David C. Schilling

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David C. Schilling
Birth name David Carl Schilling
Born (1918-12-15)December 15, 1918
Leavenworth, Kansas
Died August 14, 1956(1956-08-14) (aged 37)
Eriswell, Suffolk
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Years of service 1939 – 1956
Rank Colonel
Commands held 56th Fighter Group
31st Fighter Escort Wing
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (11)
Air Medal (20)

David Carl Schilling (December 15, 1918 – August 14, 1956) was a U.S. Air Force officer, fighter ace, and leading advocate of long-range jet fighter operations. Kansas' Schilling Air Force Base was named in his memory.


David Schilling was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, on December 15, 1918. His family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he went to high school. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a B. S. degree in geology in June 1939.

Schilling joined the United States Army in September 1939 as an aviation cadet and received his commission in the Air Corps upon completion of flight training in May 1940. The following summer he became one of the original members of the 56th Fighter Group.

World War II[edit]

Schilling arrived with the group in England in January 1943 as commander of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and began combat missions in April flying the P-47 Thunderbolt, recording his first kill on October 2, 1943. Schilling was promoted to group executive officer in August 1943 and to group commander on August 12, 1944, commanding the 56th Fighter Group until January 27, 1945. He was promoted to full colonel on October 1, 1944, at the age of 25. "Hairless Joe", coded LM-S was his personal P-47 from July 1944 up until his last documented combat mission on Jan 5th 1945.

In his time in Britain, he became the sixth-leading ace of the 8th Air Force, scoring 22½ kills against Luftwaffe aircraft.[1] On December 23, 1944 he downed five German fighters to become one of the 38 Army Air Force "Ace-in-a-Day" pilots. Schilling flew 132 combat missions in two combat tours with the 56th.

USAF career[edit]

After the war, he again commanded the 56th Fighter Group and pioneered long-distance jet operations in the P-80 Shooting Star. In early 1948 Schilling conceived an operation called Fox Able (phonetic for "Fighter Atlantic") in which jet aircraft, then ferried to Europe by ship, could be flown across the Atlantic via Iceland and Scotland in 900-mile legs and sold it to Air Force Chief of Staff, General Carl A. Spaatz. In the summer of 1948 he made Fox Able a reality and took the 56th FG to Germany in a show-of-force response to the Berlin blockade. Just prior to this, de Havilland Vampires of No. LIV Squadron RAF had made the first jet crossing, flying from the UK to North America.

In 1950, he flew from RAF Manston in the United Kingdom to Maine in the United States, in the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight by a jet fighter. Using probe-and-drogue flight refuelling, Schilling, flying an F-84E Thunderjet and another F-84E flown by Col. William Ritchie, were refuelled by first a Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL) Lancaster tanker near Prestwick, Scotland, followed by a refuelling from another FRL tanker, this time a Lincoln near Iceland. In a third and final tanker rendezvous, Ritchie's nose probe, which had been damaged in the refuelling with the Lincoln, was unable to transfer fuel from the final tanker, a USAF KB-29 offshore from Labrador, forcing him to eject over Labrador when he ran out of fuel. Ritchie was safely picked up shortly afterwards. Schilling's refuelling went as-intended and he landed at an airbase at Limestone, Maine, after a flight of ten hours and eight minutes.[2] For this flight, Schilling received the Harmon Trophy. In 1952, he took command of the 31st Fighter Escort Wing at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, flying F-84 Thunderjets, and led a non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean to Japan in Fox Peter One.

On August 14, 1956, while serving as Inspector General in the Strategic Air Command's Seventh Air Division,[3] Schilling died in a car accident on a narrow, two-lane country road in England between RAF Lakenheath and RAF MildenhallRoyal Air Force stations used by the U.S. Air Force. Colonel Schilling was driving a Cadillac/Allard sports-racing car; he, General Curtis LeMay, and other race enthusiasts had each purchased a model to form a stable for Sports Car Club of America events. On the day of the accident, he was driving to Mildenhall to meet at the Officer's Club with an Army lieutenant who had expressed interest in buying the car. At fairly high speed, he approached another car from behind, intending to pass. The cap he was wearing started to blow off and as he reached up to grab it,[citation needed] the car skidded sideways and struck the stone side-railing of a bridge at Eriswell in Suffolk, cutting the car in half at the driver's seat and causing the front of the car to topple into the stream below. Schilling died instantly. The day before his death, he had flown his last flight in a B-47. At the time of his death he was on Temporary Duty (TDY) from the HQ of 7th Air Division at South Ruislip to RAF Lakenheath.

On March 15, 1957, Smoky Hill Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas was renamed Schilling Air Force Base in his honor. The Air Force Association's Award for Outstanding Flight, which Schilling won in 1952, was named for him after his death.

Awards and decorations[edit]

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png  Command pilot

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross (plus oak leaf cluster)
Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star (plus two oak leaf clusters)
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross (with ten oak leaf clusters)
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal (with 19 oak leaf clusters)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation (two awards)

Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg  Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

American Defense Service ribbon.svg   American Defense Service Medal

American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg   American Campaign Medal

Silver star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with five campaign stars)

World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg   World War II Victory Medal

National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg   National Defense Service Medal

Uk dfc rib.png  Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)

Ruban de la croix de guerre 1939-1945.PNG  Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)

BEL Croix de Guerre 1944 ribbon.svg  Croix de Guerre, with Palm (Belgium)


  1. ^ "USAF Historical Study 85: USAF Credits for Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II" (PDF). Office of Air Force History, AFHRA. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2007.  p. 167
  2. ^ http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/fulltext/75yrs_inflight_refueling.pdf
  3. ^ . Schilling had originally been named deputy chief of operations for 7AD--a flying assignment--but an illness requiring his hospitalization resulted in a change of assignment.


  • John C. and Charlotte McClure (1995). "Follow Me": The Life and Times of David C. Schilling. Taylor Publishing, Dallas.
  • Frank Olynyk (1995). Stars & Bars: A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace 1920-1973. Grub Street, London.

External links[edit]