Capt. Joseph McConnell, air ace, to be honored with N.H. exhibit
Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.
DOVER, N.H. — The late Capt. Joseph McConnell will be recognized at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in an exhibit during Veterans Day weekend.
The museum will present its own version of “The McConnell Story” presenting local recognition on his life and achievements. McConnell was an ace U.S. Air Force pilot who was born in Dover in 1922.
The exhibit will feature pictures and memorabilia, presented by McConnell’s oldest daughter, Tricia, who is flying in from Indio, Calif. The family has not been back to New Hampshire since McConnell passed away in 1954.
McConnell remains the top American air ace. He was also the first jet-on-jet fighter ace and ranks among the top 10 aces in world aviation history. During the Korean War, he shot down 16 MIGs with F86 Sabre Jets. The Korean Government is sending an official from their Boston Consular Office to honor him at the museum.
Members of Dover City Council have also been invited to participate and Gov. John Lynch has issued a proclamation in commemoration of the event. The state adjutant general, University of New Hampshire Air Force ROTC cadets and CAP Squadrons and the ANG Wing have also been asked to attend.
McConnell started his military career in 1940 when he enlisted in the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army at Fort Devens, Mass. He had dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot, but was assigned to navigator school after receiving a transfer to the Air Corps. McConnell flew combat missions in World War II in Europe as the navigator on a B-24 Liberator upon being a certified navigator.
Eight years later, McConnell achieved his goal of becoming a fighter pilot. After flight training, he was assigned to the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in the Korean War in 1952.
He hit his first MIG in 1953, scoring all of his shoot-downs over a four-month period from Jan. 14 to May 18, 1953.
McConnell named all of his Sabre Jets, “Beautious Butch,” nicknamed after his wife, Pearl Edna “Butch” Brown, from Fitchburg, Mass., whom he married on Aug. 20, 1942.
He holds a record as a triple ace because of his final day of combat. On May 18, 1953, McConnell shot down three MIGs on two separate missions. This brought his total to 16.
McConnell returned to the United States and settled in Apple Valley, Calif., where he was stationed at George AFB in Victorville, Calif. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Star for combat heroism.
He continued to fly F-86’s and was temporarily assigned to Edwards AFB to fly the latest F-86H in 1954, the best and most powerful version of the Sabre Jet.
While testing the fifth production model, McConnell was killed in a crash in the Mojave Dessert. The cause of the crash on Aug. 25, 1954, was because of a control malfunction due to a missing bolt.
McConnell left behind his wife and three children. He was buried with full military honors in Victorville. His wife, Pearl, died in 2002 and was buried next to her husband. McConnell’s son, Joseph III served in the United States Navy in Vietnam in 1965 and died in 1999. His two daughters, Kathleen Frances and Patricia Ann, are still living in California.
The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire’s exhibit will not be the first time McConnell has been recognized. Charles Ira Coombs wrote a fictional book based on McConnell, which was later made into a film in 1955.
In 2002, Dover named its former junior high school and current community center after McConnell.
The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire is located at 27 Navigator Road in Londonderry.