WASHINGTON -- An Air Force legend was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery March 22, officially "flying west".
Retired Maj. Gen. Frederick "Boots" Blesse, a double ace pilot, passed away Oct. 31, 2012. He retired from the Air Force April 1, 1975, and into his final days, the Air Force was a consistent part of his life.
"He lived and breathed the Air Force until the day he flew west," said Betty Blesse, Boots' widow, who speaks about her late husband with great pride.
Blesse began his military career when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., in June 1945 with a rating as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
During Blesse's second deployment, he was credited with shooting down nine MiG-15s and one LA-9 aircraft, according to his official biography. He was the Air Force's leading jet ace when he returned to the United States in October 1952.
After almost 30 years in the Air Force, the general earned many distinguished medals including the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star and Legion of Merit all with one oak leaf cluster. His highest ranking medal was awarded Dec. 3, 1998, for actions taken Sept 8, 1952 -- the Distinguished Service Cross.
Below is an excerpt from his Distinguished Service Cross narrative.
"Leading a flight of four F-86s protecting fighter bombers from possible attack by enemy MIGs, Major Blesse positioned his flight for an attack on four sighted MIGs. Singling out one of the MiGs, Major Blesse followed it up into an overcast and broke out between layers of clouds. As the two aircraft emerged from the clouds, Major Blesse was still in position, so he closed and fired, causing the MIG to burst into flames and the pilot to eject himself. Major Blesse then sighted a lone MiG and positioned himself for another attack. The MIG began violent, evasive maneuvers, but through superior airmanship Major Blesse scored hits, causing the MiG to snap and spin. Major Blesse followed closely until the MiG recovered. He then scored hits with another long burst which caused the pilot to eject himself. Through his courage, keen flying ability and devotion to duty, Major Blesse reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces and the United States Air Force."
Blesse joined good company in Arlington. According to Betty, Boots wanted to be buried at the same cemetery his father, a retired brigadier general, is resting.
"He wanted to be near his father," said Betty, who was married to Boots for 31 years. His father also holds a place in history. He "was the lead investigator during the famous General Patton slap."
During World War II, then Lt. Gen. George S. Patton contributed to an event that has become famous through the years - he slapped a Solider, accusing him of being a coward.
Fit for the occasion, pilots from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., flew a four-ship F-15E Strike Eagles over the internment -- the same unit that Boots often spoke at.
"He was an Eagle guy," Betty said. "It would mean a lot to him for them to say goodbye to him, and it certainly means a lot to me. It's fitting."