Johnson, Heck bill honoring American Fighter Aces passes the House
WASHINGTON – Today, a week before the nation pays tribute to our men and women in uniform on Memorial Day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and original cosponsor Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA) honoring America’s top fighter pilots. The measure, H.R. 685, the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act, would award an elite group of American fighter pilots known as Fighter Aces with Congress’ highest recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.
Aces are U.S. fighter pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat. The bill authorizes the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to present a single gold medal designed and struck by the U.S. Mint to American Fighter Aces in honor of their contributions to aviation warfare.
“These patriots are the best of the best, the cream of the crop in air-to-air combat. They have engaged the enemy time and time again over the South Pacific, Europe and East Asia and won. They have contributed to the aerial supremacy of the United States; their efforts have shortened wars and saved lives, yet have never been rightfully honored — at least not until now. I’m honored that today Republicans and Democrats seized the opportunity to honor the heroism, duty, service, courage, and sacrifice of all American Fighter Aces. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that Congress can bestow and I can think of no group more deserving than this elite group of fighter pilots,” said Johnson and combat veteran fighter pilot.
In response to the announcement, Cmdr. Clarence “Spike” Borley, a Navy Fighter Ace with five aerial victories in World War II, said: “I am pleased to accept this honor and do so in the name of the American citizens, whose support made these victories possible.”
“Cmdr. Borley represents the best in America, and 70 years after his heroism and sacrifice, his accomplishments are still relevant,” Heck said about the WWII Fighter Ace now living in Olympia, Wash. “Fighter Aces like Cmdr. Borley are a pivotal part of our defense during combat, and our current and future generations need to be aware of these heroes. With this medal, I hope to not only recognize these Fighter Aces, but also allow their stories to inspire future fighter pilots.”
Since World War I, American fighter pilots have fought for freedom and democracy across the globe. More than 60,000 U.S. military fighter pilots that have taken to the air, however, less than 1,500 have been honored with the coveted status of Fighter Ace. American Fighter Aces have led distinguished careers in the military, education, private enterprise, and politics. Twenty-two Fighter Aces have achieved the rank of Admiral in the Navy. Seventy-nine Fighter Aces have achieved the rank of General in the Army, Marines, and Air Force. Nineteen Medals of Honor have been awarded to individual Fighter Aces.
Following the award of the gold medal in honor of the American Fighter Aces, the gold medal will be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be displayed and available for research.
More information on American Fighter Aces can be found on the American Fighter Aces Association’s website.