Once a Fighter Pilot: The Story of Korean War Ace Lt. Gen. Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland
Warren A. Trest
In January of 2000, fifty-plus years after the Korean War ended, Lt. Gen. Charles G. “Chick” Cleveland received a phone call. The Secretary of the Air Force’s representative had signed the paper making him an Ace, the fortieth Fighter Jet Ace of the Korean War. The wait came because until the Soviet Union released their files on the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Cleveland’s ‘probable’ kill in 1952 could not be verified.
Cleveland had said of the 1952 incident in question: “I was close to that guy. I know he never got home. I hit him hard from close range, and he went into a vertical dive into the roll cloud of a towering thunderstorm, and MiGs just didn’t do that. I couldn’t follow him and I didn’t see him bail out, explode, or crash, which is necessary for a confirmed ‘kill,’ but I know he never got out of that thing alive.”
His friend and Double Ace, Major General Frederick C. (Boots) Blesse had called him for years, “The Ivory Ace—99 and 44/100 percent pure” after the Ivory soap ads. But when Cleveland’s fifth kill was confirmed, Blesse said it was “a wonderful finish to an outstanding career for as fine an officer as ever put on the blue uniform.”
“A total commitment to Duty, Honor and Country has marked his storied career,” noted author and former USAF senior historian, Warren A. Trest, says of Cleveland.
Lt. Gen. Cleveland first fell in love with aviation when he was just a child and saw two Martin B-10 bombers land in a field up the road from his home. He “went up to the field and climbed all over the airplanes. The pilots and crews had gone into town; nobody was there guarding the planes.” Then one Sunday morning in September, 1948, at the Cadet Chapel at West Point, he saw Fran. “My God, that’s a lovely girl,” he thought, and she became his wife, the love of his life and the woman who stood by him for over half a century. Trest continues the biography through Cleveland’s West Point days, which he says “was in every way a larger than life experience,” and his decades as an Air Force fighter pilot and commander on the frontlines of defense in the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam wars; through his continued leading role today in community and military affairs. Lt. Gen. Cleveland has definitely led a life to be admired and studied.
“And unless there is another major war, he might just be the last named Fighter Ace,” says Trest.
ABOUT WARREN A. TREST
Warren Trest is a former United States Air Force senior historian. He was a combat reporter and air power historian in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the Cold War. Serving with the Third Infantry Division in Korea, he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star while reporting on the war.
During his thirty-plus years as a military historian, he authored and coauthored more than 50 histories and studies. He spent two years in Southeast Asia with Project CHECO (Current Historical Examination of Combat Operations) writing and researching special studies on the air war, for which he received the Pacific Air Forces civilian of the year award in 1967 and the Medal for Civilian Service in Vietnam in 1968.
In 1969, while with the CHECO office at HQ Pacific Air Forces, he had a key role in PACAF's participation in Project Corona Harvest, the CSAF-directed evaluation of doctrinal lessons learned in Vietnam. Together with other members of the PACAF team, he produced a series of critical studies on the use of air power in Southeast Asia.
Trest was the major command historian with HQ United States Air Forces in Europe, and at HQ Air Training Command in San Antonio, TX. He also served as historian with HQ Third Air Force in England, with the Kanto Base Command in Japan, and with the 314th Air Division in Korea. Before becoming senior historian with the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, AL, he was chief of the histories division in the Office of Air Force History, HQ United States Air Force.
He received the Award for Meritorious Civilian Service in 1975 and the Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award in 1996. He is a native of Louisville, Mississippi, and a graduate of East Central Jr. College, and Southern Mississippi University. He is now retired and resides with his wife in Montgomery, Alabama.
His biography of Korean War ace, Lt. Gen. Charles "Chick" Cleveland will be published in late 2012.
He is presently working on the sequels to "Missing in Paradise", the first book in the Jake Falcon Mysteries series.