WASHINGTON – The Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the American Fighter Aces collectively May 20 during a ceremony in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
The medal was awarded to the American Fighter Aces in recognition of their heroic service to the United States throughout the history of aviation warfare. American Fighter Aces are military pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat during a war or conflict in which the U.S. Armed Forces have participated. Aces have served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. More than 60,000 fighter pilots have flown since World War I, but fewer than 1,500 are called Fighter Aces.
As president of the American Fighter Aces Association, Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles “Chick” Cleveland, age 87, accepted the honor on behalf of himself and the 76 other living members.
“If there’s an elite among fighter pilots, it’s these men,” Cleveland told a crowd of about 500 people at the ceremony, which included about three dozen members of the elite fighter group. The Fighter Aces “helped shorten the wars and saved lives,” said Cleveland, of Montgomery, Ala. “These men are disappearing but must not be forgotten.”
The medal’s obverse design features four pilots, representing World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War; an ace of spades; and military wings with a centered globe, symbolizing the global impact of the group’s service. Inscriptions are “AMERICAN FIGHTER ACES,” “ARMY,” “NAVY,” “AIR FORCE,” and “MARINES.”
The reverse design features four aircraft used by American Fighter Aces and includes five stars to represent the minimum number of aerial combat victories required for certification. Inscriptions are “DUTY COURAGE AGGRESSIVENESS,” “2014,” and “ACT OF CONGRESS.”