Robert Lee Scott Jr.

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Robert Lee Scott Jr.
Robert Lee Scott Jr.jpg
Robert Lee Scott Jr., fighter ace and author
Nickname(s) Scotty
Born (1908-04-12)12 April 1908
Waynesboro, Georgia
Died 27 February 2006(2006-02-27) (aged 97)
Warner Robins, Georgia
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1932–1957
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held 23rd Fighter Group
36th Fighter Bomber Wing
Luke Air Force Base
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Silver Star (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (3)
Other work author

Robert Lee Scott Jr. (12 April 1908 – 27 February 2006) was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force. Scott is best known for his autobiography God is My Co-Pilot about his exploits in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma. The book was eventually made into a film of the same name.

Early years[edit]

Scott was born in Waynesboro, near Macon, Georgia, the oldest of three children born to Ola and Robert Scott. As a youth, Scott was educated in Macon and became an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.[1][2] At the age of five he witnessed the fatal aircraft crash of pioneer aviator Eugene Ely.[3]

Military career[edit]

Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1932, Scott completed pilot training at Kelly Field, Texas.[4] In October 1933, he was assigned to Mitchel Field, New York. Scott flew air mail in 1934, commanded a pursuit squadron in Panama, and helped instruct other pilots at bases in Texas and California.[5]

Colonel Robert L. Scott Jr. in his Curtiss P-40 Warhawk in 1943 (USAF photo)

World War II[edit]

After World War II began, Scott joined Task Force Aquila in February 1942 to fly a group of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to the China Burma India Theater. Anxious to join the mission, which was to bomb Japan from China, he professed to be an experienced B-17 pilot. He actually learned to fly it en route to Africa. Upon arrival in India, he found the mission had been scrubbed so he became stuck in India when he really wanted to be on the frontline in a cockpit flying combat. Within a month, he was executive and operations officer of the Assam-Burma-China (Ferry) Command, forerunner of the famous Air Transport Command, flying the Hump from India to China to supply the Kuomintang government. When the commanding officer left for China on 17 June, Scott was left in command of the operation for several days.[6]

Still anxious to get into combat and wishing to learn the Flying Tigers' tactics,[7] he obtained the use of a Republic P-43 Lancer, actually assigned to the Flying Tigers from Claire Chennault, with which he flew at least one high–altitude mission over Mount Everest, as described in the opening pages of his autobiography God Is My Co-Pilot. Scott began flying missions with the Flying Tigers, piloting a P-40 as a single ship escort for the transports and on ground attack missions. During this period, he frequently repainted the propeller spinner in different colors to create the illusion of a much larger fighter force in the area than a single aircraft, becoming in effect a "one-man air force".[7]

In July 1942, at the request of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Scott was named commander of the 23rd Fighter Group, newly formed by General Claire Chennault when the Flying Tigers were incorporated into the USAAF. Popular accounts stated that Scott inherited command of the Flying Tigers, which was incorrect, since that "volunteer group" had disbanded at the conclusion of the pilots' contracts on 30 June. The 23rd later become part of the 14th Air Force.[8]

Colonel Scott flew 388 combat missions in 925 hours from July 1942 to October 1943, shooting down 13 Japanese aircraft to become one of America's earliest flying aces of the war.

Scott was ordered back to the U.S. in October 1943 to become deputy for operations at the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. He returned to China in 1944 to fly fighter aircraft equipped with experimental rockets directed against Japanese supply locomotives in eastern China. He then went to Okinawa to direct the same type of strikes against enemy shipping as the war ended.[9]


Scott then returned to the U.S. for staff duty in Washington, D.C. and other stations until 1947, when he was given command of the Jet Fighter School at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. In 1951, he was reassigned to West Germany as commander of the 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base.[10]

Scott graduated from the National War College in 1954 and was assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans at Headquarters U.S. Air Force, and then to the position of Director of Information under the Secretary of the Air Force. In October 1956, he was assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, as base commander.[11]

Scott with an oil painting of himself at the Museum of Aviation in Georgia (1994)
Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott Jr. after his B-1 flight in 1997 (USAF photo)


Scott retired from the United States Air Force as a brigadier general on 30 September 1957, and remained in Arizona until the 1980s. He then lived in Warner Robins, Georgia, until his death in 2006. General Scott wrote about a dozen books including God Is My Copilot and The Day I Owned the Sky.

Scott continued to be active well into his retirement. In 1980, he gained national attention by hiking the length of the Great Wall of China.[12] He had seen portions of the Wall during his 1944 flights near Peking, and by 1980 had managed to obtain Chinese government permission to make the 1,900 mile (3050 km) trek, which took 94 days. He carried his food (65 pounds of oatmeal cookies and nutrition supplements) on his back, slept on the ground adjacent to the wall, and obtained water (usually in the form of fruits) from houses along the way. He was never able to pay for the fruit, being told each time, "No, you are a guest of our country."

In 1984, he flew a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter, and in 1995, a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.[13] On his 89th birthday, in 1997, Scott flew in a B-1B Lancer bomber.[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

For his combat record in World War II, Scott received two Silver Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals.

During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Scott carried the Olympic Flame along a section of Georgia State Route 247, which had been named in his honor.

Books written by Scott[edit]

  • God is my Co-Pilot. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1943. OCLC 2949268
  • Damned to Glory. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1944.
  • Runway to the Sun. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1945. OCLC 1372996
  • Between the Elephant's Eyes. New York: Dodd Mead, 1954. OCLC 1353466 Reissued Ballantine Books, 1954.
  • Look of the Eagle. New York: Dodd Mead, 1955.
  • Samburu the Elephant. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1957.
  • Tiger in the Sky. New York: Ballantine Books, 1959. OCLC 11093976
  • Boring a Hole in the Sky: Six Million Miles with a Fighter Pilot. New York: Random House, 1961. OCLC 1376425
  • God is Still My Co-Pilot. Garden City, N.Y., Blue Ribbon Books, 1947. OCLC 29371504 Periodically reissued by other publishers.
  • Flying Tiger: Chennault of China. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1973. ISBN 0-8371-6774-4 Previously issued in 1959 by Doubleday. OCLC 411081
  • "To Walk the Great Wall". Readers Digest, April 1983
  • The Day I Owned the Sky. New York: Bantam Books, 1989. ISBN 0-553-27507-0



  1. ^ Townley 2006, pp. 20–30.
  2. ^ [1] "Distinguished Eagle Scouts." Retrieved: 4 November 2010.
  3. ^ Scott 1943, pp. 1–2.
  4. ^ Scott 1943, pp. 6–7.
  5. ^ Scott 1943, pp. 38–39.
  6. ^ Scott 1943, p. 83.
  7. ^ a b Belden, Jack. [2] "Chennault Fights to Hold the China Front." Life, 20 August 1942, p. 70. Retrieved: 19 November 2011.
  8. ^ Scott 1943, p. 154.
  9. ^ Loomis 1961, pp. 50–51.
  10. ^ Scott 1989, p. 131.
  11. ^ Scott 1989, p. 100.
  12. ^ [3] Interview with retired Brigadier-General Robert L. Scott (1995)
  13. ^ Scott was required to pass the standard Air Force pilot physical before making the jet flights. (quoted in interview)
  14. ^ Scott 1989, pp. 162–163.


  • Loomis, Robert D. Great American Fighter Pilots of World War II. New York: Random House, 1961. OCLC 1006133
  • Scott, Robert Lee Jr. The Day I Owned the Sky. New York: Bantam Books, 1989. ISBN 0-553-27507-0
  • Scott, Robert Lee Jr. God is my Co-Pilot. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1943. OCLC 2949268
  • Townley, Alvin. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2006. ISBN 0-312-36653-1
  • Coram, Robert. Double Ace: The Life of Robert Lee Scott Jr., Pilot, Hero, and Teller of Tall Tales. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. ISBN 978-1-250-04018-3

External links[edit]

  • [4] Ace Pilots Biography
  • USAF Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived February 7, 2004)
  • [5] Biography in The New Georgia Encyclopedia
  • [6] CNN "WWII fighter ace Scott dies at 97"
  • [7] Annals of the Flying Tigers
  • [8] Interview with Retired Brig. General Robert L. Scott - American World War II Ace Pilot and Hero by Jamie H. Cockfield
  • [9] Burma Is No Paradise, article by Col. Robert Scott, Popular Science, February 1944