Remembering a Korean War Hero: Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, USAF

Pearl Harbor Veteran

At the time Corporal Elliot Ayer applied for appointment as an Aviation Cadet on 24 July 1942, he was an anti-aircraft gunner assigned to the 19th Infantry and a Pearl Harbor Veteran. At just 16 years and 7 months, he had enlisted in the Regular Army for a three-year tour and entered active service on 1 December 1939.

The Army Air Corps sent him for pre-flight training at Santa Ana, California, primary flight school at Oxnard, California, basic flight school at Dolaris, California and advanced flight school at Luke Field, Arizona. After successfully completing flight training, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 3 November 1943, promoted to First Lieutenant on 19 July 1944, and to Captain on 7 August 1946.

His Summary of Military Occupation later recorded that Ayer “Piloted single engine fighter aircraft to maintain air superiority over the enemy to enable other units to carry out their missions during the Rome Arno, Po Valley, Northern Apennines, Southern France and Italian Campaigns. Took off, operated, and landed aircraft under varying flying conditions and such hazards as adverse weather, enemy attack, and low altitude and night flying. Flew dive-bombing, escort, and strafing missions. Maintained flight records and reported observations made during mission.” He had served as a fighter pilot and as a B-25 pilot, in addition to duties as an Air Operations Officer.

By the end of World War Two, in addition to many service awards, Captain Ayer had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three OL clusters.

From Captain to Master Sergeant

Just five weeks after he was promoted to Captain, the Army Air Force announced draconian demobilization policies. Captain Ayer had an extraordinarily difficult choice to make: accept discharge from the Air Force as a Captain, or continue on active duty-as a Master Sergeant. Ayer chose to stay in the Air Air Force.

From 1946 until 1951, Master Sergeant Ayer served as an Aircraft Approach Controller GCA. His Enlisted Record and Honorable Discharge on 1 October 1949 mentions only a Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal and a World War II Victory Medal. On 2 October 1949, Master Sergeant Ayer reenlisted in the U.S. Air Force for three more years at Eglin Air Force Base.

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