The “Thunderbirds” performed a double missing man formation flyover as part of the funeral service for U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Cuthbert Pattillo and Lt. Gen. Charles Pattillo in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., on Sept. 21, 2022.
Twin brothers Maj. Gen. and Lt. Gen. Pattillo enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in November 1942. During World War II, both flew with the Eighth Air Force’s 352nd Fighter Group, protecting bombers and attacking ground targets. Maj. Gen. Pattillo flew 135 combat missions before being shot down and captured by the Germans. He remained a POW until the end of the war.
Both were released from active duty following World War II but were later recalled in early 1948, serving with the 31st Fighter Group. Later, both served with the with the 36th Tactical Wing at Furstenfeldbruck Air Base in Germany. While in Europe, both helped form and flew in the Air Forces in Europe-North Atlantic Treaty Organization aerial demonstration team, the “Skyblazers.”
Later, the brothers went to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as gunnery instructors. Together, they were instrumental in forming the “Thunderbirds,” the first Air Force official aerial demonstration team. Maj. Gen. Pattillo flew right wing and Lt. Gen. Pattillo flew left wing in the original 1953 team.
Both generals continued their long careers through the Air Force, serving through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Maj. Gen. Pattillo retired in 1980 and Lt. Gen. Pattillo retired in 1981.
Maj. Gen. Pattillo’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation emblem with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon, French Croix de Guerre with palm and the Republic of Vietnam Honor Medal, 1st class.
Lt. Gen. Pattillo’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation emblem with oak leaf cluster, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Republic of Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order 2nd Class and the French Croix de Guerre with palm.
Maj. Gen. Pattillo’s son, Robert Pattillo, and Lt. Gen. Pattillo’s daughter, Deborah Jones, received the U.S. flags from the funeral services. Joyce Pattillo, Maj. Gen. Pattillo’s wife, and Bobbie Pattillo, Lt. Gen. Pattillo’s wife, were also interred during this service.