15 WWII 'American Fighter Aces' to be honored in Denver

WWII vet on what it takes to be a great pilot. 9NEWS at 7 a.m. 10/28/16.

During WWII, 1,500 men were honored with the title of American Fighter Ace. Today, only 70 of those men are still living. Next weekend, you have the opportunity to meet fifteen Aces at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum Spreading Wings Gala.

The American Fighter Ace stands alone as an extraordinary man who has distinguished himself among the elite in aerial combat. Throughout aviation history during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, these pilots possessed the skill, fortitude and courage to survive combat missions and return home. There are less than seventy American Fighter Aces among us today.

On Saturday, November 5 at 6:00 p.m., Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum will honor and celebrate these American heroes at the annual Spreading Wings Gala. Traveling from ten states, these fifteen honorees have each earned a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award that Congress can bestow upon a civilian.

“Having the opportunity to host America’s most revered military pilots is a true honor for our Museum,” explained Wings Over the Rockies President, Mark Hyatt. “These elite gentlemen possess skill, fortitude and courage few others can match and epitomize what it means to put country before self.”

“It’s the most exclusive club, or association, in the world,” said Gala honoree, Col. Richard Candelaria. “You can’t buy your way in. You can’t influence your way in. You can’t talk your way in. There’s only one way in: aerial combat.”

A highlight of the evening will be a ceremonial unveiling of “Lest We Forget: The Mission” a series of bronze sculptures by World War II aviator Major Fredric Arnold, USAAC (Ret.). This exhibit honors, preserves and promotes the heritage of American combat pilots.

Amelia Earhart had the opportunity to sit down with Denver resident, 97-year-old Captain David Wilhelm, and he described the feeling of flight as "free as a bird," while also describing aerial combat as "pulling at every control surface in an aircraft in order to maintain control".

9NEWS reporter Amelia Earhart is a member of the Board of Directors at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum and will emcee the event.

To purchase ticket to the November 5, 2016 event, please visit: http://wingsmuseum.org/spreadingwingsgala/.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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