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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2013

12th Flying Training Wing honors highly decorated electronic warfare officer

By Trish Seinwill

Retired Colonel Kevin A. "Mike" Gilroy, a highly decorated electronic warfare officer and recipient of the Air Force Cross, was honored on Nov. 21, 2013, by the 12th Flying Training Wing with a memorial service at the base chapel.

Born in Menlo Park, Calif., his love of flying led him to enlist in the Air Force in 1953. After six years as a jet engine mechanic, he attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant in September 1960. Exceeding the sitting height limits for pilot training, he attended navigator training at Harlingen, Texas and EWO School at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. He flew two combat tours during the Vietnam War, the first in the B-52 bomber in 1965.

After completing 11 missions in his first tour, he returned to the states and cross-trained to the F-105F Wild Weasel. The Wild Weasel was designed to precede the single seat F-105Ds, protecting the aircraft by destroying the Soviet designed surface-to-air missile systems.

On his 11th mission in theater, Gilroy's aircraft was severely damaged causing both he and his pilot to bail out over water. Rescued after an hour and a half in the Gulf of Tonkin, he was back in the air on 10 March 1967, where he distinguished himself on a pre-strike missile suppression mission over North Vietnam.

He guided his pilot, Major Merlyn Dethlefsen, to attack and destroy a surface-to-air missile installation protecting one of the most important industrial complexes in North Vietnam. Gilroy and Dethlefsen accomplished this mission despite the loss of their lead and another aircraft in their flight. Although their aircraft had suffered extensive battle damage and was under constant attack, Gilroy aligned several resourceful close-range attacks on the hostile defenses, at great risk to his own life and that of Dethlefsen. Due to his technical skill and courage, the attacks were successful and the strike force was able to bomb the target without loss. For this mission, Gilroy was awarded the Air Force Cross and Dethlefsen the Medal of Honor.

During Gilroy's career he was awarded eleven Air Medals, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star in addition to the Air Force Cross. He served as an EWO on four aircraft including the B-52 Stratofortress, F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom II, and F-111 Aardvark. Gilroy completed his 34 years of active duty as Chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Electronic Warfare Advisory Committee in Brussels, Belgium.
Upon his retirement in February 1987, the Air Force EWO School instituted the Colonel Mike Gilroy Award given to the top graduate of each class. This tradition continues to this day.

After retirement from the Air Force, he returned to government service being elected twice to the city council of Gilroy, Cali. and once as its mayor. He retired finally in 2001 to Gulf Breeze, Fla., and finally settling in Spring Branch, Texas. He died 13 November 2013.