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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2012

JBSA plans memorial service for double ace

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio will honor the legacy of one of the Air Force's most celebrated pilots and a former 12th Tactical Fighter Wing commander at a funeral service planned for 11:30 a.m. Monday in the JBSA-Randolph theater.

The event will pay tribute to retired Col. Ralph Parr, Korean War double ace and 12th TFW commander from 1970-71, who died Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, at the age of 88 in a New Braunfels assisted-living facility.

Interment will follow the funeral service at 2 p.m. at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Col. Gerald Goodfellow, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, said Parr left "a special imprint" on the wing, which was called the 12th TFW from 1962-71.

"He was more than a war hero and an ace pilot; he was a leader," he said. "Also, he strived to be an educator of Airmen. He was always well-regarded for his willingness to share his wisdom and experience with younger pilots."

Goodfellow said Parr "will always be remembered, honored and have a special place in the hearts of all 12th Flying Training Wing Airmen."

Retired Col. Gary Baber, president of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association chapter that bears Parr's name, described his fellow "River Rat" as a "larger than life" figure in the fighter pilot community "whose feats of heroism in Korea and Vietnam earned him the Distinguished Service Cross and Air Force Cross, making him a living legend."

"Ralph had blue Air Force blood flowing in his veins and he loved nothing better than to share a beer with a young Air Force captain in a flight suit at the Auger Inn on a Friday evening," he said. "He was a modest man, but when he spoke, it was worth listening to him."

Baber, a Selma resident, said Parr was an active member of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, which includes members of Air Force, Navy and Marine aircrews who flew combat missions over the Red River Valley of North Vietnam. He said the Parr chapter recently installed a bronze bust of the legendary fighter pilot in the lobby of the Randolph Officers Club, which was named for Parr in 2008.

"The Ralph Parr River Rats mourn his loss and we will continue to celebrate his life," Baber said.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Bob Laymon of Universal City said he met Parr about 10 years ago at a meeting of the Order of Daedalians Stinson's Flight No. 2 when he was developing "a serious interest in Vietnam air war history."

Laymon said Parr's aerial warfare prowess is well-documented, but he contributed to the Air Force in other ways as well.

"Less well known is his continuing contribution to military leadership through his frequent Friday evening visits to the Randolph Officers Club Auger Inn, Order of Daedalians functions and other speaking opportunities," he said. "Nothing brought more joy to Colonel Parr than to sit down next to a young captain in a flight suit and discuss energy maneuverability during a dogfight. Who knows how much he inspired and motivated combat aviators and future Air Force leaders?"

Parr, a Portsmouth, Va., native, earned his wings and a commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1944, then flew P-38 Lightnings in the Pacific during the last year of the war. As an F-86 pilot during the last seven weeks of the Korean War, he shot down 10 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and was credited with shooting down the last aircraft of the war.

A squadron and wing commander during the Vietnam War, Parr flew combat missions in Southeast Asia, destroying two North Vietnamese mortar and six gun positions during the siege of Khe Sanh.

By the time he retired in 1976, he had accumulated more than 6,000 hours in fighter aircraft and earned more than 60 decorations.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and three stepchildren.