The Making of an Aviation ACE: Teamwork, Talent and Tenacity

November 12th, 2019
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM
The Sentinel
614 SW 11th Ave, 3rd floor
Portland, OR

What does it take to be an Aviation ACE? What is an Aviation ACE? When a fighter pilot engages in air-to-air combat with an enemy aircraft, he has to shoot it down before he gets shot down. He has to do this five times to be considered an ACE. Col. Chuck DeBellevue, while stationed at Udorn Air Base during the Vietnam War, shot down his first Soviet-built MiG jet fighter on May 10, 1972 and lived to do it again five more times.

There were aviation aces in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Col. Chuck DeBellevue holds the title of leading Aviation ACE from the Vietnam era and is the last ACE since 1972.

It took a combination of courage, flying expertise, great leadership and a steadfast support team to make it happen. Col. Chuck DeBellevue had it all.

Col. DeBellevue, a highly decorated aviator with 30 years of service in the Air Force, is coming from Edmond, Oklahoma and promises to give us an interesting and informative presentation for our Veterans Day Tribute.


Colonel Chuck DeBellevue born in New Orleans and earned a B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He was in the ROTC program and commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the USAF in1968. He attended Undergraduate Navigator Training and, after upgrading into the F-4, was assigned to the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. He was assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand in November 1971. While there, Chuck flew 220 combat missions—96 of which were over North Vietnam and is credited with the destruction of six North Vietnamese jet fighters in aerial combat–four MiG-21s and two MiG-19s. Chuck is the top “ACE” from the Vietnam War.

Following his combat tour, he attended Undergraduate Pilot Training and upgraded into the F-4 Phantom jet. He served in a number of squadron, staff and command positions. He was the commander of the 432nd Combat Support Group at Misawa Air Base, Japan from 1989 to 1991and the 95th Air Base Wing at Edwards AFB, CA from 1992 to 1995. His final assignment was as the commander of AFROTC Detachment 440 at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Chuck and his wife, Sally, were the 1994 recipients of the General and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award, given to the top wing commander and spouse in Air Force Material Command. He, along with the two other AF Ace’s, received the MacKay Trophy in 1972. Chuck is a command pilot with over 3,000 flying hours, 550 hours of which were in combat.

His military decorations include the Air Force Cross, 3 Silver Stars, 3 Legions of Merit, 6 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 18 Air Medals. He retired effective 1 Feb 1998 with 30 years of service and was the last American Ace on active duty.

Following retirement, Chuck worked for a number of companies, both local and national, and for Oklahoma State University. He currently works for Performance Aircraft Services, Inc., enhancing legacy aircraft reliability. He is a member of the board of directors of the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation and the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, part of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. He is also the Vice President for Veteran Affairs for the Air Force Association’s Gerrity Chapter (central Oklahoma).

Chuck was selected as the Outstanding Alumni of the University of Louisiana – Lafayette for 2008. He was inducted into the Louisiana Aviation Hall of Fame on May 22, 2011 and the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on November 9, 2012. In September 2014, the Air Force Association awarded the American Fighter Aces their Lifetime Achievement Award and Chuck their Medal of Merit. Additionally, he, along with all the American Fighter Aces, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014. He was the Air Warrior Courage Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year for 2017 and 2019.

Chuck DeBellevue is married to Sally Kanik of Rancho Cordova, CA. They have two daughters and a son and four grandchildren.