Fred Fehsenfeld

Fred Fehsenfeld was born in 1924 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He left Shortridge High School when he was 17 to attend Purdue University, where he enrolled in mechanical engineering. While at Purdue, Fehsenfeld got his first experience flying, joining the Purdue Glider Club.

On his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps and, after training in several bases in Texas, he was sent across the North Atlantic on a small cargo ship.

Fehsenfeld was assigned to the 354th Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group in France. But the day he and the rest of the group with him arrived, the 354th lost their P-51s and the group flew P-47Ds. The group flew strafing and dive-bomb missions in support of General Patton’s 3rd Army.

In February 1945, the P-47s at the 354th were replaced by P-51Ds and the group's air kills increased substantially. Fehsenfeld shot down three F-190s and one Ju-188 as well as three additional F-190s on the ground. He was awarded the Air Medal with three Silver Clusters and the Silver Star.

He also led his squadron on the last official flight in the European Theater of Operations, barrel-rolling over an Austrian prisoner of war camp to let his fellow pilots know the war in Europe had ended.

On the way back from his mission, Fehsenfeld discovered a squadron of 70 F-190s and escorted them to the Munich Airdrome, where he accepted the German squadron leader’s surrender.

After flying 86 missions, Fehsenfeld returned to the US and was on leave when the Japanese surrendered, ending the war. He decided to retire from active duty and returned to Purdue to complete his engineering degree.

He also flew P-51s for the Indiana Air National Guard’s 113th Fighter Squadron during this time and was a member of the 113th when they won the Spaatz Trophy — given to the best National Guard Unit in the country — two years in a row.

After his service was completed, Fehsenfeld had a successful career with his family’s business, The Heritage Group, expanding in both in the US and China. He continues as Chairman of the Executive Committee.

Fehsenfeld received an honorary Doctorate Degree from Purdue University and is particularly proud of his seven children, 20 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.