Fiebelkorn, Ernest Charles “Red” Jr, born 01-12-1922, a native of Lake Orion, Michigan and grandson of German immigrants, was the first born son of Ernest and Helen (Howarth) Fiebelkorn. His father died from injuries received in a fall from a roof in 1936, leaving his mother, a teacher in the Lake Orion School System, to raise Ernest, Jr. and his four siblings Betty, Roger, Jack and Lucille. Ernest (called “Red” by his family) was an athletic young man with red hair. He excelled in basketball and baseball in school and loved to bowl in his spare time. Having graduated at the age of 17 he asked his mother to grant him permission to enlist in the Army Air Forces so he could pursue his dream of flying airplanes but she refused and encouraged him to try college first. He worked for General Motors Truck & Coach Division, in Pontiac, Michigan, until his classes began at Michigan State College in the Fall of 1941. In May, 1942 he left school and promptly enlisted in the Armed Forces but he wasn’t called up for duty until November, 1942. He graduated from flight training at Williams AAF Base, Chandler, Arizona with class 43-H, on the 30-08-1943 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. In January, 1944 he was assigned to the 20th Fighter Group.
Though his combat tour started slow, he ended the war as the top scoring ace of the group. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant in May, 1944, on the 28th of September he was credited with downing three Me-109’s and a Fw-190 near Magdeburg and barely missed attaining “ace in a day status” as he damaged an additional Me-109. For that mission he was awarded the Silver Star. On November 2nd he scored another triple (three enemy aircraft downed in one day) during an escort mission to Leipzig, and was again awarded a Silver Star. On October 6th he was sent to London to appear, alongside of Lady Mountbatten and a 385th Bomber Group pilot named Fein Pool, on a radio show broadcast the American Broadcasting System In Europe where he recounted his experiences in combat.
He next shared in the destruction of an Me-262 on 08-11-1944, along with Lieutenant. Edward Hayden, of the 357th Fighter Group. It was later discovered the German jet had been piloted by the famed German ace Major Walter Nowotny (the fifth highest scoring ace of all time with 258 victories and Commander JG 7, the first jet equipped Fighter Group.) It was Fiebelkorn’s final aerial victory, giving him a total of nine.
“‘Fieb’ was originally assigned to 79th Squadron . It seems he was always in some trouble with numerous groundings. For a time he was put off flying status and assigned to Group HQ. I always thought he was there for laughs,” noted former 79th Fighter Squadron pilot Arthur Heiden . “Then he was assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron at the request of Colonel Russell Gustke. There they seemed to appreciate his unique personality and ‘Fieb’ thrived.”
Fiebelkorn is thought to have been one of the largest fighter pilots to see action in the E.T.O. At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, he must have had a difficult time getting himself into the cockpit of his P-51D, “June Nite” – named for his California-born wife, the former Ms. June Allyn, whom he had married in 1943.
Ernest returned home on leave from England in December, 1944, just after being promoted to the rank of Captain. He met June in New York and together they visited with his mother in Michigan before continuing on to his next assignment. It was around this same time the family received word of the death of his 18 year old brother Roger, an Army Private. who had died in action while assigned to the Headquarters Company, 397th Infantry, 100th Division in Eastern France.
Having remained with the USAF Reserve, Ernest was assigned to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Wing , flying F-82 Twin-Mustangs out of Okinawa. There he was “A Flight” Commander and one of the squadron’s premier pilots. Known for accepting even the most dangerous of missions without question, he often volunteered for what others considered hazardous duties. His commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Sharp recounted that Fiebelkorn actually wanted to see how the F-82 would do in a dogfight with enemy Yak aircraft and, though the heavy twin-fuselage aircraft would obviously be outmatched, there were many in the squadron who would have bet on Fiebelkorn’s skills as the deciding factor in the fight. As the situation in Korea began to heat up the squadron were deployed to Honshu, Japan.
Death and burial ground of Fiebelkorn, Ernest Charles “Red” Jr.
On the 06-07-1950, Fiebelkorn was flying as part of a four-ship element sent to locate advancing enemy ground forces through heavy low overcast. After hours of searching with no results he reported that he was going to descend lower in the mountainous terrain hoping to find an opening in the dense cloud cover. He was never heard from again. Nearly 2 ½ years later his remains, and those of his radar observer, Captain John J. Higgins, were discovered by Allied troops on a mountainside approx. 40 miles north of Seoul. Fiebelkorn was finally laid to rest with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 3. The highest scoring USAAF ace from the state of Michigan, he left behind his wife and a 3 year-old son, Eric.
During the time he was missing in action Fiebelkorn was promoted to the rank of Major, but the promotion was subsequently withdrawn by the USAF as he had been selected for it after the actual date of his death. He was, however awarded an additional Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on the day he was killed.