KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame has announced its Class of 2013 enshrinees:
Capt. Robert D. Gibb, Fighter Pilot and World War II Ace (1922-1953): Gibb was born in Detroit and grew up in Lansing. He joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in January 1942, and was commissioned and awarded his wings in October 1942. He was an original member of the 342nd Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group—the only P-47 squadron in the 5th Air Force, Southwest Pacific Theater. He flew 135 combat missions and shot down five Japanese aircraft. Gibb was discharged in October 1945, having been awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals. He joined the U. S. Air Force in October 1947 and flew F-80 Shooting Stars with the 56th Fighter Group and the 81st Fighter Wing. He began combat missions in Korea, flying the F-84E Thunderjet with the 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group in November 1951. Gibb failed to return from a mission on Dec. 16, 1951 and was officially declared dead on Dec. 31, 1953.
David Wakefield, World War II Fighter Pilot and Flying Tiger (1922-2012): Wakefield grew up in Detroit and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. He was deployed to China in February 1944 as a member of the 25th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Group, 14th Air Force. On his seventh mission, he was shot down but made it back to his home base; he was the only pilot from his squadron and group to return after being shot down. Wakefield flew 47 combat missions overall, both in China and Burma, while flying P-40, P-51 and P-47 aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Air Corp Air Medal, Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal and the Chinese Air Medal. After the war, he flew with the Michigan Air National Guard for 25 years and became a certified helicopter pilot instructor, certified glider pilot instructor, and fixed-wing pilot instructor.
Maj. Gen. Paul B. Wurtsmith, Military Pilot and Commander (1906-1946): Wurtsmith grew up in Detroit and earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Detroit. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1927, was commissioned second lieutenant in the Air Reserve and awarded his wings in 1928. He was assigned to the famous Hat-in-the-Ring 94th Pursuit Squadron of World War I at Selfridge Field. In 1930, he won the Mitchell Trophy Air Race. He graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School in 1939 and, promoted to major, took command of the 17th Pursuit Squadron, 50th Pursuit Group. In early 1942, Wurtsmith commanded the 49th Fighter Group and led it to Darwin, Australia to join the desperate defense against Japanese attack. He developed tactics using the strengths of the P-40 Warhawk which resulted in success in Australia. He was promoted to brigadier general for his outstanding leadership. In 1945 he was promoted to major general and given command of the 13th Air Force. On September 13, 1946, Wurtsmith was killed instantly when his B-25 Mitchell crashed near Asheville, N.C. In 1953, Oscoda Army Air Field was renamed Wurtsmith Air Force Base in his honor.
Robert E. Ellis, Aviation Executive and Innovator (1944-): After graduating from Bailey Institute in St. Louis and Kings Aviation Technology School in Knoxville, Tenn., Ellis worked as the manager of engine maintenance and repair at Kal-Aero, a fixed-base operator at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. In 1977, he served as the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum’s aircraft mechanic. In 1979, he became the general manager of the museum, now known as the Air Zoo. He was later promoted to executive director, a position he held until 2010, when he was named president and CEO. In 2000, Ellis came up with an innovative and engaging concept for the Air Zoo and designed a new 120,000-square-foot building. The new building featured a more interactive and entertaining approach to paying tribute to aviation, featuring the Midwest’s first 4-D theater, the Montgolfier Balloon Race, and amusement park-style rides. Thanks to Ellis’ efforts, the museum expanded yet again in 2011 with the Space: Dare to Dream exhibit, an exhibit about women in aviation and space, a World War II aircraft gallery, a climate-controlled archive and a library. Under Ellis’ vision and leadership, the museum’s creative presentation of the history of flight, its educational programs and its unique interactive attractions for families distinguish the Air Zoo from all other aviation museums.
Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, Navy Pilot and U.S. Military Representative (1953-): Gallagher graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976 and was designated a naval aviator in 1977. He has logged more than 4,000 flight hours and 800 carrier landings. He has flown the F-4, F-14, FA-18 and F-16N. Gallagher commanded Fighter Squadron 142 during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He has commanded the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), the USS Inchon, USS John C. Stennis and Carrier Group 4 re-designated Carrier Strike Force Training Atlantic. Prior to assuming duty as U.S. military representative to the NATO Committee, he served as deputy commander, U.S. European Command, and as the Headquarters U.S. European Command’s director of the European Plans and Operations Center. Gallagher has been awarded two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Defense Superior Service Medals, four Legion of Merits, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, and numerous other awards.
The Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame will also present the Harriet Quimby Award to authors Blaine Pardoe and Warren Benjamin Kidder for their contributions to the history of flight through literature. Pardoe and Kidder have both written nonfiction books about aviation, including “Lost Eagles” and “Willow Run: Colossus of American Industry.”
The Hall of Fame will enshrine the Class of 2013 on May 11 at the Air Zoo. The Enshrinement Ceremony and Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a cash bar opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person when purchased in advance and are good for an Air Zoo Ultimate Ace Wristband Package the day of the event. To reserve tickets call 269-350-2813. RSVPs must be received by May 1.
For more information: AirZoo.org