Airmen Honor Legendary Fighter Pilot

Betty Blesse, wife of retired Maj. Gen. Frederick “Boots” Blesse, stands with Lt. Col. Donn Yates after the unveiling of her late husband’s monument during a memorial dedication ceremony, June 27, 2014, on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- The pursuit of excellence is reflected in the Air Force core values and is an integral part of each Airman's service.

Current and former Airmen alike assembled to posthumously recognize the accomplishments of retired Maj. Gen. Frederick "Boots" Blesse, an Air Force ace pilot, during a memorial dedication ceremony June 27, at the 334th Fighter Squadron here.

According to those who knew and served with Blesse, he exemplified excellence.

Due to his distinguished career and legacy, 334th FS officials said it was only fitting they create a memorial commemorating the accomplishments of their former ace pilot.

During the ceremony Blesse's widowed wife, Betty, joined Lt. Col. Donn Yates, the current 334th FS commander, to unveil a memorial statue in Blesse's honor. The nearly 6-foot tall stone monument, which stands at the entrance of the 334th FS building, depicts a bust of Blesse and the reminder 'No Guts, No Glory.'

"We established this memorial to remind our incoming students as well as our outgoing graduates that it is our warrior spirit that will often be decisive in any future conflict," Yates said. "Their mindset must rely on the training they received here as well as their aggressiveness during the performance of their duties."

Blesse made a name for himself while serving as the operations officer of the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron during the Korean War. During his voluntary assignment at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, the then major revolutionized the air-to-air combat tactics of the squadron. At the conclusion of his tour, Blesse was widely recognized as one of the Air Force's top aces, having destroyed or irreparably damaged more than 15 enemy aircraft. He went on to serve more than 30 years in the Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam, before retiring as the Air Force' deputy inspector general. He passed away in October 2012.

The ceremony also featured a flyover consisting of current and past aircraft assigned to the wing. Two F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flew over the dedication ceremony, followed by two F-4 Phantoms II aircraft, to honor Blesse, who flew the Phantom II during his tour in Vietnam.

"The legacy of General Blesse is something for us to look up to and try to emulate in our careers," said 1st Lt. Joshua Judy, a 334th FS pilot in training. "Flying with the 334th and knowing what he's done for our squadron's history, it gives me pride to know where we came from and the leaders that were here before us."

Yates said he hopes that the memorial will serve as a motivator to those who serve in the squadron in the future as well as a reminder of how much Blesse has done for the Air Force.

"General Blesse is precisely the type of warrior we seek to emulate and produce in our students," Yates added. "This monument will serve as a lasting testament of General Blesse's life and service and will inspire Airmen for generations to come. We will all remember his legacy of excellence."

Betty also expressed her gratitude for her husband's recognition.

"I'm so humbled to be here," Betty said. "To think they would do all this to recognize my husband is amazing. I know he would have loved it."

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