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.