June 30, 2009
Col. Kenneth L. Reusser,USMC ~ WWII, KOREA, VIETNAM Passed Away
" He served in the Pacific Theater in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He was awarded a second Navy Cross, five Purple Hearts and multiple other medals before being forced to retire because of his wounds."
The 2nd Lt. earned his first Navy Cross during WWII, the Maj.'s second Navy Cross came during the Korean War. His plane went down with him on board in the Pacific during WWII, he was shot down three times during the Korean War and once again during the Vietnam War. He earned two Navy Cross, four Purple Heart, two Legion of Merit with Combat "V", and fifty two other medals and ribbons throughout his long and dedicated military career. Until his death he was believed to be the most decorated three-war former Marine Corps pilot living in Oregon.
Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser has passed away and been laid to rest in the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. The Patriot Guard Riders were there to honor him .
Reusser was called the most decorated Marine aviator in history and was shot down in three wars in the Pacific theater - World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Colonel Ken Reusser's distinguished combat record:
-flew 253 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was shot down in all three, five times in all.
-59 medals included two Navy Crosses, five Purple Hearts and two Legions of Merit.
Ken Reusser enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a seaman recruit on August 23, 1941, and entered flight training. In April 1942, he completed flight training, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, and in May 1942 left for the Southwest Pacific. Upon arrival at Guadalcanal, was assigned to VMF-122, flying the F4F-3. On his first combat mission, he was credited with a probable kill of a Mitsubishi "Betty." In October of that year, he was injured during a ditching and spent 6 months in a hospital.
Ken returned to the Pacific in 1944 flying F4U's from USS Hollandia, (CVE 97) off Okinawa. He led a flight of Corsairs intending to shoot down a Japanese KI-45 "Nick" high-altitude photo reconnaissance airplane gathering information for the day's Kamikaze flights. With altitude frozen guns, the only weapon left was the Corsair itself. Ken and his wingman severely damaged the tail of the KI-45 with their propellers. It entered a graveyard spiral, breaking up before hitting the water. Ken and his wingman shared the kill. Each was awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1950, Ken found himself again in combat, flying F4U's from USS Sicily, (CVE 118). He was awarded a second Navy Cross for making two very low-level passes down a street to identify, through a building's windows, what was hidden inside. He then led a flight back, destroying the target. Exiting the area, with only 20mm guns remaining, he made a firing pass on a ship moored to a camouflaged pier. Loaded with fuel, the ship exploded, flipping the Corsair inverted. After righting the airplane, Ken returned to USS Sicily where the severely crippled F4U was pushed over the side for being too damaged to repair.
During the Vietnam War, Reusser flew helicopters. He was leading a Marine Air Group in a rescue mission, when his own "Huey" was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35 percent of his badly burned body. He retired from the Marine Corps in July 1968 due to his combat wounds.
Reusser raced motorcycles to help pay for college and earning a pilots license before World War II. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. He remained active in veterans groups.
Reusser is survived by his wife, Trudy; and sons, Richard C. and Kenneth L. Jr.
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser (center) is joined by Marine Staff Sgt. Marvin Harper (left) and Air Force Staff Sgt. Kim Nickerson on the Freedom Train, a string of cars honoring Oregon veterans, firefighters and disaster-relief workers who flew to New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Friends mourn Milwaukie fighter pilot who served in three wars (OR)
CLACKAMAS -- They came by ones and twos Friday, quietly slipping into the pews at New Hope Community Church. They smiled at the words honoring a man whose faith made him an inspiration and whose exploits in three wars made him a hero.
And when the last mournful drone of the bagpipes faded, they said goodbye to Col. Kenneth L. Reusser of Milwaukie, the most decorated U.S. Marine Corps aviator in history.
"He was the finest gentleman I've ever met," said Harley Wedel of Fairview, a fellow Korean War veteran. "I'm really going to miss him."
In 1945, while based in Okinawa, he stripped down his F4U-4 Corsair fighter and intercepted a Japanese observation plane at an altitude much higher than usual. When his guns froze, he flew his fighter into the observation plane, hacking off its tail with his propeller.
In 1950, while serving in the storied "Black Sheep Squadron," he led an attack on a North Korean tank-repair facility at Inchon, then destroyed an oil tanker -- almost blowing himself out of the sky in the process.
During the Vietnam War, Reusser flew helicopters. He was leading a Marine Air Group in a rescue mission, when his own "Huey" was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35 percent of his badly burned body.
Reusser lived a "Tom Sawyer-ish" existence, Wedel said, jumping off a barn roof to test a parachute, racing motorcycles to help pay for college and earning a pilot's license before WWII broke out.
After retiring from the Marine Corps, he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp.
In recent years, he remained active in veterans groups.
"He had a great sense of humor," said friend Jesse Lott of Milwaukie. "One time, when the great Gen. Chuck Yeager was visiting, we told him about Ken's war record. Yeager just sniffed that he never saw any Marines in Europe.
"Well, when Ken arrived, we told him what Yeager had said," Lott said. "So Ken said, 'Well, if we had been there, it wouldn't have taken you so long to win the war.' Even Yeager laughed."
Wild Thing's comment...........
Thank you Col. Reusser for your dedicated service to our country. You sir, had an amazing career, and we thank you for your service. Thank you for defending the freedoms we all enjoy everyday.
I am so sick of hearing about Michael Jackson, even Fox is on the band wagon with this worship of this child molester. Please God make it stop!!!
There are good men that the news could be telling us about, awesome men, Heroes. Our debt to the Heroic men and Valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. During these days of many trials and tribulations that our land of the free are facing, let us remember to hold our heads up high in remembrance for those who gave their life for our freedom and those that are still in harms way for this cause.
Posted by Wild Thing at June 30, 2009 05:50 AM
Wow, the perpetual fighting machine, this is incredible.
May the Colonel rest in Peace.
Semper Fi, Colonel.
Posted by: Mark at June 30, 2009 07:07 AM
He's up there with another great fighter, Chesty Puller. Rest in Peace, you certainly have earned your place in keeping this nation great.
Semper Fi, Colonel.
Posted by: Jack at June 30, 2009 12:14 PM
Three wars, several shootdowns and he still motored on. Now he is with lots of old friends like Joe Foss.
Thank you for your service Col Reusser.
Posted by: TomR at June 30, 2009 04:12 PM
Honor this man, please do. But while you do, keep in mind that we have troops today who are every bit the hero that he is. They've just not had the call to glory. As a veteran, out for over 40 years, I am amazed at the troops of today. Better armed, better trained, and every bit the soldier of days past. While we face tomorrow, todays soldier, sailor, marine and airman have our backs.
God bless the Colonel and God bless America.
Posted by: Frankly Opinionated at July 1, 2009 11:01 PM