Robert C. Cherry - Honored 2000
Robert C. Cherry was born in Houston, Texas, moved to the northwest and then' settled in South Snohomish, Washington in 1931. When WW II started, Bob's life changed. Right after high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was sent to Texas for flight training.
He soloed a PT-19 in 1943, and flew other trainers and the P-40 fighter. His only major problem in 5000+ flying hours was having to bail out of the P-40 in an inverted spin. He then trained in the massive P-47 Thunderbolt.
Bob was sent to England in January 1944 to fly the first of his 83 combat missions in the P-47. He was credited with 4 1/2 victories while a part of "Hub" Zemke's famed 56th fighter group.
After the war, he returned to Washington as an instructor pilot and used his artistic ability to create fine art. At this time, he married an ex-Army nurse named Phyllis Duerksen who has been his wife for over 50 years. A position with United Air Lines brought him to Denver.
Bob rethought the United job and joined the Colorado Air National Guard in 1957 as a fighter pilot. This was the start of a 26 year career as an ANG pilot and Commander.
When the 120th Squadron converted to F-80 jets in 1953, they formed the "Minutemen" aerobatic demonstration team with Bob flying slot and left wing.
They performed hundreds of shows over North and Central America. When Col. Walt Williams left, Bob took over as leader. All of the flyers he worked with agree that he was one of he great pilots, and the Minutemen team brought honor and recognition to the CANG and the State of Colorado.
Under Col. Cherry's leadership and foresight, the 120th became the envy of all regular and ANG fighter squadrons with their record of superior and innovative training in all aspects of their work. This record led the unit to be chosen by the USAF to be the first ANG squadron to be sent to a combat zone as a unit.
In May of 1968, 20 F-100 Super Sabers arrived in Pham Rang Vietnam after a 10,000 mile successful flight led by Col. Cherry. His leadership caused the unit to be named the outstanding fighter squadron in Vietnam for the entire year. "R.C." cared for all of his men, both commissioned and enlisted so that they would always remember him as the outstanding commander he was.
Col. Cherry accomplished many important achievements, leading his squadron across oceans, leading in combat and providing leadership for the entire Air Force. He earned many honors including the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals, Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and several battle stars among others.
Bob's love for Colorado aviation history has been shown by his becoming a member of the CAHS, a Board Member and banquet committee member . He was a driving force in the publication of the outstanding Colorado Pride, a complete history of the Colorado National Guard.
A great fighter pilot, patriot, artist, warrior, commander, husband, father and friend, Bob Cherry takes his place among our honored few.