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Honoring Our Heroes

Col Win E. DePoorter: Age 89

Col Win E. DePoorter served 28 years in the United States Air Force. He held the rank of Colonel for the last 10 years of his active duty service and was a Command Pilot with over 6500 hours of flying time. He flew a record of 657 combat missions in the A-1 Skyraider, of which 23 were in support of search and rescue operations in North Vietnam. His military decorations include two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 29 Air Medals, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses, and several other decorations and citations.

Col DePoorter was born June 24, 1934, at Dodge City, KS, and spent the first 23 years of his life at Memphis, TN, which he considers his hometown. He attended and graduated from Treadwell High School in 1952. He graduated in January 1957 from Memphis State University, which is now the University of Memphis where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a commission as a 2nd Lt through the AFROTC program.

Col DePoorter entered active duty service on March 27, 1957. He accomplished his pilot training flying the T-34 and T-28 at Bartow, FL, and the T-33 at Greenvile, MS. After receiving his pilot wings in 1958, he reported to Moody AFB near Valdosta, GA, where he attended the all-weather fighter interceptor training program, flying the T-33 instrument trainer and the F-86L fighter interceptor.

For the next six years, Col DePoorter was assigned to the 11th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Duluth, MN, where he flew the F-102 and F-106 aircraft. The F-102 was a single-place, single engine, delta-wing all-weather jet fighter. The follow-on F-106 was also a single-place, single engine, delta-wing fighter, but it was much more advanced and capable of flying at more than twice the

speed of sound (MACH 2 plus). On September 11, 1961, DePoorter in response to a complete engine failure became the first pilot to eject using the newly installed system referred to as the rocket propelled, rotational "B" ejection seat. Although his ejection was successful, the so-called "B" seat proved to be far too complex and basically unreliable. It was eventually removed from all F-106 aircraft and replaced with a less complicated and more dependable ejection seat.

Shortly after his ejection experience, Col DePoorter attended the USAF instrument Pilot Instructor School (IPIS) at James Connally AFB near Dallas, TX. After completing IPIS, he was upgraded to F-106 instructor status which he enjoyed for the remainder of his F-106 experience.

After Duluth, Col DePoorter was briefly assigned to the 498th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at McChord AFB at Tacoma, WA, where he continued flying the F-106 and T-33 aircraft. He recorded his 1000th hour in the F-106 while the 498th was deployed on temporary duty in Alaska.

In early 1965, Col DePoorter visited the Pentagon where he volunteered for duty in Vietnam flying the A-1 Skyraider. He was then sent to Panama where he attended the USAF Jungle Survival School and then to Stead AFB at Reno, NV, where he attended the USAF Survival and Escape and Evasion course and finally to Hurlburt AFB near Ft. Walton Beach, FL, to check out in the A-1 Skyraider.

Originally developed in the mid-40's by Doughlas Aircraft Company, count - ing seven basic models and 28 sub-variants, over 3,000 Skyraiders had rolled off the assembly line by 1957. The ground-attack version of the Skyraider used by the U.S. Air Force and Vietnamese Air Force was capable of carrying a wide variety of munitions. The piston powered, single engine, single pilot Skyraider was said to carry as much bomb load as the four engine 10-man crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress at about the same speed and distance. In Korea and in Vietnam, the Skyraider was a combat proven ground-attack bomber.

In June 1965, after finishing the Skyraider checkout program at Hurlburt, Col DePoorter was sent to Bien Hoa Air Base at South Vietnam where he was as - signed to the 602nd Fighter Squadron (Commando) and began flying combat missions. When the 602nd was relocated to Udorn, Thailand, in 1966, then at the rank of Captain, DePoorter became involved in developing the tactics used by the Skyraiders flying in support of helicopter rescue operations. The infamous "Sandy" search and rescue (SAR) operations evolved during his tenure. Col DePoorter was credited with flying 23 such missions over North Vietnam during the last few days of his tour at Udorn.

During the time between tours in Vietnam, Col DePoorter served as an instructor at Hurlburt Field where he taught Vietnamese pilots and senior USAF officers who were in the pipeline for duty in Southeast Asia. In 1967 in recognition of his accomplishments as an instructor, he received the Tactical Air Command's Outstanding Aircrew Award.

Shortly thereafter, Col DePoorter volun teered for his second tour flying Skyraiders at Vietnam. In January 1968, he reported to England AFB, LA, where the 6th Special Operations Squadron was being organized. In January 1968, the Squadron was transported en masse to Pleiku Air Base at Vietnam where the pilots including Col DePoorter began flying combat missions.

After flying the Skyraider for the better part of four years, then Major DePoorter, completed his second Vietnam assignment and was happily transferred to the European theater. In February 1969, he was assigned to the 496th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Hahn, Germany, and checked out in the F-4 jet fighter. After holding down several supervisory positions in the 50th Fighter Wing at Hahn, Col DePoorter was selected for early promotions to Lt. Col and finally realized his lifelong ambition of becoming a fighter squadron commander.

In June 1972, following a very successful assignment as Commander of the 525th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bitburg, Germany, he was selected to attend the prestigious National War College. After completing one year at the War College, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and sent to Headquarters USAFE at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he served for one year as Director of Operational Requirements. In September 1975, Col DePoorter was sent to Zaragosa, Spain, to be the Deputy Commander for Operations and was later promoted to Vice Wing Commander of the 406th Tactical Fighter Wing.

In July 1977, Col DePoorter returned to the U.S. and was assigned to the USAF Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin AFB, FL. There he served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Air-to-Air Weapons and as Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations until January 1979 when he was assigned to Nellis AFB, NV, as Combat Support Group (Base) Commander. In November, 1979, he was sent to McGuire AFB, NJ, where he became Commander of the USAF-CAP Northeast Liaison Region. In 1981, Col DePoorter was assigned to Maxwell AFB, AL, where he served as Vice-Commander of the USAF-CAP National Headquarters until his retirement in April 1985.

After retirement, Col DePoorter worked for eight years as Chief Flight Instructor of the Maxwell AFB Aero Club. He is very proud of the fact that most of his students have attained great success as Air Force officers and, in civilian aviation, as airline pilots.

Col DePoorter and his wife, Janice, have been married 32 years and have four children between them, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. They are residents of Millbrook, AL. They have enjoyed traveling throughout the U.S., having visited every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. They rented a small RV in Dussledorf, Germany and for six weeks toured throughout Europe. They've enjoyed cruising around South America, and visiting Russia, China, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Col DePoorter is a life member of the Military Officers Association of America, The Air Force Association, and The Order of Daedalians. He enjoys attending Sky Raider reunions and has made frequent trips to the Air Force Museum at Dayton, OH.

Col DePoorter's conclusions about his military service: "The highlight of my military service was flying in support of guys on the ground. I met some very brave men along the way some of whom became my lifelong friends. I was a "good" soldier and supported the Vietnam War with hard work and a positive attitude. Nevertheless, no matter the effort or how many lives lost... the sad fact remains that we lost the war. I had lots of friends and acquaintances that didn't make it. I was just plain lucky.


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