USAF Ace LtGen Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland Joined SSS

cleveland1An Ace 50 Years in the Making | Before Top Gun, there was Lt. Gen. Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland. And unlike today’s era of unmanned predator drones, Cleveland was at the controls during the dawn of the jet age, engaged in aerial dogfights over the infamous “MIG Alley” during the Korean War. His designation of “ace” was not made official for more than 50 years, but thanks to a lifelong friend and a little help from the Soviet Union, Cleveland’s place among the flying stars was eventually assured. His biography, Once a Fighter Pilot, was published in 2012.

West Point | “When we graduated from West Point in 1949, there was no Air Force Academy, so 20 percent of the graduates went into the Air Force. And I was lucky enough to be in that group. I still remember my first jet flight. The instructor said, ‘On takeoff, keep your hands off the stick and just enjoy.’ We raced off into the Arizona afternoon and it was an exhilarating feeling.”

Korea | ”When I left Korea, I had four confirmed victories, two probables and four damaged. It took five confirmed victories to become an ace in the Korean War. But I didn’t get that fifth victory confirmed because my wingman had been killed, so he couldn’t give his statement.”

330px-Lieutenant_General_Charles_ClevelandThe Dogfight | “I hit him hard from close range, and he went into a vertical dive into the roll cloud of a towering thunderstorm. MiGs just didn’t do that. I couldn’t follow him and I didn’t see him bail out, explode or crash, which is necessary for a confirmed kill, but I know he never got out of that thing alive.”

Ace Delayed | “One of those two ‘probably destroyed’ was confirmed as a kill some 56 years later, with new evidence from Russian records. A friend of mine, Dolphin D. Overton, discovered the records in the National Archives. Of course they were in Russian and had to be translated.”

Xavier Connection | “When I came back stateside I was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base and took classes, commuting to Xavier.”

Vietnam | “I was Gen. Westmorland’s executive assistant for a year. That was the toughest year I spent in the service. Vietnam was a different war. All wars are terrible, but if you want to survive, you’ve got to fight ‘em and win ‘em.”

The Pentagon | “I served in the Pentagon from 1975-1979. My last assignment was as commander of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., home for all professional education for the Air Force.”

Retirement | “We retired in Alabama, and I was the director of the Montgomery-area United Way. I did that for seven years, and think I did the community some good. I have three volunteer jobs now—one is the president of Say No, an anti-drug coalition, the second is the president of the American Fighter Aces Association and the third is the Alabama World Affairs Council.”

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