Born on May 28, 1924 in Chillicothe, Ohio, Joseph W. Rogers
began his historic aviation career upon joining the Army Air
Corps at the age of 19. After graduating Aviation Cadet
Training Class 44H at Williams Army Air Field, AZ in 1944,
Rogers was disappointed to learn that he would be assigned
as an instructor pilot teaching the Corps newest flyers at
Minter and Merced AAF’s. When the Korean War broke out in
1950, the then Capt. Rogers was given a chance to see
In Korea, Colonel Rogers earned his nickname ''Whistlin'
Joe" after he attached a whistle device to one of his F-51Ds
wings in hopes to scare enemy ground troops as he flew in on
close air support missions. After one of those missions the
then Capt Rogers was awarded the Silver Star after saving a
regiment of British troops stranded on a hilltop, surrounded
by enemy forces. Rogers flew his F-51D Mustang named Buckeye
Blitz VI toward enemy troops cutting an escape path for
British soldiers using his fighter's machine guns.
On November 8, 1950, Rogers was apart of one of the more
intriguing stories in the history F-51D
Mustang, a "kill"
of a MiG-15 jet. Although never confirmed, "confirmed" kill,
many of his squadron mates will back the legitimacy of this
rare piston vs jet victory. During the war Colonel
Rogers was one of a dozen or so solders, airmen, and Sailors
designated collectively as Time Magazines "Man of the Year"
for 1950 under the title of the "American fighting Men". 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, Rogers 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 man in the
World after flying F-106A S/N 56-0467 to an average speed of
1525.95 mph. F-106 #0467 flew the record flight after the
Museums F-106A S/N 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. Throughout the
years Joe has been heard to say "I love the girl (#0459) but
she almost got me!" referring to his last flight in #0459.
In honor of his skillful airmanship demonstrated during the
"Operation Firewall" 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, Lt. Col. 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. Rogers proved to be one of the Squadrons
best pilots in the F-102 Delta Dagger, this fact confirmed
after winning the USAF’s Air to Air Weapons Meets, "Top Gun"
award in 1963. The Fighter met 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, the newly
appointed Colonel was lured back to flight testing after
taking command of the SR-71A / F-12A Test Force. On December
18, 1969, Rogers cheated death once again. while flying a
test mission with SR-71A # 64-17953, Col. Rogers and his
RSO, Lt. Col. 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, Col. Rogers 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 Rogers 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 was
still providing his valuable aviation knowledge to the
company as a consultant.
After retirement, Rogers and his wife, Charis, moved to
Healdsburg, Calif., to raise water buffalo. His love of
aviation drove Rogers to the air during his later years and
a similar fondness for the F-106, provided him the
motivation to help acquire a retired F-106 for a local
museum in California.
Colonel Joe Rogers quiet, dignified man whose long career
paralleled aviation history throughout the 20th century died
on 06 August 2005 at his ranch near Healdsburg, CA. He was
buried with his wife at Arlington National in Washington DC.