Alden Rigby was born in 1923 in Fairview Utah. He attended
Brigham Young University before entering the Aviation Cadet
program in 1943.
Rigby earned his wings in December 1943 at Spence Field,
Georgia, and was assigned to P-51 training at Bartow, Florida
in February 1944.
After briefly staying on as an instructor, Rigby requested
and received an assignment to the 352nd Fighter Group at
Bodney, England. His duties included dive-bombing, strafing
and bomber escort. In December 1944, Rigby moved with the
352nd to Belgium to help fight in the Battle of the Bulge.
In January 1945, Rigby found himself involved in Operation
Bodenplatte. The German operation included some 900
German aircraft assigned to hit 16 allied airfields simultaneously
and has since been called the most devastating air-to-ground
attack in World War II.
Rigby was the first plane in the air from his group and,
after the struggle of just getting airborne, he found himself
having to dodge ground fire, as well. Of the four enemy planes
destroyed by Rigby that day, three were shot down after his
gun sight failed.
After the battle, Rigby mistakenly claimed only ½ kills
on two of the downed planes. And it wasn’t until September
2000 when the American Fighter Aces Association, using only
8th Air Force official documentation, awarded full kills
to Rigby — as did the 352nd Fighter Group, making him
their 29th Ace and easily the last Ace of WWII.
Rigby’s squadron was the first and only to receive
the Presidential Citation. After WWII, Rigby was recalled
for the Korean conflict and spent three years in the Air
Defense Command in Kansas City with the added duty of flying
Navy fighter aircraft.
He remained with the Utah Air National Guard and
was also employed by the Federal Aviation Administration as
an air traffic controller for 25 years. Rigby was recently
elected to the Utah Aviation Hall of Fame.