World War II Ace Flies Again | HistoryNet

World War II Ace Flies Again

By Leon J. Delisle
11/4/2011 • Aviation History Briefing

95-year-old ace Jim Morehead is ready to take his birthday flight in an RP-40N. (Forrestgalt.com)
95-year-old ace Jim Morehead is ready to take his birthday flight in an RP-40N. (Forrestgalt.com)

All of us who were there believe Jim Morehead to be the oldest man to pilot a plane that he flew during WWII.

On December 7, 1941, P-40E pilot James B. Morehead was en route to the Philippines when the ship he was aboard detoured to Brisbane, Australia, where he joined other Warhawk pilots in defending the Philippines. In the course of that struggle Morehead led a memorable mission in which 31 Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers were stopped by eight P-40s. Morehead himself downed two bombers and a Zero that day. After his tour in the Pacific, he volunteered for duty in Europe, where he downed a Messerschmitt Me-109 while piloting a P-38 Lightning. Morehead would end the war with eight aerial victories to his credit.

Some 60 years after his first action, on August 16, 2011, two of Morehead’s old friends, Captain Harold “Doc” Ross and Mike Morgan, arranged a surprise for his 95th birthday. Both men—longstanding members of the Northern California chapter of Friends of the Aces—had contacted Chris Prevos, president of the Vintage Aircraft Company and owner of Sonoma Valley Airport, who owns and flies a restored 1943 dual-control RP-40N. Doc and Mike asked Jim if he wanted to go sightseeing on his birthday. When they drove up to the hangar, a group of his friends were waiting next to the plane. After recording a video interview, Doc, Mike and Chris asked Jim if he wanted to sit in the P-40. He of course said yes. Then they asked, “Are you ready for a ride?” Off went the P-40, with Jim strapped into the back seat.

After a few fly-bys, they made a pass over Hamilton Field, where Morehead had flown P-40s in 1940-41. Once again he was at the controls of the aircraft in which he had become an ace. Words cannot convey what it was like to see his smiling face after they landed. All of us who were there believe Jim Morehead to be the oldest man to pilot a plane that he flew during WWII. It was an honor to see it happen.

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