World War II Ace Flies Again

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

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.

4 Responses

  1. stewart

    Hallmark to the Legacy of America’s Greatest Generation, that a man of such an age would be not only willing but able to climb into the vehicle of his generation and reaffirm command of his destiny. A good, honest and peaceful man, who on more than one occasion put his sights straight against an overwhelming prospect, and won for countless generations the peace and prosperity of the free world. I’m grateful to all of you who made that re-enactment possible, for all those who did not come home, and the many, many more who did, because they won.

  2. alan

    A Great story. Kudos to “Doc” and Mike et al for putting something like this together. A terrific gift to Jim Morehead. A testament to the comradery, respect and unselfishness shared by “The Great Generation”.

  3. Bill Rugg

    You can never take the experience away from a combat pilot. There are memories that can only be erased with a final flight to heaven. Every day my minds eye brings back an expereince, good or bad that occured during my days in Viet-Nam…..

    • Kent Evans

      Col Morehead had just retired from the AF in ’66 when my dad moved us near Travis AFB. Dad spent 3 years of PACMAC charter flying for Branniff to Saigon, DaNang, and other places. The Col helped substitute for my Father during my 8th and 9th grade years by teaching me how to fish all over northern California. My own father did not keep many photos of his years in Navy aircraft from 43-45. But, I would pour over the Col’s photo albums, and asked a lot of questions about how the Col’s P40 got so full of holes and how he crash landed on jungle air strips. Over the years he allowed a few details to spill out and I came to understand what an amazing story he had. Thank you gentleman for providing the Col this special opportunity to fly again.


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