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Manuel John Fernandez , Jr.

Date of birth: April 19, 1925
Date of death: October 18, 1980
Burial location: Arlington, VA
Place of Birth: Florida, Key West
Home of record: Miami Florida

From September 1952 to May 1953, Captain Fernandez flew 124 combat missions in Korea. He was credited with downing 14.5 MiG 15 aircraft, becoming the number 2 ace of the Korean War. In 1956 he was awarded the Bendix Trophy for setting a record with an average speed of 666.661 mph flying an F-100C from George AFB, California to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. He was also a member of the Nellis AFB, Nevada Mach Riders aerobatics flying team. After his retirement, he flew missions for the Central Intelligence Agency and later for the South Florida Drug Interdiction Task Force. He died in a plane crash on October 18, 1980.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Air Force) to Captain Manuel John Fernandez, Jr. (AFSN: AO-20758858), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as an F-86 Fighter Pilot with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in action against enemy forces in the Republic of Korea on 21 March 1953. During a fighter swoop over North Korea, Captain Fernandez sighted a flight of thirty MiGs, and attempted to release his external fuel tanks in preparation for battle. However, one of the tanks failed to release, impairing the maneuverability of his aircraft. However, despite this handicap, he fearlessly initiated a fierce attack on the last two MiGs in the enemy formation. Closing to twelve hundred feet, he opened fire on one MIG, scoring hits on the fuselage and wing. As he was closing again, the other MIG attached him; however, by a skillfully executed maneuver, he gained tactical advantage over the attacker, and his bursts scored hits which caused the enemy pilot to eject himself from the uncontrollable aircraft. Captain Fernandez then turned again to his initial adversary and, closing dangerously to one hundred and fifty feet, fired several bursts which caused the MIG to burst into flame and go spinning to earth. Captain Fernandez's outstanding flying skill and extraordinary courage in attacking this greatly superior number of enemy aircraft despite the hindrance to maneuverability enabled him to completely destroy two enemy aircraft.

General Orders: Headquarters, Far East Air Forces: General Orders No. 244 (May 21, 1953)

Action Date: March 21, 1953

Service: Air Force

Battalion: 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Regiment: 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain Manuel John Fernandez, Jr. (AFSN: AO-20758858), United States Air Force, for gallantry in action against an armed enemy as Pilot of an F-86 aircraft, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, on 18 February 1953. On that date, Captain Fernandez and his wingman fearlessly attacked a flight of twenty-four MiG's. In the ensuing battle, Captain Fernandez positioned himself for an attack on one of the enemy aircraft. Opening fire, he hit his target repeatedly, and, overshooting as his adversary slowed quickly, Captain Fernandez skillfully executed a barrel roll to get back into firing position. Firing again, Captain Fernandez raked the MiG with hits in the engine section that caused a series of explosions, at which time the enemy pilot ejected himself. Returning to the melee, Captain Fernandez and his wingman then attacked two more MiG's with a head-on pass. Utilizing expert tactical skill, Captain Fernandez got into an advantageous position on a MiG which, in a desperate evasion attempt, when into an uncontrollable spin from which it failed to recover. By his superior flying ability and gallantry on this mission, Captain Fernandez destroyed two MiG aircraft. Through his keen tactical airmanship and high personal courage in the face of numerically superior enemy forces, Captain Fernandez reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: Headquarters, Far East Air Forces, General Orders No. 244 (1953)

Action Date: February 18, 1953

Service: Air Force

Battalion: 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Regiment: 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Manuel John Fernandez, Jr. (AFSN: AO-20758858), United States Air Force, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot of an F-86 aircraft with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in action against enemies of the United Nations in Korea on 4 October 1952. Captain Fernandez was flying number two spot in a flight of four F-86s when a flight of four Communist MiG's was signed on a parallel course. As they were initiating an attack, Captain Fernandez spotted two more MiG's closing on his element. Breaking sharply to the left to avoid the enemy fire the F-86 element then reversed and positioned on the attacking aircraft. Closing to 800 feet Captain Fernandez fired, his hits causing the MiG to smoke and flame. Executing another firing pass his hits this time caused the Communist pilot to lose control and his aircraft spiraled to the ground. The courage, devotion to duty and tactical superiority displayed by Captain Fernandez resulted in the extinction of one enemy aircraft reflects great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: Korean War

Service: Air Force

Battalion: 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Regiment: 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force

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Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Manuel John Fernandez, Jr. (AFSN: AO-20758858), United States Air Force, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on 30 April 1953, as Pilot of an F-86 aircraft, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in action against enemies of the United Nations in Korea. Captain Fernandez was leading a flight of four F-86's on a Yalu River patrol, deep in North Korea. As the friendly flight approached the river boundary, sixteen enemy fighters were sighted headed into North Korea. Captain Fernandez immediately led his flight in pursuit of the MiG's. The chase continued, with Captain Fernandez exercising outstanding flying ability and tactical skill, which enabled him to close on the enemy formation. Choosing his target and positioning himself to the best advantage, Captain Fernandez fired on a MiG and scored hits so devastating that the enemy aircraft exploded in mid-air. Superior defensive tactics and extraordinary leadership enabled Captain Fernandez to evade the attacks of the remaining MiG's and led his flight in a safe return to the home base. Captain Fernandez's outstanding heroism and flying ability on this mission is typical of his performance throughout his entire combat tour, and reflects great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: April 30, 1953

Service: Air Force

Regiment: 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing

Division: 5th Air Force