Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser, the most decorated Marine aviator in history, who had the dubious distinction of having been shot down in three wars, died June 20 at age 89.
According to newspaper reports, Reusser flew a total of 253 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was shot down in all three, five times in all. His 59 medals include two Navy Crosses (second only to the Medal of Honor), four Purple Hearts and two Legions of Merit.
In 1945, while based in Okinawa, he stripped down his F4U-4 Corsair and intercepted a Japanese observation plane at high altitude. When his guns froze, he flew his fighter into the observation plane, hacking off its tail with his propeller.
In 1950, in Korea, he led an attack on a North Korean tank-repair facility at Inchon, then destroyed an oil tanker, nearly blowing himself out of the sky.
In Vietnam he flew helicopters and was leading a rescue mission when his Huey was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35% of his badly burned body.
Reusser, who lived near Milwaukee, Oregon, was born Jan. 27, 1920, the son of a minister. He raced motorcycles to help pay for college and flying lessons before WWII. After retiring from the Marine Corps he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp.