George D. Wilson



Preferred Name: 
George

Nickname/Call Sign:

Date of Birth:

Highest Military Grade Held: Colonel

Hometown: Saranac, NY

Biography

George D. Wilson“We were all young and our hair was on fire”
Story by Betty Sandefur – originally published on TexVet.org, May 2, 2013
Saranac, New York … a small town in the Adirondack Mountains close to Lake Placid where the Winter Olympics have taken place twice and where the brilliant fall colors will simply knock your socks off … this was the birthplace of George D. Wilson, and where he grew up an only child.  After graduating from high school, George enrolled in Premed at Notre Dame.
Describing himself as one who always tried to look on the positive side of things … to see the best, George was also one who planned ahead. What he probably didn’t foresee was the callsign he would be tagged with when he flew the F-4 … Mad Dog.
“I wanted a backup career if I didn’t make it through premed at Notre Dame … which I didn’t,” he added, “so I also enrolled in the Air Force ROTC as a freshman. I learned to fly while in ROTC at Notre Dame. Took my first flight in a piper cub in Elkhart, Indiana, where I first soloed in 1959. I think I had about four or five hours in the piper cub.”
“After I graduated from Notre Dame in 1959,” he continued, “I went to graduate school for a year at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. I entered the Air Force in August of 1960 and went to Primary Pilot training in Marianna, Florida, at Graham AB. None of my high school or college friends came with me.”
During his 21-year Air Force career George Wilson was stationed at Graham AB, Marianna, Florida; Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma; Biggs AFB, El Paso, Texas; Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam. Luke AFB, Phoenix, Arizona; Homestead AFB, Homestead, Florida; Torrejon AB, Madrid, Spain; Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina; Clark AB, Philippine Islands; Reese AFB, Lubbock, Texas (twice); Hahn AB, Germany; and Bitbur g AB, Germany. His career also included TDY to various bases both in the United States and overseas.
Sitting with him at his kitchen table, I expressed amazement that he could still recall one-by-one all of the names of the young pilots, posed in front of the F-100. He studied the photo solemnly, naming every pilot (he is second to the left) … those who had been shot down … those who had died of illness … those who were terminally ill … how could he remember all of that?
“That’s the longest I had ever been with a bunch of guys,” he responded. “We were all young; our hair was on fire.”
“The F-100 was the first operational jet fighter I ever flew,” he continued. “It was my favorite.”
George went to Graham AB, in Marianna, Florida, in August 1960, where he flew the T-34 and T-37. He soloed in the T-37, his first jet, after about ten hours of dual time. After completing primary in December 1960, he went to Vance AFB, Oklahoma, for completion of Basic Flying Training. He flew the T-33 and graduated in September 1961.
“I volunteered to go to Vietnam while stationed at Biggs AFB in El Paso. I went TDY to Hurlburt Field in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, to check out in the T-28 and then went to the 1st Air Commando Squadron at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, in December 1963 … I spent New Year’s Eve drinking champagne out of a bottle in downtown Saigon,” he reminisced.
“South Vietnam was a beautiful country,” he continued. “There was a widespread French influence due to the fact that Vietnam was once French Indo-China. Saigon was a very pretty city.” On the wall behind his desk hung The Air Medal, The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Silver Star, and The Purple Heart. It was time for me to ask him the more difficult questions … how the war affected him, how he was injured, how he coped …
“I never let the war affect me personally,” he stated. “After I returned from a ‘non-combat’ mission with three bullet holes in my T-28, I took the attitude of ‘You shoot at me and I shoot at you’.”
“To this day I have never had any problem with the fact that I have killed many people, and some most likely innocent. I do pray for their souls occasionally,” he shared, “but the results of war and combat that I was part of while serving my country are just that … a result of war Silver Star and combat.”
“Most of my medals are the result of my time in Vietnam,” he said. “The Silver Star and Purple Heart are from one mission in July of 1964. I was wounded during a mission while dropping napalm and continued to attack the target until I was out of bombs and bullets.”
Shot in his left shoulder, the bullet went through the canopy Plexiglas, fragments of the canopy embedding in his shoulder. At the time he was by himself, referred to as an “Adviser” to the Vietnamese Air Force; beside him, a Vietnamese “trainer” who spoke no English. But he finished the mission.
“Because of weather, I had to divert to Saigon, where I went to the hospital and got fixed up; then flew back to Bien Hoa,” he said.
“How many nights were you in the hospital?” I asked.
“I didn’t stay!” he chuckled at the thought. “They fixed me up, and I flew back out that same day.”
 
The Air Medal … for meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight as a combat crew member … for airmanship and courage exhibited in the successful accomplishment of important combat support missions under extremely hazardous conditions … for outstanding proficiency and steadfast devotion to duty …
 
The Distinguished Flying Cross … for heroism in aerial flight … for providing air cover for the evacuation of wounded troups [sic]  and intercepting a Viet Cong battalion transporting high explosives during hours of darkness … for complete disregard of his own personal safety …
The Silver Star … for distinguishing himself by gallantry … over the Republic of South Vietnam … while flying a close support mission approximately 50 feet directly over a heavily fortified Viet Cong position … sustained hostile fire damage through the canopy and cockpit causing him to be momentarily blinded by shattered glass. … although in great pain and his aircraft badly damaged … elected to return to the area and direct additional strikes against the hostile forces during which time he received further injury … courageous and aggressive efforts …
The Purple Heart …
 
“The best thing I took away from the Air Force was how great it was being a fighter pilot and the missions and aircraft I was able to fly, as well as the friends I made … and many I still have today,” he said.
“The worst part,” he continued, “was how, toward the end of my career, everything seemed to change. Too much emphasis on things that didn’t matter and not enough emphasis on things that did, like being prepared to fight a war and getting the best possible equipment.”
Today, George Wilson and his wife Melanie reside in Sun City, where they stay very active. As one who considers Veteran Service Organizations to be healthy, George is a member of the Military Officers Association of America (http://www.moaa.org/), the American Legion (http://www.legion.org/), the Super Sabre Society, (https://www.supersabresociety.com/), the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (http://www.river-rats.org/index.php), and the Air Commando Association (http://www.aircommando.org/).
“I’m certainly not a hero by any means!” he said. “My injury was very insignificant! If I had been leaning back against the headrest, the bullet would have gone through my head … it must have been my lucky day!”
In closing, I’d like the share the first verse of “Hun Drivers in the Sky.”  Maybe you can sing along … (to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky)
First in the century series was a bird they called the Hun,
Its huge intake and swept-back wings, gave pilots flights of fun.
But the thing about that airplane, that really gave it poise,
Was the after burning engine, and its everlovin’ noise.
Now the cannons and wing stations, gave it wherewithal to kill,
And men by hundreds used those things, to fight with all their will.
So when you think F-Hundred, and the part it played in life,
Remember those you flew with, during all those days of strife.
— Words are by Bill Hosmer.

Units Assigned

  • AFROTC, Notre Dame
  • 8/1960 Primary Pilot Training, Graham AFB, FL (T-34, T-37)
  • 12/1960-9/1961 Basic Pilot Training, Vance AFB, OK (T-33)
  • 9/1961-12/1963 Biggs AFB, TX (T-28)
  • 12/1963 1st Air Commando Squadron, 306th, 307th and 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron/31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Bien Hoa AB, Vietnam (F-100)
  • 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron/401st Tactical Fighter Wing, Torrejon AFB, Spain
  • Shaw AFB, SC
  • Clark AB, Philippines
  • Reese AFB, TX
  • Hahn AB, Germany
  • Bittburg AB, Germany

Awards & Decorations

 Air Medal
 Silver Star
 Distinguished Flying Cross
 Purple Heart

Flight Info

F-100

Military Education

  • AF ROTC, Notre Dame

Civilian Education

  • 1959 PreMed, Notre Dame
  • 1960 Graduate School, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY
Biography

Biography

George D. Wilson“We were all young and our hair was on fire”
Story by Betty Sandefur – originally published on TexVet.org, May 2, 2013
Saranac, New York … a small town in the Adirondack Mountains close to Lake Placid where the Winter Olympics have taken place twice and where the brilliant fall colors will simply knock your socks off … this was the birthplace of George D. Wilson, and where he grew up an only child.  After graduating from high school, George enrolled in Premed at Notre Dame.
Describing himself as one who always tried to look on the positive side of things … to see the best, George was also one who planned ahead. What he probably didn’t foresee was the callsign he would be tagged with when he flew the F-4 … Mad Dog.
“I wanted a backup career if I didn’t make it through premed at Notre Dame … which I didn’t,” he added, “so I also enrolled in the Air Force ROTC as a freshman. I learned to fly while in ROTC at Notre Dame. Took my first flight in a piper cub in Elkhart, Indiana, where I first soloed in 1959. I think I had about four or five hours in the piper cub.”
“After I graduated from Notre Dame in 1959,” he continued, “I went to graduate school for a year at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. I entered the Air Force in August of 1960 and went to Primary Pilot training in Marianna, Florida, at Graham AB. None of my high school or college friends came with me.”
During his 21-year Air Force career George Wilson was stationed at Graham AB, Marianna, Florida; Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma; Biggs AFB, El Paso, Texas; Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam. Luke AFB, Phoenix, Arizona; Homestead AFB, Homestead, Florida; Torrejon AB, Madrid, Spain; Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina; Clark AB, Philippine Islands; Reese AFB, Lubbock, Texas (twice); Hahn AB, Germany; and Bitbur g AB, Germany. His career also included TDY to various bases both in the United States and overseas.
Sitting with him at his kitchen table, I expressed amazement that he could still recall one-by-one all of the names of the young pilots, posed in front of the F-100. He studied the photo solemnly, naming every pilot (he is second to the left) … those who had been shot down … those who had died of illness … those who were terminally ill … how could he remember all of that?
“That’s the longest I had ever been with a bunch of guys,” he responded. “We were all young; our hair was on fire.”
“The F-100 was the first operational jet fighter I ever flew,” he continued. “It was my favorite.”
George went to Graham AB, in Marianna, Florida, in August 1960, where he flew the T-34 and T-37. He soloed in the T-37, his first jet, after about ten hours of dual time. After completing primary in December 1960, he went to Vance AFB, Oklahoma, for completion of Basic Flying Training. He flew the T-33 and graduated in September 1961.
“I volunteered to go to Vietnam while stationed at Biggs AFB in El Paso. I went TDY to Hurlburt Field in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, to check out in the T-28 and then went to the 1st Air Commando Squadron at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, in December 1963 … I spent New Year’s Eve drinking champagne out of a bottle in downtown Saigon,” he reminisced.
“South Vietnam was a beautiful country,” he continued. “There was a widespread French influence due to the fact that Vietnam was once French Indo-China. Saigon was a very pretty city.” On the wall behind his desk hung The Air Medal, The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Silver Star, and The Purple Heart. It was time for me to ask him the more difficult questions … how the war affected him, how he was injured, how he coped …
“I never let the war affect me personally,” he stated. “After I returned from a ‘non-combat’ mission with three bullet holes in my T-28, I took the attitude of ‘You shoot at me and I shoot at you’.”
“To this day I have never had any problem with the fact that I have killed many people, and some most likely innocent. I do pray for their souls occasionally,” he shared, “but the results of war and combat that I was part of while serving my country are just that … a result of war Silver Star and combat.”
“Most of my medals are the result of my time in Vietnam,” he said. “The Silver Star and Purple Heart are from one mission in July of 1964. I was wounded during a mission while dropping napalm and continued to attack the target until I was out of bombs and bullets.”
Shot in his left shoulder, the bullet went through the canopy Plexiglas, fragments of the canopy embedding in his shoulder. At the time he was by himself, referred to as an “Adviser” to the Vietnamese Air Force; beside him, a Vietnamese “trainer” who spoke no English. But he finished the mission.
“Because of weather, I had to divert to Saigon, where I went to the hospital and got fixed up; then flew back to Bien Hoa,” he said.
“How many nights were you in the hospital?” I asked.
“I didn’t stay!” he chuckled at the thought. “They fixed me up, and I flew back out that same day.”
 
The Air Medal … for meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight as a combat crew member … for airmanship and courage exhibited in the successful accomplishment of important combat support missions under extremely hazardous conditions … for outstanding proficiency and steadfast devotion to duty …
 
The Distinguished Flying Cross … for heroism in aerial flight … for providing air cover for the evacuation of wounded troups [sic]  and intercepting a Viet Cong battalion transporting high explosives during hours of darkness … for complete disregard of his own personal safety …
The Silver Star … for distinguishing himself by gallantry … over the Republic of South Vietnam … while flying a close support mission approximately 50 feet directly over a heavily fortified Viet Cong position … sustained hostile fire damage through the canopy and cockpit causing him to be momentarily blinded by shattered glass. … although in great pain and his aircraft badly damaged … elected to return to the area and direct additional strikes against the hostile forces during which time he received further injury … courageous and aggressive efforts …
The Purple Heart …
 
“The best thing I took away from the Air Force was how great it was being a fighter pilot and the missions and aircraft I was able to fly, as well as the friends I made … and many I still have today,” he said.
“The worst part,” he continued, “was how, toward the end of my career, everything seemed to change. Too much emphasis on things that didn’t matter and not enough emphasis on things that did, like being prepared to fight a war and getting the best possible equipment.”
Today, George Wilson and his wife Melanie reside in Sun City, where they stay very active. As one who considers Veteran Service Organizations to be healthy, George is a member of the Military Officers Association of America (http://www.moaa.org/), the American Legion (http://www.legion.org/), the Super Sabre Society, (https://www.supersabresociety.com/), the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (http://www.river-rats.org/index.php), and the Air Commando Association (http://www.aircommando.org/).
“I’m certainly not a hero by any means!” he said. “My injury was very insignificant! If I had been leaning back against the headrest, the bullet would have gone through my head … it must have been my lucky day!”
In closing, I’d like the share the first verse of “Hun Drivers in the Sky.”  Maybe you can sing along … (to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky)
First in the century series was a bird they called the Hun,
Its huge intake and swept-back wings, gave pilots flights of fun.
But the thing about that airplane, that really gave it poise,
Was the after burning engine, and its everlovin’ noise.
Now the cannons and wing stations, gave it wherewithal to kill,
And men by hundreds used those things, to fight with all their will.
So when you think F-Hundred, and the part it played in life,
Remember those you flew with, during all those days of strife.
— Words are by Bill Hosmer.

Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

  • AFROTC, Notre Dame
  • 8/1960 Primary Pilot Training, Graham AFB, FL (T-34, T-37)
  • 12/1960-9/1961 Basic Pilot Training, Vance AFB, OK (T-33)
  • 9/1961-12/1963 Biggs AFB, TX (T-28)
  • 12/1963 1st Air Commando Squadron, 306th, 307th and 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron/31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Bien Hoa AB, Vietnam (F-100)
  • 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron/401st Tactical Fighter Wing, Torrejon AFB, Spain
  • Shaw AFB, SC
  • Clark AB, Philippines
  • Reese AFB, TX
  • Hahn AB, Germany
  • Bittburg AB, Germany

Awards & Decorations

 Air Medal
 Silver Star
 Distinguished Flying Cross
 Purple Heart

Flight Info

F-100

Military Education

  • AF ROTC, Notre Dame

Civilian Education

  • 1959 PreMed, Notre Dame
  • 1960 Graduate School, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY
Photos
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