During the Korean War, a number of pilots earned flying ace status including pilots from the US. The war, 1950 – 1953, saw the introduction and widespread use of jet engine-powered aircraft. Many of the records are considered sketchy at best, due to inaccurate record keeping, pilot exaggeration and the inability to confirm some of the crashes in what was known as MiG alley – an area where the majority of air-to-air combats took place.
Overall Ace Statistics by Country
Only pilots from four nations received flying ace status:
China: 6 - 9 aces
North Korea: Up to 4
Soviet Union: Possibly 34 – 60
United States: 40 Documented
Top U.S. Ace Pilots and Their Aircraft
Of the 40 ace pilots from the Korean War, 39 flew the F-86 Sabre almost exclusively. The 40th, Major Frederick Blesse of the US Air Force, flew the F-86 Sabre, but also the P-51 Mustang and the F-80 Shooting Star.
Below is a list of the top US flying aces of the Korean War based on their victories. All were members of the US Air Force.
Captain Joseph McConnell – 16 victories
Major James Jabara – 15 victories
Captain Manuel Fernandez – 14.5 (1 shared) victories
Captain George Davis – 14 victories
Colonel Royal Baker – 10 victories
First Lt. Harold Fischer – 10 victories
Colonel James Johnson – 10 victories
Captain Lonnie Moore – 10 victories
Captain Ralph Parr – 10 victories
Lt. Colonel Vermont Garrison – 10 victories
Though not on the top ten list, a ace pilot worthy of mention is 1st Lieutenant Henry Buttelman also of the US Air Force. Buttelman, a member of the 25th Fighter-Inceptor Squadron is credited with being the youngest American ace of the Korean War. Of his total 7 victories, 5 were within an impressive 12 day period.
Of the more than 1,000 pilots who flew throughout the Korean War, only 355 of them were given credit for aerial victories. And though the list of top US flying aces of the Korean War continues well beyond Lt. Garrison, the pilots listed are credited as being among some of the best flying aces of the war.