Joseph C. McConnell
|Joseph C. McConnell|
McConnell with his F-86, Beauteous Butch II, following his last mission in Korea
30 January 1922|
Dover, New Hampshire
|Died||25 August 1954
Edwards Air Force Base, California
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1942-1954|
|Battles/wars||World War II
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross
Joseph Christopher McConnell, Jr. (30 January 1922 – 25 August 1954) was the top American flying ace during the Korean War. A native of Dover, New Hampshire, Captain McConnell was credited with shooting down 16 MiG-15s while flying North American F-86 Sabres with the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star for his actions in aerial combat. McConnell was the first American triple jet-on-jet fighter ace and is still the top-scoring American jet ace.
World War II
During World War II, McConnell entered the U.S. Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet training program. His dream of becoming a pilot was dashed when, instead of being sent to pilot training, he was assigned to navigator training. After completing this course, he flew combat missions in Europe as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator navigator. He remained in the Army Air Forces after the war, eventually entering flight training. In 1948, McConnell finally achieved his goal of becoming a fighter pilot.
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. As the war continued to spread throughout the Korean peninsula, McConnell sought to become part of it. He was assigned to the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea in late 1952. Gifted with exceptional eyesight, McConnell proved to be an aggressive MiG hunter, but he did not shoot down his first enemy aircraft until the following year. He scored all of his victories during the four month period from 14 January to 18 May 1953.
Captain McConnell flew at least three different F-86 Sabres, all named "Beauteous Butch". The name referred to the nickname of his wife, Pearl "Butch" Brown. His first eight kills were scored in an F-86E-10 (serial number 51-2735, buzz number FU-735). The second was an F-86F-15 (serial number 51-12971, buzz number FU-971). McConnell was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire while flying this aircraft and he ejected over the Yellow Sea. (Other resources reveal that he was shot down by a Chinese pilot named Daoping Jiang instead.) Within a few minutes he was rescued by helicopter. The next day he returned to the air and shot down another MiG. His final combat Sabre was an F-86F-1 (serial number 51-2910, buzz number FU-910). This aircraft was repainted following his final mission, with the name being changed to "Beauteous Butch II".
On 18 May 1953, his last day of combat flying, McConnell shot down three MiGs during two separate missions, bringing his total victory count to 16 and making him America's first triple jet ace. Immediately after his 16th kill, McConnell was sent back to the United States, along with Manuel "Pete" Fernandez, the top ace of the 4th Fighter Wing. For his heroic combat exploits, McConnell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), America's second-highest decoration for valor.
After returning to his home in Apple Valley, California, McConnell was stationed at George Air Force Base and continued flying F-86s. On 6 August the people of Apple Valley gave a new home, the "Appreciation House", to Capt. McConnell. The house was completed in 45 hours with all land, material, and labor donated.
In 1954 he was temporarily assigned to the service test program for the new F-86H. This was the last and most powerful version of the Sabre, and was intended to be a nuclear-capable fighter-bomber. On 25 August 1954, while testing the fifth production F-86H-1-NA (serial number 52-1981) at Edwards Air Force Base, McConnell was killed in a crash following a control malfunction. The cause of the accident was attributed to a missing bolt. Then-Major Chuck Yeager was assigned to investigate the crash and replicated the malfunction at a much higher altitude. This height advantage allowed him to safely regain control of the aircraft before it hit the desert floor. The 1955 film The McConnell Story, starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson, chronicles his life story. The book Sabre Jet Ace (1959) by Charles Ira Coombs chronicled his experiences as a fighter pilot in Korea in a fictionalized biography for young readers.
In May 2008 Pearl McConnell, Beauteous Butch, died at the age of 86. She had never remarried and was buried with Captain McConnell.
- Farris, Phillip "Jet War." Air Force Magazine, Air Force Association, Volume 73, Number 6, June 1990. Archival retrieval: 10 July 2011.
- Gurney 1958, p. 248
- Shores 1975, p. 142.
- Shores 1975, p. 143.
- "The Crash of the F-86H: aka-'The McConnell Site', 25 August 1954." Check-Six.com, 11 July 2012. Retrieved: 13 May 2013.
- Coombs 1961, pp. 249–251.
- Baugher, Joe. "USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers – 1908 to Present", USAF Serials. Retrieved: 5 March 2011.
- Coombs, Charles. Sabre Jet Ace (The American Adventure Series). Evanston, Illinois, USA: Row, Peterson and OCmpany, 1961, First edition 1959.
- Davis, Larry. MiG Alley. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1978. ISBN 0-89747-081-8.
- Gurney, Gene. Five Down and Glory. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1958. ISBN 0-405-03764-3.
- Shores, Christopher. Fighter Aces. London: Hamlyn Publishing, 1975. ISBN 0-600-30230-X.
- Thompson, Warren. F-86 Sabre Aces of the 51st Fighter Wing. London: Osprey, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-995-9.
- The Crash of McConnell's F-86H
- Photograph of McConnell's Sabre showing the name "Beauteous Butch II", "Sabres and Aces", Air Force Magazine, September 2006, p. 85.
- Capt. Joseph McConnell; Account of McConnell's Korean War experiences, with photographs
- F-86H photograph from National Museum of the USAF