Bud Mahurin

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Walker Melville Mahurin
Nickname(s) "Bud"
Born (1918-12-05)December 5, 1918
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Died May 11, 2010(2010-05-11) (aged 91)
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Years of service 1941 – 1956
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Unit 56th Fighter Group (USAAF)
Commands held 3rd Air Commando Group
1st Fighter Group
4th Fighter-Interceptor Group
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Air Medal (5)

Colonel Walker Melville "Bud" Mahurin (December 5, 1918 – May 11, 2010) was a United States Air Force (USAF) officer and aviator.[1] During World War II, while serving in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), he became a noted flying ace.

Mahurin was the first American pilot to become a double ace in the European Theater.[1] He was the only United States Air Force pilot to shoot down enemy planes in both the European and Pacific Theaters and the Korean War.[2] During World War II he was credited with 20.75 aerial victories, making him the sixth-highest American P-47 ace. He was credited with shooting down 3.5 MiG-15s in Korea, giving him a total of 24.25 aircraft destroyed in aerial combat.[1]


Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Mahurin joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet on September 29, 1941 after several years as an engineering student at Purdue University. He graduated from pilot training on April 29, 1942.

World War II[edit]

Captain Mahurin of the 56th Fighter Group standing on the port wing of his P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, conversing with its crew chief, Staff Sergeant John E. Barnes

Mahurin was assigned to the 63d Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, and deployed to England with them in January 1943. Based at Halesworth, England, then Captain Mahurin became a flight leader in the 63rd FS and began flying missions in May.

The first aircraft he downed was his own P-47 fighter. On a mission, he decided to inch closer and closer to within feet of one of the B-24 bombers he was escorting. When he tried to pull away, the tail of his airplane was shredded by one of the B-24's propellers, forcing him to bail out.[1]

On August 17, 1943, he scored his first aerial victories by shooting down a pair of German Focke-Wulf Fw 190s while escorting B-17 bombers as part of the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission. One of these fighters was flown by Major Wilhelm "Wutz" Galland, Gruppenkommandeur of II/JG 26, and an ace with some 55 claims to his credit. Mahurin became an ace on October 4 after shooting down three Messerschmitt Bf110s. On November 26, Mahurin shot down three more Bf-110s to become the first American pilot in the European Theater of Operations to score 10 aerial victories. His primary aircraft, P-47D-5-RE 42-8487, bore the squadron codes UN:M and was nicknamed The Spirit of Atlantic City, N.J. (The aircraft had been "bought" courtesy of war bonds purchased (to a value approximately equivalent to the cost of a fighter) by the citizens of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Consequently, the name painted on the aircraft was chosen by Atlantic City.)

Mahurin was promoted to major on March 21, 1944. On March 27, his P-47 was heavily damaged by a German Dornier Do-217 bomber he helped shoot down, forcing him to bail out. He was picked up by French Resistance forces. On the night of 3–4 May 1944, an RAF Westland Lysander attempted to retrieve Mahurin from France and fly him back to Britain. Before he could be picked up, the aircraft was shot down, and its pilot killed. The event was watched by Mahurin. The next attempt, again by a Lysander, on the night of May 6–7, was successful.[3] Because of his knowledge of the French Resistance, he was grounded and sent home.[4]

In October, he again shipped overseas as commander of the 3rd Fighter Squadron, the combat element of the composite 3rd Air Commando Group in the Philippines. While based at Mangaldan, Luzon, in January 1945 he was credited with destroying a Japanese bomber while flying a P-51 Mustang.[1][4] Mahurin was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 28, 1945, and became commander of the 3rd Air Commando Group in September 1945.

Korean War[edit]

At the start of the Korean War in 1950, Mahurin was serving in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. In July 1951, he became commander of the 1st Fighter Group, training in the North American F-86 Sabre. In December, he began a 90-day tour of temporary duty with the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, serving as special assistant to the wing commander, Colonel Francis S. Gabreski. He was credited with destroying one MiG-15 while serving with 51st FIW. Mahurin transferred to the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing on March 18, 1952, to command its 4th Fighter-Interceptor Group. He was credited with destroying two more MiG-15s. He flew a F-86E named "Honest John" while serving with both the fighter groups in Korea.

Prisoner of war[edit]

On May 13, 1952, while strafing a truck, his F-86 was shot down by North Korean ground fire; after crash-landing and breaking his arm, he was captured by enemy forces.[4] Mahurin spent 16 months in a North Korean prisoner of war (POW) camp. He endured torture that included intense questioning, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, threats of execution, and brainwashing.[1][4] While being questioned about claims of the United States' use of biological warfare, he admitted to dropping canisters of insects over North Korea. He was released in September 1953 and retracted his confession.

His experience in brainwashing techniques provided the U.S. with invaluable material to develop survival training courses. Nevertheless, he and other returning POWs were condemned by Senator Richard Russell, Jr. and others because of their confessions. He was subsequently promoted to full colonel.

Civilian life[edit]

In 1956, Mahurin resigned from the U.S. Air Force to accept a senior position in the aviation industry. While the Air Force attributed this to his own choice, stating he was low on the promotion list to permanent colonel and unlikely to make general, a pilot under his command in Korea, Robert Smith, asserts that the Air Force dishonored itself by pressuring Mahurin to resign from the service as a result of political infighting over the confessions, four years short of becoming eligible for retirement benefits.[5]

Mahurin died of "complications from a stroke"[1] at his home in Newport Beach, California, on May 11, 2010, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[4]

He married twice. His first marriage, to Patricia (nee Sweet), ended in a divorce. He was survived by his second wife, Joan (nee Gill), and two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.[1]

Aerial victory credits[edit]

Date # Type Location Aircraft flown Unit Assigned
August 17, 1943 2 Fw 190 Liège, Belgium P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
September 9, 1943 1 Fw 190 Beauvais, France P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
October 4, 1943 3 Bf 110 Düren, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
November 3, 1943 0.5 Bf 109 Esens, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
November 3, 1943 1 Bf 110 Juist, East Frisian Islands P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
November 26, 1943 3 Bf 110 Oldenburg, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
November 29, 1943 1 Bf 109 Papenburg, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
December 22, 1943 2 Bf 109 Hesepe, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
January 30, 1944 1 Ju 88 Quakenbrück, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
February 3, 1944 1 Bf 109 Ruhletwist, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
March 6, 1944 1 Fw 190 Wesendorf, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
March 8, 1944 2 Fw 190 Wesendorf, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
March 8, 1944 1 Ju 88 Wesendorf, Germany P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
March 27, 1944 0.25 Do 217 Chartres, France P-47D 63 FS, 56 FG
January 14, 1945 1 Ki-46 Dinah Luzon, Philippines P-51D 3 FS, 3 ACG
January 6, 1952 1 MiG 15 North Korea F-86E 51 FIW
February 17, 1952 1 MiG 15 North Korea F-86E 25 FIS, 51 FIW
March 5, 1952 1.5 MiG 15 North Korea F-86E 25 FIS, 51 FIW
SOURCES: Air Force Historical Study 85: USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II and Air Force Historical Study 81: USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, Korean War, Freeman, The Mighty Eighth

Awards and decorations[edit]

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png  Command pilot


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Shapiro, T. Rees (May 14, 2010). "Walker M. "Bud" Mahurin, a top flying ace, dies at 91". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ Childs, David (2010-06-10). "Colonel Bud Mahurin: Pilot who shot down enemies over both Europe and the Pacific in the Second World War and was a POW in Korea". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-06-12. 
  3. ^ Hugh Verity, We Landed by Moonlight, Crecy Publishing Ltd., 2000, pp. 167, 207, 230 ISBN 0947554 75 0
  4. ^ a b c d e Goldstein, Richard (May 15, 2010). "Bud Mahurin, Fighter Pilot in 2 Wars, Dies at 91". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ "Chapter 2: Aerial Combat". Robert W. Smith NF-104.com. Retrieved March 20, 2007.