Museum Of Flight Presents A Panel Of World War II Veteran Pilots <


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Museum Of Flight Presents A Panel Of World War II Veteran Pilots

By Daniel Baxter

March 22, 2010 -The Museum of Flight is home to the American Fighter Aces Association, an organization formed by true American heroes spanning from WWI through the Vietnam conflict. Several times a year, the Museum hosts a panel of these veteran pilots, whose historical actions helped to protect American freedoms during times of conflict.

On March 27 at 2 p.m., The Museum of Flight presents a panel of World War II veteran pilots including eight-aerial combat victory Ace James Tapp; 13-victory Ace Clyde East; 13-victory Ace James Brooks; and Distinguished Service Cross recipient, two-victory fighter pilot James Kunkle.

Kunkle was one of three American D-Day veterans personally honored by President Barack Obama and French President Sarkozy in ceremonies at Normandy, France in June 2009. The program is in the WilliamM.AllenTheater, and is free with admission to the Museum.

Col. James B. Tapp, U.S. Air Force - Tapp is a native of Eveleth, Minn. He completed primary and secondary Civilian Pilot Training Programs in June 1941, and became an Aviation Cadet in the Army Air Corps on Nov. 7, 1941. He joined the 78th Fighter Squadron of the Seventh Fighter Command in Hawaii, and remained with the unit for the next three years.

President Obama greets veteran James Kunkle at D-Day ceremonies in Normandy, France, June 2009.
Tapp was involved with missions defending Iwo Jima and group support of the Marines. Missions also include fighter sweeps to Japan and escorting B-29 bombers flying P-51s. On his first escort mission, Tapp earned aerial combat victories against a twin-engine Japanese fighter and three single-engine types. He earned two more victories on escort missions and two during fighter sweeps. While leading 150 P-51 Mustangs escorting the B-29 raid against Yokohama, Tapp repelled numerous enemy passes and earned another victory against a Japanese Zero fighter despite having mechanical difficulties with the guns on his Mustang.

After the War, Tapp spent the rest of his 30-year career with the Air Force in the areas of research and development and test flying. He now lives in Fort Collins, Colo. Lt. Col. Clyde B. East, U.S. Air Force - A Virginia state native, East joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in June 1941, and was stationed with the 414 RCAF Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in May 1943. He completed his combat tour with the RCAF in December of that year, transferring to the U.S. Air Force in January 1944.

He remained with the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, until the end of the war in Europe. During this time he flew over 200 combat missions in RF-51 fighters and earned 13 aerial victories, most of them against German Me-109s and Fw-190 fighter aircraft. East remained with the Air Force after World War II. He flew jets during the Korean War, retired from the Air Force in 1965 and joined the Rand Corporation. East was honored at Veterans Day ceremonies at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library--where East is a Docent--on Nov. 11, 2009, and was introduced as the "Reagan Library's Own American Hero." East now lives in Oak Park, Calif.

Capt. James L. Brooks, U.S. Air Force - A native of Roanoke, Virginia, James L. Brooks entered the Air Force in 1942. He flew P-39s and P-40s in Panama before joining the 31st Fighter Group in Italy in early 1944. The 31st was assigned to the 15th Strategic Air Force for escorting bombers deep into Europe and the Balkans. Brooks recorded his first aerial combat victory over Ploesti, Romania in April 1944.

While on a special mission from Russi to Lvov, Poland, Brooks led the 307th Fighter Squadron during an engagement of 40 JU-87 Stuka dive bombers. The squadron destroyed 27 aircraft. For this mission the 31st received its second Unit Citation and Brooks received the Silver Star. In September 1944 he ended his tour with 280 combat hours and 13 confirmed aerial combat victories-most of them being against Me-109s.

During the Korean War Brooks participated in the first "big, all-jet battle" 42,000 feet over the Yalu River, involving 12 enemy MIGs and four U.S. F-86s. Brooks resigned from the Air Force in 1951, becoming an engineering test pilot for North American Aviation. He was one of the founders and the first president of the Fighter Aces Association, and a past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. His war decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross/One Oakleaf Cluster, Air Medal/20 Oakleaf Clusters, and Unit Citation/One Oakleaf Cluster. Brooks now lives in Los Angeles, Calif.

Lt. James K. Kunkle, U.S. Air Force - James K. Kunkle, was a P-38 and P-51 fighter pilot credited with two aerial combat victories. He joined the 401st Fighter Squadron, 370th Group of the 9th Air Force and carried out 36 combat missions in support of the Normandy Landing operations and bombing missions in Germany and the Ardennes. After taking off from Roye/ Amy, 26 miles southeast of Amiens on Sept. 16, 1944, he was attacked near Aachen, Germany, after having attacked two enemy aircraft in order to protect the formation in which he was flying.

He was badly burned but was able to open his parachute and was rescued by soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1st Division. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross. Kunkel was one of three American D-Day veterans honored by President Barack Obama and French President Sarkozy in ceremonies at Normandy, France in June 2009. He has also been nominated by the French government to receive the rank of Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor. Kunkle lives in Santa Barbara, California.

The citation for the DSC reads: "The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to James K. Kunkle (0-763232), Second Lieutenant (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-38 Fighter Airplane in the 401st Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group, NINTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 16 September 1944, during an air mission over Aachen, Germany.

On this date, while flying as rear man in a squadron on an armed reconnaissance mission, Lieutenant Kunkle noticed that his squadron was about to be surprised by a vastly superior force of enemy aircraft. Unable to summon his leader on the radio, he alone unhesitatingly pulled away from his formation and vigorously attacked the enemy, immediately destroying one of his aircraft. In so doing, Lieutenant Kunkle placed himself in a position to be attacked from the rear and above.

When this attack materialized, many hits were registered on his aircraft which caught fire burning his face, neck, and hands. Despite his burning plane and the gunfire from enemy planes, Lieutenant Kunkle continued his attack against the vastly superior enemy force and succeeded in destroying a second enemy aircraft, breaking off combat only when forced to parachute to safety when his left fuel tank exploded. Second Lieutenant Kunkle's unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 9th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces."

The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the William E. Boeing Red Barn the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing displays 28 World War I and World War II aircraft from the United States and other countries including Germany, Russia, and Japan.

Over 30 aircraft representing the first century of aviation are displayed in the all-glass T.A. Wilson Great Gallery. The evolution of space flight and a look into the future are presented in the exhibit, Space: Exploring the New Frontier. The Airpark includes outdoor displays including the first jet Air Force One, a supersonic Concorde airliner and the prototype Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Interactive displays in The Flight Zone provide educational and entertaining activities for young children.

The Museum's aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. More than 140,000 students are served annually by the Museum's on-site and outreach educational programs--the most extensive museum-based youth aviation and space education program in the country. The Museum is the only air and space museum in Washington State that is both nationally accredited with the American Association of Museums and a Smithsonian affiliate.

The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 on Boeing Field half-way between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for active military, $8 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720.

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