5 Inspiring Quotes from Air Force Legends

air force legends quotes

It’s time to celebrate a very important birthday. A 72nd birthday, actually. No, we’re not talking about a person. We’re referring to one of the military branches of this fine country: The United States Air Force.

The Air Force’s birthday is officially recognized as September 18, 1947, which is the date of the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.

I personally have a great deal of respect and admiration for the Air Force, having grown up on Air Force bases across the country. My stepfather is a retired fighter pilot of 25+ years and one of my brothers is a fighter pilot as well (both attended USAFA). 

In honor of this momentous occasion, let’s take a look at five inspiring quotes from legends in the United States Air Force’s history.

1. Billy Mitchell

billy mitchell air force legend
Source: Wikipedia

“With us air people, the future of our nation is indissolubly bound up in the development of air power.”

Though he was technically a general in the United States Army, Mitchell is considered the “Father of the Air Force.” He advocated for a separate, independent Air Force despite opposition from many of his peers.

2. Chuck Yeager

chuck yeager air force legend
Source: Wikipedia

“You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.”

Yeager was a record-setting test pilot who became the first pilot confirmed to break the sound barrier in level flight. His incredible flying career spanned more than 70 years.

3. Robin Olds

robin olds air force legend
Source: Wikipedia

“Fighter pilot is an attitude. It is cockiness. It is aggressiveness. It is self-confidence. It is a streak of rebelliousness and it is competitiveness. But there’s something else—there’s a spark. There’s a desire to be good. To do well; in the eyes of your peers, and in your own mind.”

Olds became well-known in the public eye for his distinctive mustache, which he sported during Vietnam despite it being out of regulations. He was a triple ace with 17 victories in WWII and the Vietnam War and retired as a brigadier general.

4. Daniel “Chappie” James

chappie james air force legend
Source: Wikipedia

“The strength of the United States of America lies in its unity. It lies in free men blessed and ordained with the rights of freedom working to provide, build, enjoy, and grow. Those who would subvert us – or any free people – try to disrupt this unity by breaking the small parts from the whole – driving in the wedges of fear and discontent.”

The first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general in the armed forces, James attended the famous Tuskegee Institute and achieved numerous distinctions and medals.

5. Eddie Rickenbacker

rickenbacker - air force legend
Source: Wikipedia

Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”

With 26 aerial victories, Rickenbacker was America’s most successful fighter ace in World War I. He was also a Medal of Honor recipient.

Who’s your favorite Air Force legend? Let us know in the comments below. Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win!

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Comments (15)

  1. I would like to add the pilot and weapon systems officer team of Capt Steve Ritchie and Capt Chuck DeBellvue. They were a team flying over North Vietnam. They became the first Air Force Aces of the Vietnam War. I don’t have a quote from either of them but they both meet the criteria mentioned by Col Robin Olds in every way. I met them both when they flew their F-4 Phantom to Korat RTAFB Thailand after a mission. There were four red stars painted on the left engine intake splitter which was impressive. I got the feeling from both men that they knew their business and were very good at it. A few weeks later they shot down their fifth MiG making them aces. DeBellvue went on to score a sixth MiG with another pilot making him the highest scoring ace of the Vietnam War. He retired as a Colonel. Sitchie retired as a Brigadere General.

  2. ~ When the future began in 1947 ~ one pilot truly did have the right stuff.
    From the Desert floor @ MUROC to the edge of Outer Space,he paved the way for all to follow.
    Without his courage, with two broken ribs he broke the sound barrier on Oct 14, 1947.
    He changed the course of history that day.

  3. My favorite is the comment by an RAAF jockey who dropped an F111 and was saved by his parachute;

    “Why do you jump out of a perfectly good airplane? parachutes are so risky and stupid”. he said at the bar where we were imbibing.
    When he hobbled into the bar a few weeks after his losing an expensive piece of machinery I could not help myself and greeted him with the following;
    ” how are those parachutes workin’ out for you lieutenant?”

  4. These are all excellent choices, but no list of Air Force legends is complete without including General Doolittle. (An ironic name if there ever was one!)

  5. General Curtis LeMay:

    “Apply whatever force it is necessary to employ, to stop things quickly. The main thing is stop it. The quicker you stop it, the more lives you save.”


    “Actually, I think it’s more immoral to use less force than necessary, than it is to use more. if you use less force, you kill off more of humanity in the long run, because you are merely protracting the struggle.”

    Both from “Mission with LeMay: My Story” (1965)

  6. To quote: Robin Olds (July 14, 1922 – June 14, 2007) was an American fighter pilot and general officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was a “triple ace”, with a combined total of 17 victories in World War II and the Vietnam War. He retired in 1973 as a brigadier general.

    Looks as if General Olds actually missed WWI by a couple days.

  7. My eyes kept me from joining the air force.But I was in Civil Air Patrol as a young cadet, and attended 2 weeks at Mitchell Air Base in Long Island. I was proud of it, and I wish things could’ve been different. Just the same, I’ve studied about aviation all my life. My Air Force hero is General James Stewart.

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