_ Home your visit our history museum collection restoration hangar educational activities museum news donations join us contacts & links


May 28, 1924 - August 6, 2005
Aviation's World Speed Record holder (single-engine)
15 December 1959
" A Fighter Pilots Fighter Pilot"

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 combat.


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.

Col. Rogers walk towards the Museums F-106 before his next speed record attempt.

Website provided and maintained by:
The McChord Air Museum Foundation
P.O. Box 4205
McChord AFB, WA. 98438-0205
e-mail - mamfound@mcchordairmuseum.org