An American Fighter Ace is a U.S. citizen who has served honorably as a fighter pilot in a U.S. military service or the service of a nation not at war with the United States (or others who flew as a member of a U.S. military service) who has destroyed five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat.
The American Fighter Aces Association currently recognizes 1,447 pilots who have gained the distinction of Fighter Ace. Their achievements played a crucial role in national defense, ultimately saving lives and helping to bring about an end to the wars they served in. Approx. 60,000 pilots flew in the conflicts from World War I through Vietnam. Although Aces only account for an estimated 5% of all combat pilots, they collectively claimed about one-third of all air victories in World War II.
The standard to become a Fighter Ace was set in World War I, the first military conflict in which aircraft played a major role. Weaponry was limited, with pilots first engaging in battle using hand-carried pistols in a rudimentary attempt to bring down the enemy.
In World War I, Aces were regarded as “knights of the sky,” and held themselves to a noble standard of battle that would change and evolve as the strategies and technology of air war progressed in World War II. Aces became public figures that captured the attention and imagination of the country. These men, and their iconic aircraft, would become household names, igniting a passion for flight in young people for generations to come. At the root, is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice and bravery needed for battle, and the steadfast love of country.