Ralph Gibson (fighter pilot)

Ralph Gibson
Nickname(s) Ralph "Hoot" Gibson
Born November 7, 1924
Keensburg, Illinois
Died January 2, 2009(2009-01-02) (aged 84)
Tucson, Arizona
Buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery
Tucson, AZ
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1943–1974
Rank Colonel
Unit 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing
Commands held 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Battles/wars Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Bronze Star
Air Medal (14)
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal

Ralph "Hoot" Duane Gibson (November 7, 1924 January 2, 2009) was an American flying ace of the Korean War. He became the nation's third jet fighter ace with a total tally of five downed MiG-15 fighters. He also flew in the Vietnam War, and was a former lead pilot for the Air Force Thunderbirds.[1]

Early life

Gibson was born in 1924, in Keensburg, Illinois and raised in Mt. Carmel. He entered USAAF flight school in 1943 and graduated the next year. Gibson did not participate in World War II becoming a second lieutenant later in 1946 while participating in the occupation of Japan.[2][3]

Korean War

Gibson requested combat duty at the onset of the War in 1950. He flew the F-86 Sabre with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing based at Kimpo Air Base in Korea. Having been promoted to first lieutenant, Gibson entered the war with the advantage of some 1,792 hours of pilot-in-command fighter time. Gibson's tally began on June 18, 1951 with the downing of two MiG-15s. He was credited with two further kills on July 11 and September 2, and his last on September 9. The fifth kill earned him the status of ace. By this time he had been awarded the Silver Star twice, and by the end of the War he had flown 94 combat missions.[3][4]

After Korea

After the Korean war ended in 1953, Gibson transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre and later the F-4 Phantom II. As a lieutenant colonel, he commanded the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (part of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing) based at Ubon Air Base in Thailand, and flew 105 combat missions during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1968. He also had two tours in Germany and a tour as the leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. He was promoted to colonel in 1968 and retired in 1974.[2][3]

Final years

After retirement Gibson was inducted into the Illinois Military Aviation Hall of Fame, and he started a successful second career selling real estate in Tucson, Arizona. Having established himself in the State, he was further honoured with an induction into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. Gibson died on January 2, 2009 after falling and striking his head while showing property to prospective buyers. He was 84.[2]


See also


  1. Korean war ace Ralph "Hoot" Gibson dies in Tucson KVOA News 4 Tucson
  2. 1 2 3 Obituary at Tucson.com
  3. 1 2 3 Gibson was Korea ace, combat hero, and leader at AirForceTimes.com
  4. U.S. Air-to-Air Victories during the Korean War Table at ACIG.org (note: first kills dated June 18, 1951 not June 17 as in AFT Article)
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