Ralph Parr loved to fly. At five years old, his father, a Navy squadron commander, took him flying on his birthday. From that point forward, Parr’s fascination with flying grew.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1944. During World War II, Parr served in the Pacific Theater, piloting the P-38 Lightning during the last eight weeks of the war.
During the Korean War, Parr flew the F-86 Sabre jet and faced many intimidating missions. One such mission occurred on June 7, 1953, when Parr was flying near the Yalu River. While descending, he spotted four enemy MiG-15 aircraft nearby. Deciding to pursue them, he succeeded in downing one aircraft. However, as he descended further, he discovered the enemy aircraft contingent was 16 strong. Realizing he was outmatched, Parr downed two aircraft and damaged a third before retreating to safety.
On June 30, Parr was attacked by 10 enemy aircraft during another mission and took down two aircraft when the fight unfolded. Despite being low on fuel, he also helped his besieged wing commander fight off other enemies before they returned to safety. Parr was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his action that day. He was an ace when the war ended in July.
Between the Korean War and Vietnam War, Parr served as a leading flight instructor and was also an F-4 squadron commander. When the Vietnam War started, Parr served two combat tours there. In 1968, he was with the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing as deputy commander of operations. He took part in the Battle of Khe Sanh when the North Vietnamese attacked a Marine garrison in Khe Sanh. During the battle, he flew eight passes against six enemy mortar and gun positions, helping the Americans secure their supply line and disrupt the North Vietnamese attack. For his actions, he received an Air Force Cross. Parr became the only person to receive both an Air Force Cross and a Distinguished Service Cross.
After the Vietnam War, Parr served in Iran with the Military Assistance Advisory Group. His final assignment took him to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He retired in 1976 at the rank of colonel.
During his 32-year career, Parr flew more than 6,000 hours, took part in 641 missions in three wars and earned over 60 decorations, including a Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Silver Star, Bronze Star and 41 Air Medals.
Parr died in 2012 at the age of 88. He is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
We honor his service.