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Reviewed by Leonard William Smuts for Readers' Favorite
Colonel Ralph Parr was a highly decorated combat pilot in the United States Air Force. His career spanned three conflicts, from World War II flying the piston engine P-38 Lightning, through the early days of the jet era during the Korean War, to Vietnam in the early 1970s. He achieved ten air-to-air victories flying the legendary F-86 Sabre in Korea, making him a double “Ace”. He was the only person ever to be awarded both the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross, as well as earning over thirty other medals and citations. Like all fighter aces, he was excellent at gunnery and had acute situational awareness. Apart from flying duties, he was involved in training, developing tactics, and improving safety and survivability in the combat zone. He also held staff appointments which included time in troubled Iran. In writing On Parr: The Stunning Combat Missions of American Fighter Ace Colonel Ralph Parr, author Ken Murray describes Parr’s illustrious Air Force service in detail, from his enlisting in the reserves during 1942 to his retirement in 1976 due to ill health following a fall. Parr retained his links to the Air Force and his fellow pilots and died in 2012.
On Parr serves as a tribute to an old guard hero. Air-to-air combat will soon be the exclusive battlefield of drones and missiles, guided by artificial intelligence. Ralph Parr exemplifies an era where flying skill, the ability to absorb pressure under fire and to think tactically, improved the chances of survival. Ken Murray has researched Parr’s service history thoroughly, including conducting many personal interviews. The book includes photographs, glowing tributes from superiors and colleagues alike, plus a list of the decorations awarded to him. An apparent blemish on Parr’s otherwise exemplary record warrants mention. His tenth and last air-to-air victory in Korea was against an unarmed military transport, shot down just hours before the agreed ceasefire to end hostilities came into effect. This seemed to be out of character, sparking controversy, criticism, and provoking an international outcry. Nevertheless, Parr’s record of 641 missions during five Tours of Duty and in three conflicts speaks for itself. He was a popular leader and highly respected. I have not come across Ralph Parr previously and enjoyed reading about him!