. This group has had virtually little recognition, and my colleague Peter Collier and I were inspired to produce a commemorative book of comparable stature to our previous collaboration, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty.
The most significant challenge has been the “race against time” to complete the portraits and stories before this aging group of heroes pass on. Since my first image was created for the project in 2012, the number of living Aces has dwindled from 160 to fewer than 80 today, diminished by half. Most of the remaining Aces are in their 90s.
The good news is that the book has gone to the publisher, U.S. Naval Institute Press, for production. It has been a wonderful experience for both Peter and I to work with these men, and we both are grateful for the experience.
We anticipate that the book will be published in late fall of this year. Please look for more updates on the website as we move closer to the date. If you would like to read a sample of the stories contained in the book, click here to download the sample.
Nick Del Calzo
UPDATE June 9, 2016: Great news! The Wings over the Rockies Museum will be hosting a gala to honor the Aces! The date will be in Denver, Colorado. Please visit their website for more details as they develop.
“The closest modern equivalent to the Homeric hero is the Ace fighter pilot.”
W. H. AUDEN