Col Joseph W. Rogers 1924-2005
In 1946, Rogers received orders to join the 431st FBS of the 475th FBW based at Kempo, Korea to participate in United State’s effort to reinforce U.N. forces in that nation. On November 8, 1950, the then Capt. Rogers achieved a rare MiG-15 jet kill while flying in his piston-engine F-51D Mustang named Buckeye Blitz VI. After four years of combat in the F-51, Joe transitioned into the F-80 Shooting Star with the 36th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing. By the end of his involvement in the War, Rogers logged almost 200 missions in the Korean Theater.
Back on US soil, the newly appointed Major continued his flying career with the famous 71st Fighter Squadron flying F-86A Sabre. In 1954, Rogers entered F-86D Maintenance School and later USAF’s Test Pilots School, among the students in his class were future astronauts L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. and Virgil' Gus' Grissom. After graduation, Rogers joined the F-86D Test Program, and later the F-102A/B / F-106A/B Interceptor Development Programs. During his next assignment as Project Officer for F-106 integration at Air Defense Command Headquarters, Joe was chosen for a project that changed his life.
After the Air Forces selection of the F-106 Delta Dart to make the Services latest attempt at the Absolute Speed Record, there was no question who would pilot the aircraft in this joint USAF / Convair project, Maj. Joe Rogers. On December 15, 1959, the Major became the fastest Jet Pilot in the World after flying F-106A # 56-0467 to an average speed of 1525.95 mph. F-106 # -0467 flew the record flight after F-106A # 56-0459 experienced technical problems throughout the project. On its last flight in Firewall # -0459 became uncontrollable, fortunately Rogers was able to “settle her down” and land the aircraft. In honor of his skillful airmanship demonstrated during the "Firewall Project" Rogers received worldwide recognition and was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross, The DeLavaulx Medal, and the 25th recipient of the Thompson Trophy, an award that can be traced back to the National Air Races in 1929.
In 1960, Lieutenant Colonel Rogers took command of the Air Force's largest Fighter Squadron, the 317th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron formerly based at McChord AFB, now headquartered at Elmendorf AFB, AK. Joe proved to be one of the Squadrons best Pilots flying in the F-102 Delta Dagger, this fact confirmed after winning the USAF’s Air to Air Weapons Meet, "Top Gun" award in 1963. The Fighter meet named William Tell is a competition that pits the best Fighter-Interceptor aircrews from around the Air Force.
After a four year command of the 317th FIS, Joe was lured back to flight testing when he took command of the SR-71A / F-12A Test Force. On December 18, 1969, Joe cheated death once again. While flying a test mission with SR-71A # 64-17953, Colonel Rogers and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Gary Heidelbaugh experienced an in-flight explosion causing a very dangerous high-speed pitch up. Unable to regain control of the aircraft, both men were forced to eject from the aircraft.
In 1973, Joe was thrust back into combat in the skies of Asia as the Vice Commander of the 3rd Fighter Wing in South Vietnam. He flew more than 40 missions, most of them in the A-37 Dragonfly and the F-4 Phantom II. Later, Rogers served as Asst. Deputy Commander of the 7th and the 13th Air Forces in Vietnam.
In February 1975, during his final assignment as Chief of Staff for Operations at Aerospace Defense Headquarters, Joe Rogers retired from the Air Force after a 29 year career. After retirement Joe signed on with Northrop Aerospace, where he worked in the companies Fighter Division, Asian-Pacific Region, marketing F-5 Tiger & F-20 Tigershark fighter aircraft. Rogers retired after 13 years, but provided his valuable aviation knowledge to the company as a consultant.