Dick Niemela was “a pioneer in the advancement of jet aviation and gentleman farmer”.
Dick entered the U.S. Air Force in 1950. During the Korean War, he flew the F-100. In the Vietnam War, he flew the 01 Bird Dog as Forward Air Controller (FAC) leading the American Air Support for the 1st Australian Task Force. Dick was one of the pioneer pilots in jet aviation testing the F-86, F-100, and F-104 aircraft. In one test run over the Sierra Mountains in California, the F-104 malfunctioned and he managed the second successful downward ejection.
As one of the original F-104 pilots, he was signed into the Order of Starfighters International F-104 Society. In 1956, while stationed at Tactical Air Command at George Air Force Base, he flew the F-100C Super Sabre in the Bendix Trophy Race, from George Air Force Base, California to Will Rogers Air Field, Oklahoma.
He was a recipient of several medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal. John’s life was spent in service to his country and he retired from the Air Force in 1978 as a full colonel.
In retirement, Dick became a “gentleman farmer” in Virginia.
Source: The Washington Post (legacy.com)