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Colonel Herb Ross


In 1967, he retired from the Air Force as a Full Colonel following a 25-year military career. At the time of his death, Ross was the only living Air Force Ace in Stockton. With a dual passion for music as a teen, Herb raised money for flight school by playing the piano in restaurants, nightclubs and in small combos. When he had enough saved to take flying lessons, he enrolled, flying a J-3 Piper Cub. He was a senior in high school at the time, and simultaneously played in the high school band and organized a dance band.

          In the late spring of 1940, Ross had finished his second year of college, and trouble was brewing in Europe. Talk of the draft began, and upon meeting an army colonel one afternoon and learning about Advanced Flying School, Ross took an interest. After passing a physical and signing up, he was called to report to Hemet California Primary Flight School on or before Oct. 16, 1940. From there, his military career took off, as he rose through the ranks working alongside such heroes as Chuck Yeager.

         On Sept. 5, 2005, Ross turned 86, and was still able to pass his Class Two Flight Physical exam, thus extending his stint as a pilot to more than 70 years. In 1998, at age 78, Ross performed in the Stockton (California) Air Show called Wings Over Stockton, which was held as a tribute to Bob Hope, who Ross met in 1943 in North Africa. When Hope was on a USO Tour, Ross was responsible for shuttling him around in his P38. The two were reunited again at the Air Show after 55 years.

         Herbert E. Ross passed away in his home on July 20, 2008 following a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer. He was 88. Herbert, known to most as Bud, was born in Stockton in 1919 to John and Alice Ross. Herb grew up in Stockton, and fell in love with airplanes at a very young age. His love of aircraft began with small balsa wood models, but grew into his becoming an accomplished pilot and United States Air Force Colonel. In 1967, he retired from the Air Force as a Full Colonel following a 25-year celebrated military career.

          At the time of his death, Herb was the only living Air Force Ace in Stockton, having recently completed and published a book of his memoirs titled Adventures of a P38 Ace. Upon reporting to flight school, Herb was assigned to Class 41E and was to fly PT-13D Stearmans. He was taught about the traditions, regulations and discipline of the Army Air Corps. He worked his way up through flight school, ground school and then Advanced Flying School, and had a growing interest in and talent for -- becoming a fighter pilot. Upon graduation from Advanced Flight School, Herb became a 2nd Lt. and was sent to March Field near Riverside, California, as a member of the 48th Squadron, 14th Fighter Group. Six months later, he married his wife of 53 years, Ruth Helen Garner, and in 1943, she gave birth to their first child, Karl Herbert Ross. On August 26, 1943, Herb senior shot down his fifth enemy aircraft and became an Ace in his P38, named Little Karl after his baby son. Two years later, Herb and Ruth had a second child, and in 1960, had a late-in-life third child.

          As his career progressed, Herb continued to be promoted through the ranks, receiving 16 Air Medals during WWII, as well as such honors as the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and many Service medals. He was Commander of the 80th Squadron during the Korean conflict, and after several overseas tours and assignments as a Group, Wing and Division Commander, he retired from the Air Force as a Full Colonel in 1967. His flying career certainly didn't end at that time, however. Upon retirement, Herb went back to school, graduating from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with honors and a degree in Business. He continued to fly as a civilian pilot and flight instructor, and taught Private Pilot Ground School, Meteorology and aviation-related courses at the local junior college for 15 years.


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