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Top Ace

“I think I’m going to call you ‘Butch.’”

– Captain Joseph C. McConnell Jr.

“Why?”

– Pearl ‘Butch’ Brown

“Because when I look at you, you cut me into pieces.”

– Captain Joseph C. McConnell Jr.

May 18, 1953, Captain Joseph Christopher ‘Mac’ McConnell Jr. became the first triple ace of the Korean War after shooting down three MiG-15s (from the Russian term Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau) in two separate missions, bringing his total to 16. Along with being the first jet-on-jet fighter ace and ranked among the world aviation history’s top ten aces, he still holds the United States Military history record as “Top Ace.”

Born in Dover, New Hampshire, on January 30, 1922, McConnell enlisted in the First Infantry Division at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, in 1940, later transferring to the Air Corps. He was assigned to navigator school, effectively dashing his dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, and flew combat missions in Europe during World War II as the navigator on a B-24 Liberator.

After finally being cleared for flight training he achieved his goal in February of 1948 and sought assignment in the Korean War. Although he was originally told he was too old (he was 28) to become a fighter pilot, his persistence paid off and he joined the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in 1952. He flew at least three F-86 Sabre Jets, which he nicknamed “Beautious Butch” after his wife, Pearl “Butch” Brown.

Despite his skills he did not take down his first MiG until January 14, 1953. He became an ace within the month. He was shot down on April 12, 1953 and rescued by a helicopter from the Yellow Sea after safely ejecting. He achieved triple ace and top ace status over a four month period, from his first take down through his last flight on May 18, 1953. Immediately after his last flight he was sent back to the United States.

McConnell settled in Apple Valley, California, and continued his career doing flight tests, flying F-86s at George Air Force Base where he was stationed. He was testing the fifth production model of an F-86H while on temporary assignment with Edwards Air Force Base when he was killed in a control malfunction crash, caused by a missing bolt, in the Mohave Dessert on August 25, 1954.

McConnell was buried with full military honors in Victorville, California. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star for combat heroism, 4 Air Medals, a Distinguished Service Cross, the City of Dover’s recreational center was named in his honor, Charles Ira Coombs wrote a fictionalized biography and Hollywood memorialized him in “The MConnell Story,” a 1955 film starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson based on the biography.

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About Jenifer Chrisman

Jenifer joined the MWR Marketing team in 2011 as graphic designer. In 2014, she went back to her roots when she joined the Fort Gordon FYI Magazine team as a writer, along with her designer duties. As of 2015, she has created a series of briefs about the history, culture and traditions of the military called Culture.Mil, as well as writing various other pieces, including her favorite ... A Thin Line Of Many Colors.

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