Topics - F86H Crash
August 25, 1954, Adelanto, California

 
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[Source: Findagrave]

Joseph Christopher McConnell, Jr. (30 January 1922 - 25 August 1954) was the top American ace during the Korean War. A native of Dover, New Hampshire, Captain McConnell shot down 16 MiG-15s while flying F-86 Sabres with the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star for combat heroism. McConnell was the first triple jet-on-jet fighter ace in history and is still the top-scoring American jet ace.

During World War II McConnell entered Army Air Force Flight Cadet training. His dream of becoming a pilot was dashed when instead of going to pilot training he was assigned to navigator training. After completing training McConnell flew combat missions in Europe as a B-24 navigator. He remained in the Army Air Force after the war eventually entering flight training. In 1948 McConnell achieved his goal of becoming a fighter pilot.

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. As the war continued across the Korean peninsula, McConnell sought to be part of it. He was assigned to the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea in late 1952. Gifted with keen eyesight, McConnell proved to be an aggressive MiG hunter, however he did not get his first kill until the new year. McConnell scored all of his kills over a four-month period, from January 14 to May 18, 1953.

McConnell flew at least three F-86 Sabres, all called "Beauteous Butch". The name referred to the nickname of his wife, Pearl "Butch" Brown. His first kills were scored in an F-86E-10 (serial number 51-2753, buzz number FU-753). The second was an F-86F-15 (serial number 51-12971, buzz number FU-971). This aircraft was shot down on April 12, 1953 with Captain McConnell ejecting and subsequently being rescued from the Yellow Sea by helicopter. His final combat Sabre was an F-86F-1 (serial number 51-2910, buzz number FU-910). This aircraft was repainted following his final mission with the name being changed to "Beauteous Butch II".

On his last day flying in combat, on 18 May 1953, he shot down three MiGs in two separate missions bringing his total to 16 and becoming the first triple jet ace. Immediately after his 16th kill, McConnell was sent back to the United States along with Manuel "Pete" Fernandez, the top ace of the 4th Fighter Wing. For his exploits he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

After returning to his home in Apple Valley, California, McConnell was stationed at George Air Force Base and continued flying F-86s. In 1954 he was temporarily assigned to the service testing program of the newest F-86, the F-86H. This was the last and most powerful version of the Sabre and was intended to be a nuclear-capable, fighter-bomber. On 25 August 1954, while testing the fifth production F-86H (serial number 52-1981), at Edwards Air Force Base, he was killed in a crash following a control malfunction. The crash's cause was attributed to a missing bolt. Then-Major Chuck Yeager was assigned to investigate the crash and replicated the malfunction at a much higher altitude, recovering before he hit the desert floor.

The 1955 film The McConnell Story chronicles his life story, starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson. In 1961, a book entitled Sabre Jet Ace by Charles Ira Coombs chronicled his experiences as a fighter pilot in Korea in a fictionalized biography for young readers.

McConnell was the spouse of Pearl Edna Brown McConnell (1921-2008).  Both are buried in Victor Valley Memorial Park, Victorville, California.  They are survived by daughters: Patricia (Trish) McConnell, Kathleen F. Holliday and son-in-law Steve Holliday, grandchildren, Michael P. Palmer Sr., William (Billy) Cordell Jr., Yvette Thillens and Dan Thillens, Debra Maloney and Brian Maloney, and great-grandchildren, Michael P. Palmer Jr., Chazz Angel Cordell, Justin, Joshua, and Jenna Thillens, and Ian, and Conner Maloney.

 
 
 

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